k-chan (karice67) wrote,

On translations and fansubbing

Recently, there has been a bit of flac in the fansubbing community around what a certain group is doing with their translations. One of the points brought up really doesn't concern me (although the lyrics of the opening theme differ from what I've seen Japanese native speakers post...I'm going to wait for my single to arrive for this one), but the other one does indeed irritate the skin off my back.

I'm talking about name order switching. Being of Chinese descent, I have long been aware that name order is (family name) (given name) in most Asian cultures, even though I was silly enough to forget that when I went to Korea sometime last year. It actually irritates me that Japanese people assume all English speakers follow that Western naming tradition of (given name) (family name), which requires me to explain my name everywhere I go. I suppose it doesn't help that they cannot pronounce my family name.

Back to the point, this particular group has decided to localise their translation for the target audience, which means not only changing name order, but also having given names in subs even if characters address each other by their surnames, as is the norm in Japanese society. The thing is, that is bloody confusing to people who actually listen to what is said. My vice-principal has noted that he wishes that Japanese names were kept in conventional Japanese order, even in English translations. Not only do they usually sound strange in the reverse order (although two of the three Japanese people I knew in Australia are exceptions for me), allowing such conventions is quite possibly beneficial for intercultural relations. I feel that people want to consume something in its original language, even with subtitles, should at least learn some basics about the culture behind it rather than demanding a localised version. If they don't, they can always just wait for a dub.

Admittedly, it's not particularly straightfoward because Japanese people will also use your name in place of the second person pronoun when speaking to you. Not to mention the ubiquitous spread of familial terms like "oni-chan", which have no real English equivalents - there's no way I'd translate that as "big brother"! Nevertheless, I think that translating shouldn't always be about localising something complete for a target audience (keep in mind that Americans aren't the only English speakers around the world). After all, how would we learn about different cultures if we can only do so through translations that are heavily catered towards our own?


I just remembered...there are more arguments to make. I'll have to polish this up for the review blog at some stage...

Tags: (translations&summaries)

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