Requesting a song – The role of the translator

translator

I would like everyone to read this post, because even though I wrote an entire page about how request works, it doesn’t seem anyone understood any of it.
This post will be locked on my twitter account that I suggest you to follow if you want to contact me more directly: @FGRNDNoises
To request a song is an opportunity I give you to read my translation for a song you’d like to read translated in english.
While I don’t claim to be a wonderful translator, I have my years of study on my back, so I can’t say this is something I do just for fun.
Translating requires time, as well as creating a post and manage a wordpress and its horrid interface.
And I’m doing this for free and for everybody.
I’m not expecting anything from anyone and I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad for something they did. I’m not mad to anyone, I just wanted to point some things out.
There are lots of amazing japanese/doujin music translator and I think most of what I’ll write applies to each and everyone of them.

First of all, how to request.
There have been lots of people who requested me a song, and as you read on the previous posts, you should do this under the translation request page (at the bottom of this website) or via twitter or e-mail.
Requesting under another post with a comment is something I don’t like; I found it very disrespectful so avoid doing so.
Being that I’m willing to translate the songs you request me (that means I spend time of my life translating something for you, even though I enjoy doing that) for free and without questioning, I’m not expecting anything if not respect for my rules.
So, you MUST NOT request more than one song per time. I don’t like this. Why? Because the songs won’t run away!
Request me one song and it will be pending with the others, then, after it’s done, you can request me another! Easy, right?
Doing this, you allow more people to request their own song.
And of course this goes without saying, I know who requested me a song before, so of course I give priority to those who never requested anything before!
Being that I don’t have all the spare time I wish I had, I can’t spend much time translating requests, so if there’s only a song it’s pretty doable, but if I have to translate 2 songs in a row because someone requested me a combo of songs… well.
I think I’m going to state this here and now, and take it as a rule (meaning that I’ll say “No” if I have to): You can’t request more than a song per time.

Second, how we (by we I mean us translators) translate.
This is something I’d like to talk about and it’s not refering to anyone in particular.
Translating is something that requires time.
How does it work?
Step one: scans. Scans are .jpg – .png files, and that means we translators CAN’T copy the text and paste it to a .txt file. We have to read it all and figure out every single kanji without mistaking one from another (and it’s something we have to be really careful about, there are tons of similar kanjis like 待持侍詩) and again, we have to write them all down keeping the right spaces, order, kanjis and being careful not to mispell anything.
Step two: romaji. Then, we have to write everything down again in romaji, so any non-japanese speaker will be able to read the kanjis. By these two steps, it means we have to write the whole song’s lyrics TWICE. And sometimes kanjis have special readings that the band / circle / singer / whatever decides by him/her/them/self/selves. Meaning they could write 日 (hi, “Sun”) and making it sound like “太陽” (taiyou, “Sun”). So, it basically means that after we are done with romaji, we have to listen carefully to the song to check out if everything’s all right and goes along with what we just wrote before.
Step three: figuring out. We then translate stanza by stanza the whole song, and that means we first have to figure out what the song’s about contestualizing it. After that, we analyze its grammar structure and try to convery the same meaning with a similar structure in english. If something is unclear or changes dramatically from jp to eng, we have to write it down in the notes, so a reader will find a valid explaination of why we made a certain choice.
Step four: adjustments. Of course translating the whole song at first is something that can also feature a margin of error, of mispell, and an improper use of words instead of others. So, once we’re done translating, we have to make a review of what we just wrote, and that basically means to read everything again and try to fix what doesn’t sound right or what we could make sound better.
Step five: posting. Posting isn’t as rapid as you may think. You know this wordpress and you know I like to give a shape to my posts, always writing something both above my posts or your requests. Than, there are colors, links, credits, pictures. And that means to use html codes, to find the right picture and to connect each attachment to the right link. It sure doesn’t take much time compared to the previous steps, but is still something you don’t do in a bunch of seconds.
Why writing all of this? Because I think that translating is something that people tends to belittle a lot.
And why I think so? Let me explain.

