Resource Translator Musings: Who is Ben, and why does he have a gong and a wang?

Discussion in 'Translator's Corner' started by etvolare, Feb 10, 2018.

Tags:
  1. etvolare

    etvolare Celestial Fluff

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2015
    Messages:
    581
    Likes Received:
    2,057
    Reading List:
    Link
    Hey everyone, I just posted my inaugural post on random translation musings, in which I share some thoughts on possible best practices and reflections after two years of webnovel translations. Of course, these are my opinions and preferences only, take ‘em with a boulder sized grain of pink salt! And this scandalous Ben fellow certainly has a party going on!

    “Wangye, nubi apologizes for the slight to da furen! Nucai’s zhuzi wanted to bring erye’s gift into the wangfu, but er furen once told san taitai that she’s allergic to flowers so xiaode used the chaos of wansuiye’s arrival to put erye’s gift into the dafang!”

    Today I’d like to address a pet peeve that’s creeped in over the years—leaving pinyin in novel translations. This is most frequently done for forms of address, cultivation ranks, and location names. Did… did anyone here make sense of that first quote? Did you want to close this article?? Don’t gooooo! Of course, it was exaggerated due to consideration of space, since posting 200 chapters to illustrate a point is silly.

    Imagine being a reader and coming back to this beauty after a month of exams/crazy work and following 20+ novels at the same time. Rather than follow all the ins and outs of this, a reader might just give up. Or, they might barely get that there’s some drama about something, and wonder why some apparently random revenge plot breaks out a few chapters later.

    The opening quote is about a servant babbling reasons why she offended the senior madame. Senior madame wanted to bring the second master’s gift into the prince’s residence, but second madame once told the third wife 1 that the former is allergic to flowers. Therefore, the servant used the chaos of the emperor’s arrival to stick the gift (presumably of flowers) randomly into senior madame’s residence. Right, who got all that after major cameos from what I call the Alphabet Soup clan?

    I’ve discussed this with some folks before and some prefer pinyin for the flavor. The non-English words lend an air of authenticity, and truthfully, it’s so much easier to not translate something and leave it in pinyin. However, I feel that defaulting to pinyin is a hindrance to fully enjoying a novel. It makes people pause when they reach the pinyin, try to decipher this new word, and recall the definition. All this takes away from them purely enjoying and reacting to the novel itself. Instead, they’re tripping over Alphabet Soup clan members.

    “Prince, sluga apologizes for the slight to wielka dama! Stowry’s mistrz wanted to bring drugi mistrz’s gift into the dwor ksiazecy, but panie dwa once told trzecia zona that she’s allergic to flowers so ten sluga used the chaos of cesarz’s arrival to put drugi mistrz’s gift into the dworek!”

    The pinyin was switched to Polish in this version, thanks to help from the wonderful TranslationRaven over at WW. It might look like a train wreck to fellow translators now. That’s also probably how it appears to newcomers of translated novels—which, are what most new readers tend to be. I think even long-time fans of translated novels would find this an utter headache to wade through. Instead of being engrossed in the story, we’re hung up on how foreign, weird, and strange everything is.

    [Skipping half of the article because of pictures and formatting @@]

    The beizi only smirked coldly when he saw the beile, and both were taken aback when Huang jiangjun strode in and took a seat without a word of greeting.

    After reading this, it’s apparent that lots and lots of drama is about to erupt. Or is it? A beizi is a Prince of the Fourth Rank, whereas a beile is a Prince of the Third Rank. So for the former to not greet his higher ranked brother respectfully… well that is a very big deal. And Huang jiangjun aka General Huang? How dare he walk in and take a seat without acknowledging the two royal princes? Some epic face slapping is about to explode in the next paragraph after this. But by leaving everything in pinyin, we’re bereft of the subtle undercurrents.

    [continued on volare... sorry for not pasting the whole thing in, the formatting and pictures kept getting messed up @@]

    Full article here: http://volarenovels.com/translator-musings-ben-gong-wang/

    PS. It's my first time writing something like this, so if you liked it and would like to see more, please leave a comment!
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
  2. juniorjawz

    juniorjawz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2016
    Messages:
    6,872
    Likes Received:
    8,179
    Reading List:
    Link
    Let's just say...

    My mind exploded there :blobdizzy:
    The readers will have to Polish their reading skills for this.
     
  3. Jigoku Shounen

    Jigoku Shounen An Envoy From Hell

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,453
    Likes Received:
    4,281
    Reading List:
    Link
  4. Drake98

    Drake98 Concerned Fan

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2016
    Messages:
    1,544
    Likes Received:
    882
    Reading List:
    Link
    indeed, naw naw, in Chinese word that i know of are only furen benwang bengong etc. If shown more than this, I would be confused by those foreign words. And it is actually the same with JPN as oniichan, oneechan and other words get written in a text, but with moderate uses. If more are used, i would usually cringe.
     
