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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Iwata Asks #14: Hatsune Miku and Future Stars: Project mirai

This was one of the few Iwata Asks sessions that ended up never officially translated, mainly because the game that eventually made it to the West (Project Mirai DX) is very different from the game that was being discussed in the interview. I took the liberty of translating it, both for the benefit of Vocaloid (and SEGA’s Miku Project game series) fans and in honor of the late President Iwata, who is dearly missed even now.

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Dream and Reality – hinayukki

Translation for hinayukki (ShigotoshiteP)’s song “Dream and Reality” (ユメトリアル), featuring MEIKO.

This song originally debut on the MEIKO compilation album Daybreak -SHINONO-ME-, and was later posted in two slightly different versions to YouTube and Nico Nico Douga.

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Alternating Parlante – koushirou

Translation for koushirou (HikutsuP)’s song “Alternating Parlante” (互い違いのパルランテ), featuring Kagamine Rin and Len.

There are two versions of this song: one on the Rin and Len 10th anniversary compilation album gLoR10us, and a faster remix posted online titled “high noon mix”.

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Eternity. Iol and Carnelia

Translation of F.Koshiba (WandererP)’s song “Iol and Carnelia” (アイオルとカーネリア), featuring MEIKO and KAITO, and its accompanying prose story written on their website.

This is the third of the three-part “Iol and Carnelia” narrative featuring MEIKO and KAITO, described as “Carved into the sides of a polished angular rock, a story of light and distortion.”

(Part 1 | Part 2 | Part Eternity)

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