Let’s look at the difference “context” can make in Japanese-to-English translation! (feat. inabakumori’s “Loneliness of Spring”)

Taking context into account when translating is important regardless of language, but it’s especially important when translating from a high-context language like Japanese to a low-context one like English. English has much stricter requirements on what needs to be specified in a sentence to flow naturally and make sense, but in Japanese, you can essentially drop any information or words that the listener is likely to already know.

For instance, let’s say you’re going to school. Instead of saying an entire sentence of “I’m going to school” (watashi wa gakkou ni ikimasu), if it’s obvious you’re the only one who’d be going to school, you could just say “going to school” (gakkou ni ikimasu), or you could even just say “going” (ikimasu) depending on the situation if the other person already knows you’ll be going to school anyway.

As you can probably imagine, this property of the language is used a lot in song lyrics, where phrases are often intentionally vague. In general, a translator’s many responsibilities include analyzing context and filling in context when applicable.

An interesting situation came up recently with inabakumori’s song “Loneliness of Spring” (ハルノ寂寞), which at first seems to be a song that uses some rather violent imagery, but was recently revealed in a Real Sound interview (which I translated earlier here) to actually be about a school bag, not a human. Since this information changes the context behind the song completely, I thought it would be interesting to use the song as a case study of how much “context” alone can change a translation.

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On Digimon, gender, pronouns, and translating

Translation by PositronCannon

This quote (or dubbed versions of it thereof) gets passed around a lot in Digimon circles as proof that “Digimon are genderless”. Unfortunately, as much as it’d be nice to just leave it at that, in actuality Digimon as a franchise isn’t so simple about the topic as a translator would like it to be. Since this obviously impacts how a translator like myself should approach Digimon, Digimon gender, and gendered pronouns from here on out, I thought I should devote a post to this in case I have to refer back to it in the future as a rationale for why I make certain decisions.

This is a post purely dedicated to the likely authorial intent of Digimon and how I plan to go about translating that. It does not apply to fans’ headcanons, and does not even apply to my own headcanons (in fact, there are many aspects of the below stuff that even I’m not exactly a huge fan of myself). If you decide to read this and go “well, screw that, I’m going to ignore this and do things my own way,” I outright endorse it. It is purely an explanation and analysis of what is presented within the series itself as-is, which is important from the translation perspective, and what you, the reader, decide to do with it is entirely up to you.

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