Make a call, and live with it
The recent dispute of Holo vs Horo spelling yet again reminded me of the story of a minor league baseball umpire that I heard couple of months ago on NPR.
Q: What happens when an umpire has to make a call, like on a base, and they just can’t see it? They’re just not in the position, and they just don’t know?
A: It happens frequently. Maybe. I don’t want to say that it happens frequently. It happens from time to time. You just make the call. You have fifty-percent chance of getting it right. You call it, then sell it as if you have seen it. There is no alternative, you know. If you blow it, you blow it. Admitting that you didn’t see it is not an alternative. Once you’ve done it, you’ve completely lost your authority in the game. Every call you make from that point on will be open for questions.
Here, of course, people are trying to defend their stances with variety of reasons, everything from spelling on the official product page, what’s printed on the DVD/Blu-Ray disc, how the name is pronounced, etc… One of the tough thing of being a translator (in this case, I’m including other supporting roles like editors, since they are also making decisions on these matters) is that sometimes, you have to make a call and live with it. It was probably hard to predict that this Holo vs Horo issue would spark such a discussion prior to the release. Sometimes, you simply get to labelled by some as being an incompetent translator for these little things.
At least, in this world of fansubbing, we can release a fixed version if we strongly compelled to do so. Sometimes, we just need to accept the criticism, and live with the mistakes we’ve made in the past, and let them not haunt you.
There are many reasons we can make these “mistakes.” In fansub, often it does come from language or hearing incompetence. (Afterall, majority of translators are not native Japanese speakers. Also, Japanese language has many homonyms, which makes translation even harder.) Other times, inaccuracy can stem from inconsistent spellings listed, even within one official web site. Or the line being so dang hard to hear. (Often happens in the opening/ending songs. I still remember how difficult the first episode of Last Exile was, throughout the episode.) Or, sometimes we try to make some judgement calls, trying to strike the best balance between the length of a translated line and the total accuracy of the translation.
In my case, I found some aspects of translation got harder as I got more experience, because I start thinking of all the different possibilities of translating any single word. Some people may not like the word/phrase I picked. But, usually, there’s a good reason why I phrased any line certain way. If you ever wish to dispute anything, I’ll be open to discussions (within certain limit, as I want to leave lots of time for other activities, including more future translation works).
I think I have much lower tolerence against cussing and cursing compared to these pro baseball umpires though.