  5. asriu

    asriu fu~ fu~ fu~

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2016
    Messages:
    17,237
    Likes Received:
    16,873
    Reading List:
    Link
    don't mind~
    hey go try make sense from Imperial Harem hierarchy names
    I bet it will cause endless headache to find similar title on english~
    well if you turn such thing to let say
    This majesty, second concubine, your highness, your grace, this servant~
    or let blatant put it into I and kick da information about beng bong bing bing thing then I'm fine~
    even without TL note I will not know it cuz idk about such term on first place
    as long as it consistent along da series translated~
    also @etvolare it seem you learn how to promote on shameless way from @LysUltima
    no I'm not giving you 1 view page~
    choco angry.png
     
    Wujigege and LysUltima like this.
  6. MangoGuy

    MangoGuy Rambling Mango

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2016
    Messages:
    7,460
    Likes Received:
    8,373
    Reading List:
    Link
    I get where you come from, but as a kind of Asian guy, I also get that a lot of translators simply lack the skill/time/effort to translate words which might be alien to English. So, I just go with the flow...a limit exists, of course.
     
    Wujigege and juniorjawz like this.
  7. LysUltima

    LysUltima Riichi! Tsumo! Toitoi! Suuankou!?

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2017
    Messages:
    2,144
    Likes Received:
    5,543
    Reading List:
    Link
    Yeah, if pirates were smart enough to use find&replace for pinyin terms, I have a feeling that they'd get a lot more readers.

    Of course, pinyin/romaji is fine in moderation - and is much better in some cases - but there's no excuse to leave pinyin when it'd be perfectly fine & would result in very little loss of meaning if it was translated.

    Like, not translating suffixes in Japanese is fine since it'd be a nightmare to read through all of the stuff that each suffix implies written in English:

    "Big brother, whom I love so much, can you ask Tanaka, who I'm not really familiar with, if Funiya, who I am really close to, is coming to school?"
    "Nii-chan, can you ask Tanaka-san if Funiya is coming to school?"

    But there's nothing of that sort with benwang, nubi, etc.
     
  8. Wujigege

    Wujigege *Christian*SIMP*Comedian

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2016
    Messages:
    16,013
    Likes Received:
    15,379
    Reading List:
    Link
    I would say beggars can't be choosers but we live in a world where beggars rule....well at least they think they do.

    Would say leaving pinyin is better or worse than this?

     
  9. etvolare

    etvolare Celestial Fluff

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2015
    Messages:
    581
    Likes Received:
    2,057
    Reading List:
    Link
    Aye, that's a pity then, because we started translating likely because we liked the novel, and yet readers aren't getting quite the same experience as we did.
     
    Hublub likes this.
  10. Ruyi

    Ruyi nearly retired from pgc

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2016
    Messages:
    1,457
    Likes Received:
    4,313
    Reading List:
    Link
    I will say I'm guilty of toeing the line some cases with this thing (at least with wangfei and chenqie) but yeah, I like to anglicize (English-ize?) when I can. Sometimes that means getting oddly western terms like "your lordship" for benwang or "Your Highness" for dianxia, and other times it means using really random terms like Commandery Prince or Assistant Director of the Cattle Pasturage from official sources like the Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China, but you know what?

    At the end of day, even I have trouble keeping track of who's who if I have to 'auto-translate' a pinyin term to its English equivalent in my head. When it's for minor stylistic changes, I find that going with an English replacement works much better. I mean, which poison name are you going to remember ten days later, Wall-Hitting Ghost or guidaqiang?

    Cheers to the article! Haha, I actually...didn't notice this got published since I was off in lala land~ *ducks head in shame*
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
    aShinyVaporeon and Ars like this.
  11. Mosstree

    Mosstree Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2016
    Messages:
    212
    Likes Received:
    385
    Reading List:
    Link
    I like it because it gives flavor, and some words don't really have an equivalent in English, or the English translation loses some meaning. For me, as long as there's footnotes, I find that I'd become familiar with the terms after reading through one of the novels. In terms of translating, I used to be diehard keep all the da shixiong, shidi, shimei, qianbei, etc., but more recently, I've been leaning towards using the English translation.

    I don't think it's fair to assume that people don't translate those words because they're lazy. One of my favorite ancient/palace stories is Eight Treasures Trousseau, and the translator left all the bengongs etc. in, but also has miles of footnotes (an entire glossary) to go with it. Think about Japanese translations: aren't some words also kept in their original form, like moe or senpai?
     
    aShinyVaporeon and Fuyuneko like this.
  12. Fermi

    Fermi 〔 ALT+F4 〕

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2017
    Messages:
    128
    Likes Received:
    385
    Reading List:
    Link
    Another road to go is to make Tanaka-san into Tanaka. That's what professional Japanese translations do. I only see -san, -tan, -chan, etc. in fan translations. Admittedly, it does leave out certain nuances.
     
