The Difference Between Good Enough and Good

I feel like translation is quite subjective, with no “perfect” translation out there.

Manga is unique because it’s a combination of written and spoken English, but almost always focuses on conversation above all other types of language.

Localization in particular can make the difference between a translation that is, technically speaking, “correct”… and a translation that FEELS right.

Today I was thrown off by a perfectly correct translation of  [ 人間 健康が一番 / ningen — kenkou ga ichiban ] which was a piece of some thought-dialog in a manga I was browsing through.

It was submitted as “Health is the most important thing for humans.”

While there is nothing grammatically inappropriate here and it is, arguably, natural speech in English, I couldn’t help but think “Oh, but not for apes or cats.”

The way we throw words together in normal conversations happens with very little conscious thought at all, but we still manage to express much more than what is being said by the way we choose to phrase our words.

I know it says ningen (humans) in Japanese, but saying it in English adds unnecessary emphasis, and makes it feel slightly off, even though nothing is technically wrong.

Maybe it’s the cold medicine I’m taking, or maybe I just have special issues, but I find that listening to the voices in your head is the best way to get a natural translation out of something that feels weird when you can’t quite put your finger on WHY it feels weird.

The voices in my head told me to write it as:

“Nothing is more important than your health.”

Assuming, of course, that the person reading that inner thought dialog is a human. But the nice thing about this is that it works for other species, too. Even aliens will not feel left out now.

Isn’t that nice?

It feels right to me.

I also feel guilty for not taking better care of my health now. Oops.


This blog was brought to you by cold medicine, ecchi localization contemplations, and my sincere apologies for not updating the blog more often recently. I’ve been out of the office a lot and I’m catching up on my to do list of delicious manga for your reading pleasure, so hopefully things will settle down soon and I’ll update you with all the wonderful things that have been happening around here.