Not Lost in Translation

May 19th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

We believe that being a translator of fiction must be one of the hardest jobs ever. Oh sure, some would say brain surgeon, but they’ve never had to guide sarcasm from one language to the next. Fiction does not have the advantage of immediate and direct facial and vocal cues. It’s all in the words — and getting the words wrong changes everything.

Yeah, everything. What if a certain story had been translated as “Killing An Eskimo”? Dan Wickett talks to David Karashima, a translator who began his noble career translating manga. As we suspected, we are not suited for this work (reasons: obvious). And one of our pressing questions was answered:

Equivalents of some words don’t exist in English and if I feel that a direct translation sounds clumsy I might opt to keep the original word. For example, an izakaya is a Japanese style bar/restaurant, but calling it a bar or pub would give the reader the wrong image. Most foreigners who have lived in a Japanese city for more than a couple of months would use the term “izakaya” just as they would “sushi” or “kimono” and other Japanese words that have already become part of the English language, which I think is
a pretty good measure to go by. When I use a Japanese term I make sure that the readers can figure out what it means from the context. I think it would be great if in the next edition of the Merriam Webster Dictionary the entry after Ivy leaguer was izakaya!

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