    Wujigege and readerz like this.
  13. AdCaelum

    AdCaelum Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2017
    Messages:
    84
    Likes Received:
    292
    Reading List:
    Link
    I tend to remove honorifics in my translations. So I would put like Mr./Mrs./Ms. Tanaka instead of Tanaka-san. There are English equivalents to Japanese honorifics and you can also utilize the tone of the sentence to convey the implied text.

    So you can get stuff like: -chan = Little and use casual tones/slang, -sama/-dono = Lady/Lord/O Honorable and use respectful words, -bucho = President and use a tone fit for a business environment, etc.

    I feel like if I decided to keep the Japanese nuances in the text, should I also make notes like (this text is written in sonkeigo, a form of Japanese language in which one speaks highly of another. However, as Character A, despite being older and in charge, speaks to Character B in this way because of a culture notion in Japanese.....)? I feel like I would end up going into a culture lecture each time this would happen.
     
    Wujigege and Fermi like this.
  14. Aurega

    Aurega Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2016
    Messages:
    244
    Likes Received:
    128
    Reading List:
    Link
    I have to say, as someone who regularly mixes Chinese with english and norwegian when speaking to my family, mixing in pinyin doesn't bother me at all as long as I can link the words together (if you could look at my message history between me and my sister, you would probably rage). But I agree that it's retarded to leave it in for translation works.
     
  15. Wujigege

    Wujigege *Christian*SIMP*Comedian

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2016
    Messages:
    16,013
    Likes Received:
    15,379
    Reading List:
    Link
    Yeah people seem to ignore that the notes become a lecture.
    What about novels like this Can't Believe it's a RPG World where the author has the protagonist saying I just gave a tsukkomi like every paragraph.
    It was torture to read.
    But how would you translate tsukkomi in English?
     
  16. ToastedRossi

    ToastedRossi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2017
    Messages:
    2,967
    Likes Received:
    2,743
    Reading List:
    Link
    Without the wealth and richness of the original wording, a lot of books can only have about a third the quality of the original. And this percentage only gets worse as the writing in the original Chinese gets better.

    For example, Jin Yong's names for martial arts moves and the like are very famous, partly because they flow so pleasant. Translate these names into English and they sound like trash (Nine Yin White Bone Claws? Seven Wounds Fist? Blech.). It doesn't help that Chinese is a more flexible and expressive language than English is; there are simply more ways to express ideas in an aesthetic manner. It's one of the few Chinese terms I might prefer to see untranslated even though it's meaningless unless you already know the original wording.

    Tsukkomi is a straight man in a comedy routine, so it'd probably be somewhere along the lines of "acted like a straight man".
     
    aShinyVaporeon and Fuyuneko like this.
  17. readerz

    readerz Madam Jin

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    3,723
    Likes Received:
    8,390
    Reading List:
    Link
    "I like to tsukkomi." or "He is good at tsukkomi." - it depends on context but its certainly possible to translate this.

    I like to tsukkomi
    • I like to shoot down his stupid ideas. (this is literally what a tsukkomi does)
    • I like to joke my way out of these foolish conversations (it depends on context)
    • I like being the one who corrects all his idiotic malapropisms (if the one he tsukkomis is always using the wrong words)
    He is good at tsukkomi
    • He's good at wisecracking
    • His zingers are good
    • Whenever his friend says something stupid, he's always quick to reply with a funny one-liner
    There are plenty of ways to translate it.
     
    Wujigege likes this.
  18. Wujigege

    Wujigege *Christian*SIMP*Comedian

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2016
    Messages:
    16,013
    Likes Received:
    15,379
    Reading List:
    Link
    After watching Saiki, I released realized that gag stories can be fun and not just be depressing like Depressed Teacher: Zetsubo Sensei
    but I think Saiki Kusou has spoilt me, the difference in quality between it and most other gag stories is like Mt Tai and Mt Fuji(Dont know what that means haha)
    There is a reason Saiki got an anime and RPG world and the others wont and probably never will
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
    LordFatCat and readerz like this.
  19. readerz

    readerz Madam Jin

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    3,723
    Likes Received:
    8,390
    Reading List:
    Link
    I love Saiki Kusou and so does my nephew, lol. :blobangel: We watch the dub since he can't read the subtitles fast enough. Or favorite character is Saiki and we also love the other characters, especially Saiki's family. :blobhighfive:
     
    Wujigege likes this.
  20. Wujigege

    Wujigege *Christian*SIMP*Comedian

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2016
    Messages:
    16,013
    Likes Received:
    15,379
    Reading List:
    Link
    ToastedRossi and readerz like this.