Third, sharing a translation.
I really apreciate when someone uses one of my translations for their music videos on youtube.
I always add them on my playlist as long as they credit me.
But two things, here.
First being the whole “crediting” thing. I’m not asking much, as long as someone in the video description states “translated by Shion” or something like that with a link to my wordpress, I’m totally fine with it.
But once happened that someone used my translation for a touhou lyric video (it was a translation of 私達の真実~The Battlefield Flower) without crediting me, and when I told him/her (note: very politely!) to at least credit my work by simply adding a link to the description, he/she removed the lyrics and the video itself.
That made me feel… I don’t know. Disrespected? He/She could have just added “visit foregroundnoises.wordpress.com” and keep the video, but he/she didn’t. It was awful.
And here’s another thing I’d like to talk about.
Uploading music.
It’s true that if wasn’t for youtube or sites like this one I wouldn’t had the chance to listen to lots of artists / music, but never forget that uploading music without the author’s approval isn’t something admirable.
I really respect people who adds karaoke subs or lyrics like that, and that sure is something that takes time, but I always get a strange feeling when I see channels getting tons of views / subs / comments and praise for their videos which feature my translations while my work is completely overshadowed.
Uploading a song on youtube is something anyone could do. And I think translating a song isn’t.
And now I sound like a presumptuous prick, but I don’t think there is a translator which haven’t feel like that. And giving that no one reads descriptions… wouldn’t be better if, just for a half second, that “translation by…” thing appear in the video as a subtitle file? No? Mh.
But again, I’m totally fine with it as long as I’m credited, even in the description.
And of course I really apreciate when someone uploads a video featuring my translations, I just don’t understand why the users don’t care about who translated the song instead of who uploaded it.

That’s all I had to say.
I’ll keep on getting requests, don’t worry.
But I already know that in the future I won’t have lots of time for this wordpress, and if I ever have to feel like my works are disrespected or used improperly, then there goes my will to accepting more translations requests.
I’m sorry if this post was more serious than any other posts, but I think it’s necessary to clear up things by now, since it’s been almost a year.
Thank you for reading and don’t feel accused by my words, for all of this is not pointed to anyone in particular.

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About foregroundnoises

I love music more than everything; I'm also a (shamefully mediocre) bass player and wannabe composer / writer (only in my dreams). Also interested in astronomy, traveling, theatre, literature, poetry, art, movies, mostly everything from Japan and other stuff. I'm also okay with anime stuff as long as I don't have to deal with weeaboos. Touhou project? Love it! Gaki no Tsukai? Love it! Foreground Eclipse? Of course I love them! I'm an university student, I study japanese since years for unknown reasons and I managed to get a degree on japanese language & culture (currently 進学中). I'm italian, but I can (almost) perfectly understand english.
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9 Responses to Requesting a song – The role of the translator

  1. Helly says:

    Ohhh I knew this day would come. I had the impression that, If it wasn’t you, someone else would have done it, but with more “text” yelling, insults, fluids, etc, so it’s probably better that you did it ^_^’
    I remember when I was looking for a translation for a silly song and didn’t know where to go (aaahhh, so young and ignorant, I bet you remember!) and Baioretto gave me a summary of possible people who I could ask for a translation. After deliberating for a while I thought you would be the best choice, since you didn’t seem that busy at the time, you are Italian (this is a big LIE, bue cool nonetheless) and the request shouldn’t have hindered you that much. You see, I’m a very reserved person whem asking favors for people, specially if I don’t know them at all, so naturally I’d love to do it by myself whenever I can in order to not trouble anyone and so everyone can live happily ever after, but sadly, this wasn’t something I could easily do by myself any time soon, in consequence your help was required, and so, my first request was on a comment 😀
    After that, I asked for your Skype ID; we started randomly chatting, sharing music, pictures, opinions, problems, and everything we love to share with other people so we can make them feel as miserable as we do! Muahahaha!
    About the translations, I know little about the topic, but damn, to have such steps and seem so dense, I can only feel even more admiration for all these transcribers/translators out there who are doing this for free and taking all of their time for every song, and in your case, having to learn a bit of coding such as html while dealing with WordPress is quite helpful, believe me!
    Sharing a translation, oh boy, if I should feel identified with any part of your post, it’d be this one.
    As you’ve seen, some of the songs I request are posted on youtube, and most of these start as a necessity to satisfy my curiosity, or, in the case of a song that’s already translated by someone else, it’s because I want to see the way you interpret the song. Like you said, when translating, you have to “figure out” the context of the song, and since this is kinda subjective in some ways, I really like reading different interpretations of the lyrics done by different people, you could even say that it’s like reading different versions of the same good ol’ book.
    When crediting translators and whoever contributed to the translation in any way, I feel that’s the first thing a subscriber should see on the description of a video, even before seeing who arranged/composed the song, why?, simply because even though the artist deserves tons attention, money, fans, etc., sometimes, for us overseas fans, the reason you can now sing along with the vocalist, understand its meaning or hate/love the lyrics is thanks to that lovely person who decided to use a little time of their lifespan so you can enjoy that song even more! That’s why I completely agree with you when you said that your work is overshadowed because people praise the video and not the translation, which makes me ask: “Why people tend to look more towards the visual quality of a video (hardsubs aside), and not the music?” I’m not saying that making something look pretty it’s bad at all, I mean, I’ve tried to do so many times already. My main point being that it’s not the most important part of the video, that being the song and the translation per se. If you don’t use hardsubs you could also use Youtube CC, which are a lot simpler but okay, since it covers one of the most important aspects of the video.
    I truly appreciate your efforts at making the doujin community better, so a BIG thanks for this post and the time you spent to show us the true meaning behind moonrunes!
    On a side note: I honestly never thought about adding a “Translated by:” on the video itself, so expect to see that from now on, thanks again! And yeah, I already feel like an asswhore >_>

