Danbooru

Translation question: 3rd person pronouns

Posted under General

In a hypothetical sentence in Japanese, Alice is speaking to Zoe.
If this sentence when translated literally yields Alice saying to Zoe:

"I'm doing this for Zoe's sake!"

should it be changed to:

"I'm doing this for your sake!"?

Likewise, should Zoe's response to Alice be left unchanged s:

"Zoe thinks you should be worrying about yourself."

or changed to:

"I think you should be worrying about yourself."

As a purist I'd prefer them unchanged unless it clashed with the cultural setting, but I can't make guidelines on my own with approval...

Updated by sgcdonmai

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  • According to the translations I read on Danbooru, it's usually changed to pure English ("I'm doing this for your sake!"). But since my own language speaks exactly the same way with the Japanese, I don't mind if you keep it unchanged either, as it serves giving the sense of the speaker's personality.

    I think it should be up to you how you choose to translate in the end.

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  • Bansho said:
    As a purist I'd prefer them unchanged unless it clashed with the cultural setting, but I can't make guidelines on my own with approval...

    It always clashes with the cultural setting. English-speaking adults don't refer to people they're speaking to in the third person except in the rare event that they're very deliberately trying to make a certain rhetorical point. Likewise with referring to oneself in the first person: I've never in my life (in the midwest US, FWIW) encountered that canonical example of an English-speaking toddler who refers to themselves in the third person; I'm sure they exist, but they're certainly not the natural state of things as seems to be true in Japan (or so their fiction tropes would have us believe, at least).

    Remaining true to the original Japanese is obviously the optimal situation, and obviously we need an actual sentence and context to make an absolute decision on a particular instance, but 99 times out of 100, translating "I'm doing this for Zoe's sake!" would be like translating ジョンが投げたボール as "the thrown-by-Jon ball" instead of "the ball Jon threw: grammatically correct, but utterly non-fluent.

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  • To clarify, when I said cultural setting, I meant it in the same sense that I prefer not to use Japanese honorifics if the setting is not based in a Japan or similar setting...

    If the setting is such, however, I am more than willing to sacrifice fluency for the sake of a better understanding of the original structure...

    If 'I'm doing this for Zoe's sake!' is the local equivalent of 'I'm doing this for your sake!' (that is, not just an idiosyncrasy in one individual's style of speech, but the default for the average individual when speaking the language), then I would choose letter instead...

    rantuyetmai said:
    I think it should be up to you how you choose to translate in the end.

    The problem though, is that these days I've been doing more editing than translating...

    Do I really have the right impose my style on someone else?

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  • Bansho said:
    The problem though, is that these days I've been doing more editing than translating...

    Do I really have the right impose my style on someone else?

    If it's not you who did the primary translation, I'd say leave it be unless the notes are really wrong.

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  • Bansho said:
    To clarify, when I said cultural setting, I meant it in the same sense that I prefer not to use Japanese honorifics if the setting is not based in a Japan or similar setting...

    Oh, my bad; I misunderstood.

    Bansho said:
    If the setting is such, however, I am more than willing to sacrifice fluency for the sake of a better understanding of the original structure...

    Why? When I said "remaining true to the original Japanese is obviously the optimal situation", I mean remaining true to the meaning of the Japanese. Maintaining source language structure takes third place for me behind source language meaning and target language structure (that is, fluency of the translation), and it's not clear to me why anyone would order those three items differently. We're not trying to teach people Japanese, and even if we were, making it "Zoe" instead of "your" doesn't impart any additional information.

    Now, I'm basically recapitulating the argument I made on pages 3 and 4 of forum #32054, and I did get fairly well told off during that discussion, but the difference here is that we're not talking about cultural features getting lost in translation; now, we're talking about structural features. Since then, I've realized that "cultural whitewashing" for the sake of readability is an awful idea, and that a few translation notes never killed anyone's immersion, but bending over backwards for the sake of preserving the word order of the original Japanese produces "translator-ese", and I see little reason to do it. (Not to mention that I'm not utterly convinced of the average Danbooru user's understanding of the Japanese language; the point I made in that discussion about misunderstandings regarding 様 still remains a valid one, in my opinion.)

    Bansho said:
    Do I really have the right impose my style on someone else?

    I did actually get myself into a little tiff regarding this with another (very good) translator on Danbooru, and my general policy now is to leave matters of style be, unless I see a sentence which I am absolutely, positively sure no English speaker would ever say, with a special exemption for matters of culture like honorifics, puns, and (some) idioms. (Of course, that means I would be changing "Zoey" to "your" in that sentence, like I said in my previous post, but I really do believe that that's the optimal decision 99 of 100 times.)

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  • I'd say convert to a pronoun unless there's a very good reason not to. Use a translation note if it's important to understand the meaning (for example in the hypothetical situation where using a pronoun makes a sentence ambiguous, or breaks a pun or other word-play).

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  • As a long-time translator, I'm with Shinjidude on this.

    If there's not a particular linguistic or cultural quirk that's being brought to special attention, make it read as if spoken like a native English speaker.

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  • Bansho said:
    The problem though, is that these days I've been doing more editing than translating...

    Do I really have the right impose my style on someone else?

    Yes, because danbooru notes are collective property. They're not anyone's in particular. Editing for better English is a very good way of using the fact anyone can edit notes.

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  • To expand on that point:

    If you feel you can make changes that improve upon the translation currently placed, whether for style or accuracy, do so.

    If any translators object to changes of that sort, they should take it to comments, or (if the back-and-forth on the subject is getting too long-winded) private dmail.

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