How to translating mange dialog

Most texts in manga consist of spoken dialogue. When translating spoken lines, it is crucial that translators select words and expressions that recreate the feel and nuance of the original Japanese spoken lines.

The English words and expressions used must be appropriate for the characters speaking those lines. Males and females express the same thing in different ways. Children’s vocabulary is more limited compared to adults. People speak differently when talking to friends, to acquaintances, to parents, and to superiors.

The way each character speaks to each other is also influenced by their relationships to each other. The contexts of those conversations (such as love confessions, quarrels, and everyday conversations) also influence how they speak.

Monologues, on the other hand, reveal the characters’ true feelings, as they’re not spoken aloud. Monologues are often combined with spoken lines to contrast what characters are publicly saying and their own, private thoughts. Thus it’s important to maintain the difference in style when translating these lines.

The big difference between novels and manga is that manga stories unfold using both dialogue and drawings. Translators should be careful not to focus solely on dialogue when translating spoken lines. It is important to also pay attention to what is drawn in and around the panels the spoken lines are laid out. Drawings often contain clues for translating those lines, as the characters’ facial expressions and body language may indicate their true, unsaid feelings.

I split up the translation process into three phases. I first begin with the literal translation, converting all the information contained in Japanese into English.

I then go over the translation, correcting grammatical errors and rewriting the dialogue so the words and expressions used are appropriate for each character. I smooth out the dialogue so the spoken lines sound natural in English. I also fine-tune the dialogue so the translation recreates the nuance of the original spoken lines. I aim for the end result where the characters sound like they’ve been talking in English from the start.

In the final phase, I compare each panel of the original manga and the translated script, making sure I haven’t missed any spoken lines, background text, and sound effects. I make corrections here as well, as I occasionally realize that the rewriting has cut out information I shouldn’t have. Depending on the quality of the translation, I repeat the second and third phase as necessary.