    • I’m really happy to read all of this! 😀
      I’m glad I got to meet you and I’m glad I started the whole request stuff!
      But don’t worry, that section of “adding ‘translated by’ on the video” is just an act of selfishness, because I’ve noticed people never read youtube descriptions.
      Either way, you always quoted me on your videos, so I don’t have anything negative to say to you.
      I love your work too and the fact you always support me is really important to me.
      Not as a translator or as the admininstrator of this wordpress, but as a person.
      So, thanks for this comment and for your support!
      I wish there would be more people who share the same way of thinking you have!

  2. Parasite Teromea says:

    I never thought of putting “translation by” in the subtitles, I’ll start doing it right now.

    Also, thanks for all your hard work. I don’t think that you sound like a presumptuous prick, every work deserve appreciation. It’s not selfish, you deserve it.

    Again, thanks for all!

  3. kuilfrayt says:

    I know the feeling of not being recognized for our work >.<

    It's something you get used to, but it still sucks. I work as a translator, and while depending on where you work, people'll be very grateful of the job you're doing, you'll never leave your name anywhere. We're the invisible hand behind to much of the international development. Just look at books, we're lucky to get on the backside of the main page. If you're on the top page, man, you're a star.

    But you're right, it takes times, a lot more than people think, and a lot more training as well. It's not because you can somewhat speak two languages that you can become a translator. Just because you have two hands doesn't mean you can be a concert pianist (I'm sorry, I love this comparison). It's probably why translator's work can be so under appreciated. "It comes naturally to them, so it must be easy. You have to put in the effort to make the video/whatever godforsaken medium you're using". I translated from English to French at my job, and while I can read a text in English and understand it pretty much instantly, I can still go "How the heck am I supposed to render this in French?" It must be even harder in songs, since not only sentences are not always complete, they are arranged to fit poetically, you have to try and keep that poetic style in the translation as much as possible. It's on a whole other level, and I'm always impressed by people who can do that.

    Anyway, I also do some translations on the internet, mainly Touhou videos. However, my channel isn't very big, and bigger ones tend to take my translations to put them on their channel and get a lot more traffic. Which really, I'm fine with, more exposure to Touhou stuff, the better, right? But there's always been a couple of things that bugged me. Like you said, it's not hard to just put who translated the whole thing (or song in your case), but I always felt like just putting the name was not really a good way to recognize our work, even more when we have a channel/website. How hard is it to put a goddamn link to it? What I don't like about it is that it makes it looks like the translator is part of their own group, not someone from outside. So people who watch the video will tend to associate us with the channel who gets the most views, since our own places aren't mentioned. Still, it at least gets a passing grade, since names are mentioned.

    What really annoys me, and I don't know if you ever had that happen to you, is when they take the translation and change it. Not only change it, but make it worse. When I saw that with one of my videos, I was just baffled. It made no sense whatsoever, made it sound out-of-place. I don't care if people change honorific (I don't use -sama, -san, etc., I prefer a more English turn of phrase for it), or just using general Japanese words instead of the English equivalents I used, but changing complete turn of phrases for something that doesn't work at all? I can't stand it, not only does it belittle the effort I made into translating, but it affects my reputation as a translator. People will see this translation and think I'm the one who did this awful stuff. It's just a matter of respect towards the translator. (We had a couple of things like that happen at our job, and ****ing hell. ARAHSFDASDHSADW)

    /rant over

    Anyway, sorry, this turned out more to be a venting from me than anything else….

    To finish this, I wholeheartedly agree with your post. We spend time and efforts, for free, for something we enjoy and we do it because we want other people to enjoy it; it's always nice to get acknowledge for it. It goes a long way for motivation. (I wanted to just agree with what you wrote at first, and ended up spending half an hour on writing this essay. Oh well, it's a nice break from working)

    P.S.: If you're still looking for the scans for 久遠ノ夢路 by Register6, Dojin.co has it (http://dojin.co/c/?a=6747). Scans are not amazing, but it might still be a good starting point. Cheers!

