April 22, 2008

Translation notes (12 Kingdoms)

Posting a chapter a week averages out to translating a page or two a day. Then on Saturday I paste the text from JWPce into Word and run a macro to turn the plain text into Word format, which I edit (often rather hastily), and then run another macro to turn it into HTML.

The translation process boils down to reading and typing (and pausing to look up words). When that doesn't work--such as with the infinitely long relative clauses that are grammatical in Japanese but impossible to translate literally into English--I have to think about how to make the "meaning" make sense in English.

Then there are times when I stop and say, "Huh?" And things slow to a crawl. This is when "translation" turns into "decoding."

When the "Huh?" moment arrive (once or twice a chapter), my main tools are JWPce (WWWJDIC), Ejirou, Google, and Yahoo-Japan's suite of dictionaries. I fall back on Yoshie Omura's Twelve Kingdoms glossary a lot. And in a pinch turn to a native speaker for help.

I depend a lot on input from readers pointing to typos, inconsistencies, lapses in logic. I've created a glossary of my own (the entries show up in the notes) to try and keep my terminology straight (though in some cases, such as Naiden and Gaiden, I haven't been as consistent as I should be).

A trilingual linguist friend once told me that a translator's first language skills are his most important. It doesn't matter how well you understand your second language if it comes out as gibberish in your first. My saving grace, I guess, because I'm considerably less fluent in Japanese than I am in English.

Of course, the English may scan correctly but be quite wrong. Shadow of the Moon was my first effort at something long and complex. Looking back at it now, I can usually spot my mistakes, though there are still a few head-scratchers. What makes the most sense is most often the most correct.

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