Open Secret 2 – Letter from a Reader
An owl swooped in and dropped a letter onto Ameranth’s lap. She smiled, unrolled the letter, and began to read.
“Hi, are you guys translating from the mandarin version of Grimgar? I noticed that some words/names are ‘slightly’ different from the original-for example, in v1 ch0, “Awaken” from your translation is “Awake” in the raw, and Altana is Oltana/Ortana(? whichever).
I’m just curious.”
Her eyebrows rose. She transcribed the letter, sent it to hikaslap, and not five minutes later her phone buzzed with hikaslap’s reply.
There is a lot of room for maneuvering when you translate, particularly when you ascribe to “sense-for-sense” translation like we do. Lots of alternative spellings and phrasings.
If someone doesn’t think that the use of “Awaken” is appropriate, or that “Altana” doesn’t sound cooler, they’re in for a nasty surprise when they compare and contrast all the small and large things we changed that, in our opinion, make the translation better while keeping the original “sense”.
If it sounds like I’m angry at you, I’m not – I figure it was just an honest question. To answer it, the presence or lack of an N at the end of a word does not mean anyone translates through the grubby window of a middle man language. Not us.
But Ameranth had something to add, too. After “convening” with TOM, she began drafting a reply of her own.
“Hi! Thanks for your email! Since you know some things about Japanese, you might be interested in this more in-depth response.
When the Japanese make an English word into katakana, they’re going off the way the English word is pronounced, not the way it’s spelled (because look, English spelling rules are non-nonsensical and often have nothing to do with pronunciation). Therefore, you can’t assume that any word spelled with an “a” is naturally going to be replaced with the kana ア and, when translating, you can’t assume that katakana words starting with ア will always translate to “a”. For example, here are some other actual dictionary words (not made-up fantasy place names) where オ which is romanized as “o” becomes another letter in English:
オーロラ – aurora
オール – all
オランダ – Holland”
Ameranth wiped her brow, and continued writing. Looks like she still knew her Japanese.
“Things like how to translate a made-up place name starting with a katakana オ is a judgment call, just like Grimgal/Grimgar and 幻想 being translated to “fantasy” rather than “illusion” are judgment calls. It’s based on what the translator thinks the katakana word should SOUND like in English.
Also, fun fact: The official Japanese anime website translates オルタナas “Alterna”.
Yes, the first line of the light novel “目覚めよ” does have “アウエィク” in katakana next to it, indicating that the kanji should be read that way. However, that doesn’t mean that it should be translated into English as is. The katakana is there to give the obviously Japanese kanji word “目覚めよ” an overtly foreign tone, because it’s the first thing the characters hear when they enter a foreign world. It’s NOT there as an indication of how the word should be translated into English. TOM could have translated 目覚めよ into “Wake up!” if he wanted, and it wouldn’t have been wrong.
However, if you turn to page one of the Japanese Grimgar novel, or the English Volume 1 PDF or EPUB, the entire page is blank except for the word “目覚めよ” centered in the middle of it. This indicates to me that this one word, which opens up the entire Grimgar series, is highly significant in setting the scene and establishing the tone of this multi-book story TOM’s about to spend a bunch of time, uh, reading, or whatever it is he does with it. Probably TOM purposely made the word choice of “awaken” instead of “awake” because “awaken” has a more archaic feel (actually “awake” is derived from the middle English word “awaken”). It sounds more medieval, and it’s less commonly seen in our everyday English compared to the word “awake”. This not only helps to convey what the “アウエィク” katakana is trying to do in terms of making the word sound foreign, but it also fits better into Grimgar’s medieval fantasy setting compared to “awake”. Finally, the よ at the end of 目覚め effectively makes the word into a command, therefore the subtly stronger, more forceful “awaken” conveys the tone better than a normal “awake”.
I hope that helps to clarify your question. Like hika said, the translation is done directly from the Japanese and with conscious effort made towards keeping the sense of the original intact. Thanks for reading!
PS: Funimation translations (from where I assume you’re getting the “O” in オルタナ and “awake” for 目覚めよ) are the epitome of lazy. Their subtitles might be official and authorized, but that doesn’t mean the quality is good. Actually, their translations are often bland. They retain very little of the tone, writing style, and artistry of the original Japanese script. It seems like their translators just don’t care enough or don’t get paid enough to put in any more effort than making the translation accurate on a technical level, which is the absolute minimal required. And while their subtitles do a decent enough job of conveying the meaning (which is enough for most viewers, I suppose), it hardly does the Japanese scriptwriters justice.”
She put her pen down, rolled up her reply, and went back to the fireplace to warm up. It was cold where she lived.