    • Hey thanks for the scans!
      And yeah, the whole “rendering” stuff is something that we’re probably going to carry on our back throughout our whole lives!
      I’m really glad I got to read all of this, sometimes I wonder if I think of those things just because I’m not apreciated as I wish I am or because of something else, but to read that other people thinks those things too really cheers me up.
      After all a single crediting is important to me.
      Because in the end we’re putting our efforts not because we’re aiming to something, but rather because we’re willing to share something.
      So of course we’re a bit overshadowed by lots of things, but in the end I’m glad sometimes people thanks you, even once in a while. And of course I’m also grateful to everyone doing his/her own role (subtitles, karaoke, uploads). I mean, without them lots of our work will be wasted!
      But to those who change some parts of a translation / not crediting… unforgivable!

  4. Pingback: The very last 2015 post – foregroundnoises’s past, present and future | Wishes Hidden in the Foreground Noises

  5. Amen says:

    It’s been a while since I liked this post, but it’s a really good one and reading the comments have inspired me to write my own sort of response/rant thing.

    When I first started translating myself, I was still in my last year of high school with all the time in the world and a sense of duty, and did all requests diligently the same day I got them. Then I entered university for physics. Naturally, my pace of translating requests took a steep drop sooner or later. The request list began to grow overwhelmingly, and for each request I finished, a brand new one took it’s place, which was a bit demotivating, seeing as I wanted to bring that list down to a manageable size. It’s especially bad when people request two (or even three) at once. Quickly I became Reimu in your picture up top and my motivation just decreased even further. Now, that’s partly my fault for being slow, but some people really get impatient and don’t realize we offer the service for free, costing our own time, and say various inconsiderate things. This is probably because people don’t realize how difficult it actually is, as you said.

    It seems to me that no matter how good you get at Japanese, there will always be difficult songs to translate. I can’t call myself an expert by any means, but I have been studying for nearly 4 years at this point, and songs with ridiculous grammar (Shuriken from Sally, for example) or songs with as vague lyrics as possible never get any easier and you usually have to make a lot of assumptions, since that’s how English works. You can’t omit anything in English compared to Japanese unless you want to invent some new form of slang. Then there’s actually understanding. Hell, there are poems and songs in English, my native language, I can’t understand.
    Some people think translating is as simple as reading. I saw one guy who criticized all translators for being so slow and said something along the lines of “If I knew Japanese, I’d translate a book a day! It’s not that difficult,” which is of course ridiculous to us, but that’s how some people think. WordPress and post formatting also isn’t fun, as you said. Before all that is lyric availability though. Oftentimes, I can’t even get my hands on scans and have to rely on shady Chinese websites or other transcriptions across the web. From what I’ve seen, these generally aren’t reliable either. Transcription mistakes are way too common and I only have my ears to realize something’s wrong, at which point I’d actually need the scans or to contact the person who posted the lyrics themselves, which adds another problem to the mix.
    Really though, to sum it up, I don’t think people should be so stringent on people doing things that take a lot of work for free.

    I do appreciate the people who make videos a lot though. I have my own playlist like you, but I also give every one of them a like, which isn’t much coming from one person, but it still helps in some way. It might be something you can do if you don’t already. I agree with you about the comments too. It’s really nice when someone actually directly mentions you in them, but not not so much when they don’t read and think the video maker translated it or something like that.

    That’s basically all I have to say, and I think I’ve already spoke way too much, but it’s really nice to see another translator’s thoughts about the whole process in general.

    • I’m really glad I could read this comment you made.
      I got into the translation business in different ways, one of them was subtitling videos.
      And it was hellish.
      Subtitling does not only require understanding the language (and, like you, I can’t say myself I’m an expert) but also time to understand what everyone is saying (there are no “lyrics” to read whatsoever!), checking, timing, subtitling… it’s a real hell.
      And whenever I read of people that can’t wait to have their subtitles / translation it makes me laugh, because they have no idea how not-so-easy at all it actually is.
      It’s like claiming that I could easily land on the moon if I start bulding a rocket by now. Truth is, you lack of knowledge and training. And of course experience.
      My first translation’s blog, which dates back 5 years ago, was a mess.
      I’m not a native-english speaker (though I think I can understand everything by now), and my first wordpress was a touhou/doujin/anime/whateverinjapanese translation one too, but everything was translated from english to italian. Way too easy.
      The few times I attempted translating from japanese I got criticized for the huge quantity of errors.
      Still, I decided to translate again now that I have more… knowledge (I guess?) than before.
      And the things I’ve learned are a lot. One of those is that everywhere you go, there will always be something that makes you want to quit. People hasting your works (that you do for free, damn it!), people who uses them without crediting, those who request 1000 songs together or such… Well, I don’t have the will to give up on this, yet.
      Because I really enjoy translating and to see that between 100 pricks there’s sometimes that one sincere “thank you” which makes me satisfied about what I’ve done.
      I hope it’s the same for you, and I hope you’ll keep on translating as I do, as we translators do.
      Thanks again for your words! Grazie!

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