It’s (Not) good enough

With Bandai Namco nowadays doing official English translations for specific Asian regions importers of certain series have had loads of fun times with their favourite games. I’ll cut to the chase right away rather than chatting away; the translation of both Super Robot Wars OG Moon Dwellers and SD Gundam G Generation Genesis are not good enough. On the contrary, the quality of the translation they have has essentially stopped me from playing Moon Dwellers. If you’re not tuning out at this point, let’s continue. Just be sure to meet a bit more opinionated piece from the usual.

The question when a translation is good enough is difficult to people who have not read into the science of it. Translation and language both evolve, translation usually just a half step behind at best. Then there’s the cultural factor, where certain kind of translation is considered the right way over something else. Let’s not forget about personal preference either, but when it comes to translations personal preference mostly appears through the flavour of the language.

A good translation doesn’t only turn language into another, it also conveys the core meaning and preferably the flavour of the origin language as well. The term localisation has gone through some mud in gaming circles with removal of text and events, but ultimately localisation is a necessary thing in order to create coherence in a text. If you were to make direct, machine like translations, the end result would be close to incoherence. Translation is affected by things like choice of words in the original language and their core intention, the situation, the character/person speaking, the nuances and other factors that it’s not even funny.

Bandai Namco’s Asian English releases lack any sort of finesse to the point of even ignoring official English translations and pre-existing and used terms for their own. For example, in Moon Dwellers Irm’s name is now Irum for whatever reason. The script is full of typos to hell and back, nonsense sentences that have little coherence and outright context errors. Evasion stat the mechas also have is a really strange as hell choice of word, as Mobility is superior and more often used for this. Just as with Muv-Luv‘s case with the archaic romanizations with Takemikaduchi, Shilogwane and Kulogwane are not mistranslations. They’re just using archaic romanization.

When it comes to SD Gundam GGG , one of the simpler examples I’ve seen discussed is Char’s encounter with Gundam, where Char complements Gundam’s pilot Amuro with “You’ve gotten even better, Gundam!” In the English translation, Char says “I’m starting to figure you out, Gundam!” There is no excusing this sort of bad translation. Even character and unit names change from pre-established ones, e.g. Zeonic Front‘s Lt. Agar being now Eigar and Lou Roher is now Le Roar. Val-Varo is Mal-Varo for whatever godforsaken reason. Furthermore, the translation the show-accurate scenes use are not the same as used in the official English releases. If you think this is a minor point to contest, remember that there are lines that are iconic in English as well. They should play along the similar lines in both English and Japanese, and like with the aforementioned example with Char, the nuances and details are lacking.

It’s understandable English and gets the points across, that’s all we need. No, what we need to better paid professional translators who have time to tune the translation right. Nuances and details are what language consists of and failing to convey those right can be a final factor between major decisions. Khrushchev’s famous line We will bury you is a mistranslation and the correct translation would be We will outlast you. He made no threatening marks, but the mistranslation at the time made things just a tad bit tighter. When Kantaro Suzuki conveyed Japanese statement to Potsdam Declaration, it was translated as We’re ignoring it in contempt instead of No comment now, we are still thinking about it. Hiroshima was bombed ten days later. 黙殺 is a bitch to translate if you don’t know its use. History is full of translation errors that when done right could have led to another conclusions.

Aalt, those are serious things, these are just games. That’s exactly the point. If we are satisfied with barely mediocre translations with games, how can we trust our translators to deliver quality, high-accuracy translations when the time needs them? How little do we value our translators themselves and think that anyone could do as good job as them.

A good translation is invisible. You don’t notice how well the text flows, how the little syntaxes hit just right, how the jokes fit in and how the characters’ lines reflect their nature and position. A great translation is invisible. You only remember the bad translations, because a text that doesn’t flow and jitters with errors leaves a negative impact. The saying It’s better in the original language has its basis because the consumer is not willing to have the companies give the translators enough time and resources to make good translations. No, ‘good enough’ translation is an oxymoron, a result of short schedule, lack of resources and respect towards the work itself.

Translations that Bandai Namco are now putting out in Asian regions diminish the quality of their products.

Would I be willing to pay full price for a Japanese language SRW? Yes, when applicable. Would I pay a full price for an English language SRW with bad translation? No, I would not. However, I would be willing to pay slightly more if the translation quality was up there. This is standards, and it’s something all consumers should try to convince the companies to maintain. SRW OG Moon Dwellers and SD Gundam GGG are no Muv-Luv or Finnish Harry Potter when it comes to quality when they should be. There should be no contest what translation is good enough, they all should be at least up to the standard. The sad thing is that they could be, if they were allowed to be. You may hate localisation, but it’s the same deal with downright bad translations; nobody enjoys them, they just bring the product down. But hey, as long as there’s some sort of English translation for niche products, it seems that they will sell no matter what, so might as well employ the cheapest shit who don’t proof read their works and just push it out as it is.

The steps Bandai Namco has taken to recognize their international audience with their niche Japan-only franchises is great. However, they must now up their game and it’s up to the consumer to voice that they need to push things at a higher level. Otherwise companies will start pushing out translations that make no sense whatsoever, because pigs eat whatever is brought in front of them

If you want to read into what goes into translation sciences, Finland, Germany, Israel and Scotland have the best researches and have the widest range of approaches. Finland, because like Germany, we appreciate our language while still valuing others’ Scotland due to their Scottish Gaelic and Israel most likely due to its interesting linguistics region.

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3 thoughts on “It’s (Not) good enough

  1. Boy, was Moon Dwellers’s translation a royal mess. It is almost as if they ran the whole script in Google Translate and pasted it into the game.

    Clearly there were no editors involved in the translation. Now I wonder how bad the English version of SRW V will be.

    1. I have no hopes for SRW V’s translation based on the examples we’ve seen thus far. You are right that the script in MD looks like a machine translation, and it propably was to some extent. There are numerous bits where the translators have used a literal meaning from the dictionary without checking context or what is truly meant. Might as well use something like Bakareader and get the same if not better experience (because you’re not paying full price for a low-quality translation.)

      You are right that the lack of editorial work is showing… just like in this blog. Editing really is where the magic happens in the end, as it cuts the rough off and polishes the final sheen on the text. This may be preaching to the choir, but editing is not just checking for grammar errors, that proof reading. Editing should check context and content of the text alongside possible language problems. Just like drawing is 40% drawing and 60% using the eraser, writing overall, translation or not, is editing and reworking at its best. Bandai Namco’s translations really show that the translators are most likely not native to either English or Japanese, and are possibly from region where a form of pidgin English is used, which does not stand up in a wider release. Moon Dwellers does have some interesting elements that remind me of Singlish, but that might be reader’s bias there.

      The solution really would be to give the translators and editors enough time and resources to polish their script up, but neither the consumer or the companies value translations to that extent. They’ll only bitch when the translation sucks. As said, we only remember bad translations vividly and only then appreciate good translations slightly more than than usual. Then again, it does seem we only appreciate our own professions and think it’s undervalued over others.

      We can only hope that SRW V’s translation group has already had experience and stoof up to the task and aim to deliver more precise and accurate translation than what… well, all the previous ones have been thus far. However, I can’t justify personal expendure for just a possibility. If they still intend to bring the quality of the product down, they should also bring the price down… which won’t happen, because the niche consumers here will eat up whatever translation is offered to them without any regard of the quality presented.

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