Getting into a Routine:
After getting into a routine in ISSTH (I Shall Seal the Heavens) I started to get better and better at english and identifying errors. Early on a chapter took about 1 hour to proofread. Later on I got it down to 20-45 mins on average based on whether there were points that needed lengthy explanations.
I started working on ISSTH while taking a year off from school, I was still attending clubs (namely the anime club and the gaming club) and I had just taken on a part time job at a bookstore (due to my love of reading). It was around then that my perspective on translation started to change. Was literal really the best way of doing things?
There were a couple key factors in why my perspective changed. First, I had been reading a lot more Light Novel translations. Second, every chapter of ISSTH that I proofread had one thing in common, it read like an english book while capturing the essence of what made it good in the original language and Deathblade was making it his mission to do that to the best of his ability, even given his limited time and insane schedule.
I poured my heart and soul into proofreading that series. I hoped that every reader would enjoy a near flawless version of the chapter that would enthral them and bring them into the novel’s world. If I had one flaw, it was my tendency to do a multiple chapters in one go rather than steadily, day by day.
After about 150 chapters (which was about 2 months in) into working on ISSTH Deathblade made a crucial decision that changed the way I thought about editing, and the very way I did it. He decided to move to Google Docs so that all of the proofreaders could work at the same time. Part of that decision wasn’t so clear cut because Deathblade lives in China. In China google is blocked/censored and Google Docs is one of those blocked parts. To get around it Deathblade needed to use a VPN which didn’t give him the most stable connections to the chapters.
In the end it was a good decision for the series. Google Docs offered possibilities that weren’t even remotely possible in out previous medium. Suggestion mode made it easy to overlay the original text with the proposed changes. Comments made it easy to explain problems that simple fixes could not.
It was fast, powerful and efficient. It also gave me the ability to suggest more audacious, stylistic, or dramatic changes without having to worry about it getting drowned out later down the line by other proofreaders. I still use Google Docs today as my tool of choice for those very reasons.
I have to say I was either stupidly persistent, or very lucky. You remember how I said I tendency of binge editing? Well that came back to bite me about 3 months after moving to google docs. I had slowed down and it was because I was burnt out. Work had been crazy for the holidays and committing 4-9 hours a week to proofreading had taken it’s toll. I had temporarily lost interest in the series and needed a break. I took a short 2 week break and went back at it.
Then not long later I did something absolutely insane. I decided to start translating at the same time. My sister had joined a manga scanlation group (Angelic Scans). They’d sent her a chapter she was struggling to even understand what had been going on in the chapter based on the translator’s translation. I said I’d have a look at it and TLC it for her.
When I had a better look at it, I realized that the translator was unskilled and at some points had basically resorted to MTL. I ended pretty much re-translating the chapter from scratch. Even though it was a cliche series, I enjoyed translating that chapter. I applied to the group shortly after and helped translate a couple chapters of Baby Steps. The problem is I had taken on too much all at once.
I burnt myself out again from both projects not long later. It took me 3 weeks to get back into the swing of things after that. In the meantime, some friends invited me to help with their blog, Brotakus. Given my limited time, I did not take it seriously as I do now (more on that in a later chapter).
What is Stupid Will Inevitably Be Repeated:
A month or so after things did not work out with the scanlation group as a result of my burn out, I decided to try my hand at translation once again. This time I was trying to translate a Light Novel (Kenkoku no Jungfrau). The text was more fluid and fleshed out than a manga, but there was a lot more to translate. It didn’t help that the digital copy I was using (which I legally bought) did not have text I could extract.
However, That did lead to me discovering a great Japanese/English dictionary and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tool, KanjiTomo.
I picked up Kenkoku no Jungfrau because it had been attempted but the translation was not complete. I wanted to see how popular it would be if the first volume had been fully translated. Every page of it that I translated, I became more confident in my translation and felt more need to be liberal in it. It made it flow better, and it respected the original writing more.
How is being less literal closer to the original? Well, first off, Japanese and English are fundamentally different. In Japanese, you have multiple similar words that mean different things and the eloquence of the sentence is more in it’s form and metaphors than in how flowery the language is. In english flowery and powerful descriptors can elevate a sentence beyond what they can in Japanese. So to honour the power of the original, you need to be liberal and you need to capture the feel of the sentence even if a tiny bit of the meaning is lost in translation.
In the end I had to quit as a proofreader. I had taken on too much.
- Routine is good.
- Burn out is bad (so don’t binge and don’t take on too much).
- Love any series you work on
- I might be stupidly persistent sometimes, but it’s got “stupid” in there for a reason.
- I’m either a masochist, or insane. Not sure which yet.