A manga translation varies considerably from one translator to another. Aside from this, different approaches and preferences are used by publishers, adapters, and translation companies. If you are a new manga translator and want to learn more about how to do things correctly, a style guide is an excellent place to start.
This is not a “prime guide” on manga translation techniques. This is only a collection of ideas based on our observations and personal experiences. We aim to collect tips that have helped us in our business and help you get a more clear picture of this field.
When a manga is translated directly and literally into English, this may result in several odd English phrases. Especially in manga translation, the Japanese to English translation should be read as naturally as possible. However, because we are so familiar with the Japanese language, it may be easy to overlook the unnaturalness or oddities in the English version.
For a more natural-sounding translation, we offer a few tips:
- Read the translation out loud.
- You may use technologies such as text-to-speech to read the translation.
- Allow a friend or colleague to read the translation to you aloud.
- Read more English comics to help you understand the “flow” of the language and the standard of English in this type of literature.
Put more color to your translation
We at CCCI are fans of manga ourselves, and through general observation or during translation and editing, we have observed several frequent Japanese terms that are commonly literally translated into English, disregarding other more colorful expressions in English.
Thesaurus.com is a fantastic resource for discovering new synonyms for overused words or phrases. While repetition is common in Japanese, it may look strange to repeat these terms all the time in English. Keep an eye out for repetition and, if necessary, modify your translation!
Avoid “false friends”
In the translation industry, we have a term called “false friends”. These are Japanese terms with English roots that can have an entirely different meaning from the original English. They are also called “Japanglish”. With that said, don’t fall prey to the sound and spelling of these words! They can cause serious mistranslations and unnaturalness to your work.
Be wary of SFXs or sound effects
Japanese katakana can be difficult to translate. A translator must carefully study the context of the sentence in order to communicate the tone. Japanese has a significant number of onomatopoeias that are not present in English. For example, Japanese uses the below SFX “しーん / shi—n” to denote silence; however, there is not specific onomatopoeia in English equivalent to this.
The key difference between the use of onomatopoeia in Japanese compared to English lies in the lack of variety in Japanese verbs and vocabulary. In English, there are more words/verbs that express different nuances. This is where onomatopoeia can be added to enhance and clarify the meaning.
Converting Japanese SFX to suitable English sounds is tough. Nonetheless, it never hurts to double-check the dictionary or various manga translation resources on the web, when you chance upon a word in katakana. Do not transliterate or just convert the Japanese words into romaji.
E.g. ドキドキ” (heartbeat sound)
✗ doki doki (romanized spelling of the Japanese)
✓ thump thump (English version of the onomatopoeia)
Here are some other examples of common Japanese SFXs and their best English onomatopoeia equivalent.
KISS (Keep It Short and Simple)
When literally converting Japanese into English, chanc