Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Traduttore = traditore

That is, "translator = traitor". Hi everybody. It's Silentcook at the keyboard again, blogposting instead of editing. Forgive me for using this as an occasion to take a breather and avoid burnout: I'll get back to the grind right after, I swear.

We see an awful lot of translation lately in the VN scene. I was going to say "VN community" instead, but I changed my mind after remembering that the community, such as it is, has no requirements whatsoever for joining beyond "do related stuff". I mean, they let ME in.

Here are some of my thoughts on this somewhat prickly subject, then.

"Translation" means "you're going to fail".

No, I'm not kidding, get yourself in this frame of mind.

There are as many ways to translate a line of writing as there are people. You've decided on going literal, idiomatic, or free-form on a sentence? Regardless of which way you picked, there are two people out there who chose the other two ways and will in no uncertain terms inform you that you're wrong.

Then there are the readers who likewise prefer one style over another. Then the people who think as you do, but still not in quite the exact same way... then, you're gonna hit a line spoken by Rin, and you're going to start weeping.

This before we take into account actual translator skill. For sanity's sake, I'm going to assume the translator speaks one of the two languages - either source or target, preferably the latter - natively. If this is not the case, I don't wanna talk about it.

Even so, consider the possibility that while the translator is quite good, the source text is a translation itself, thus adding an extra filter to the whole mess.

While you're at it, add two - I've read some interesting things about writing being the attempt of the writer at "translating" the picture in his mind. Considering the amount of pain I've witnessed over this during the last few years of the project, I'd call it an imperfect process.

By the way, I'm blessed by being able to work with and ask questions of the original writers, as long as we're talking about translating KS, but getting access to, say, a Nasu or a Tanaka might prove a tiny bit problematic.

(Oi, you. You in the sidelines, saying I'm "cursed" - shush. I'll get to that... eventually.)

Long story short, you're setting out to grope around in pitch-black darkness, and disappoint a majority with the quality of your efforts in the bargain. Why even bother with translating VNs, then?

I only have two answers to this, and forgive me if they seem obvious: first, because you want to. Second, because you're going to expand an audience.

Wanting to is the more egoistic reason, but the most important for the VN translator. If I take the time and bother to translate something, I had better LIKE it. I'm not translating for a job, so if I end up feeling like unpaid slave work, the odds of me doing it well, or even finishing, drop sharply.

Expanding the audience happens whenever you translate anything, no matter how obscure. The default is for people to not know more than their native language, even in today's age of "connectivity" and information everywhere.

Every time something gets released, someone somewhere has a wider choice available - which could well be taken as the point of translating, all by itself. The other meaning "translator" originates from - "guide" - comes to the fore.

Notice how all this ALSO results in more people getting to try out your favorite stuff. My, my, what a fortunate coincidence.

And you know what, I think it all works out into a pretty okay deal for all involved in the end! I plan on perpetrating many of the sins I mentioned above in the future, one way or another.

Doing work knowing you'll fail, striving every time for an impossible perfection.

Guess that's all for the moment. Now then, that one path is done; back to work for me.

- Silentcook
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