So, I’ve been following a certain thread on NUF for the past few days, and the sheer audacity, hypocrisy, and inherent superiority complex of some people truly never fails to astound me.
I personally don’t keep Japanese/Korean suffixes in my translations because 1) the stories that I translated aren’t necessarily modern Asia-centric and 2) my personal purpose for translating is to share stories that I liked with as many people as possible, to as accurate an extent as I possibly can. I would probably leave suffixes in if I ever decided to translate a story that was set in modern/ancient Japan/Korea because it makes sense in the context of the story to keep them.
But I wouldn’t say that my preference of keeping suffixes out of my translations is necessarily any more “correct” than doing otherwise. By taking out the suffixes, I inherently end up cutting away at some of the original meaning implied from the original text. No matter how hard I try to remain true to the original raws, any translation that my readers will read will inevitably be influenced by my interpretation, understanding, and retelling of the story. And that is something that anyone who reads a translation of anything will have to make peace with –that you are not reading the original text unless you are actually reading the original text.
There is no true equivalent for Japanese/Korean suffixes in the equivalent language. In my translations, I make do by translating these suffixes into English prefixes that are transitionally used in a similar manner. And I still lose out on a lot of implied meaning. My translation of Rain is riddled with examples of this. Like, recently, Shelfa decided to call Folnier Foruniia-dono instead of Foruniia-sama. Both instances would be translated as “Lady Folnier,” because “Lady” is the closest possible representation of the feminine context of dono and sama I could get in the English lexicon. But, not only would it have sounded utterly stupid in the translation for Shelfa to say “Lady Folnier” instead of “Lady Folnier”, but you also lose the implicit meaning suggested by the fact dono is a slightly more familiar term of address than is sama. I had to switch Foruniia-sama from “Lady Folnier” to “Empress Folnier”, which is not accurate to the original text, in order to keep hopefully convey this implicit meaning and had to sacrifice explicit meaning in exchange. Not to mention the fact that dono and sama are gender-neutral suffixes. The most accurate means of translating this would have been to keep the suffixes and throw in a footnote about it. The only reason that I didn’t was simply because it was my preference not to. I accepted the loss in explicit meaning for my own preferences.
The same goes to my more recent project, The Daybreak, where I translated Guraaku-sama and Buramudii-kyou as “Lord Glark” and “Lord Bramdy”, despite the fact that they had two different suffixes which implied two different types of relationships between the speaker and the receiver in the original Japanese. Haruka says Buramudii-kyou because she is specifically referring to the fact that Ricardo is of a noble lineage, whereas Ricardo says Guraaku-sama purely out of respect (SPOILERS and because he unilaterally decides that Haruka is his master before Haruka even knew who he was). There is no way to imply this in English with only a name+title because there is no English equivalent for these suffixes. Again, it would have been far, far more accurate to the original text to simply leave in the original suffixes and throw in a few footnotes. I simply chose not to.
That being said, there is no reason why I chose not to keep the suffixes other than the fact that I preferred it that way. There is no such thing as a 100% accurate translation (though, yes, some are more accurate in their conveying of meaning than are others). There has been a debate over whether transliteration (translating as much of the explicit meaning as possible, even at the expense of implicit meaning) or localization (translating as much of the implicit meaning as possible, even at the expense of explicit meaning) is better for about as long as translating has existed. The difference in transliteration and localization is only made more apparent when translating between two languages that not only have vastly different sentence structures, but also have an even bigger gulf between the cultures of the two languages. English is a very explicit language. You typically write out everything you mean. Japanese/Korean, however, is much more ambiguous, and a lot of the meaning is carried behind the actual words themselves (through context). Heck, Japanese doesn’t even have proper grammatical rules for how comma placement is supposed to work. It’s basically just, “if it feels like there should be a comma there, then put a comma there.”
Some people prefer to localize when they translate. And that’s okay. I happen to fall into this camp. But others prefer to transliterate. And that’s okay too. It’s purely a matter of preference and style; no one side is decisively “better” than the other. I respect how other people choose to translate, even if their preferences are different from my own, and I ask that they do the same for me.
Therefore, it astounds me, appalls me, that any one person can decide they have the right to disparage an entire school of translating just for the arbitrary (as far as I’m concerned, he never defined his “audience” or his “purpose” for translating, so yes, it’s arbitrary) reason that “suffixes unnecessarily limit the audience” and that suffixes are only for “elitist weebs and eroge”. [not a direct quote]
No. Just no. That’s basically just white-washing.
To say that an entire culture’s (and more than just one!) use of suffixes, and a translator’s choice to remain true to the accuracy of the actual words in the original text, is “unnecessary” solely by the virtue that the average English-speaking layperson won’t understand it, is white-washing. To say that these words shouldn’t be used simply because there is no English-equivalent translation for them is to say that the English-speaking culture is inherently superior to the original language’s culture. And this is disgusting. The very idea that the OP of the thread in question decided that Asian suffixes only belong in eroge is insulting. It’s basically saying that the entire culture that the suffixes represent and hold meaning in is only to be used to satisfy people’s perversions. He is stripping down entire cultures into little more than fap-material just on the basis that certain words and phrases don’t fit well into English. The sheer audacity of it is astounding. And then he calls the people who use suffixes ‘purists’ and ‘elitists’! Because, right, saying that the English-speaking culture is superior and any diction that can’t be properly translated into English is only to be used in porn isn’t an elitist mindset at all, obviously.
Not to mention that it’s just plain rude to the person who put in the time and effort to translate stuff so you can read it. Especially if you’re not a translator yourself. If you don’t like a translator’s style of translating, then just don’t read their translations. It’s that simple. No one’s forcing you to read what you don’t like. If you are someone who agrees with the NU thread’s OP’s (who, incidentally, apparently hates the idea of using suffixes in translations so much that it’s a part of his fucking username) white-washing opinions, please kindly get the fuck off of my website and never read my translations again. Thanks.
Finally, please do not post/repost this rant, either in whole or in part, back on NUF. I put this rant here on my website specifically because I didn’t want to have to deal with a hypocrite who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t actually appear to follow any biblical values (hint: humility and being a good model to the rest of the world are two of them). And yes, I take offense at that too, because it reflects poorly on the rest of the religion. There are nice, actual Christians out there in the world who regularly strive to live up to the virtues of their religion. They just don’t go around pretending to be pretentious know-it-alls about an artform that they themselves don’t even practice.