Please note that the following examples are singular instances of inspiration for translating a certain way that either enhanced understanding/relevance/enjoyment to an English audience. I do follow the text rather closely most of the time.
Please excuse any typos you find! I was more focused on getting the essence of the source material on my first passthrough.
Shifting from passive to active voice is one of my favorite things to do when translating Chinese — it just breaths so much life into the scene.— etvolare (@etvofluff) June 19, 2020
Another thing is to go from tell to show. Voila! How boring would it be if the text told you how to feel about a character? pic.twitter.com/SMaOxLvFB6
What to do when the author suddenly references Taiji philosophy? 一元，二儀，三才，四象，五行，六合，七星，八卦，九宮，十方 UwU? T_T! These 20 chars took me a literal afternoon. I then added a long FN because by golly, you guys are going to read the fruits of my labors! XD pic.twitter.com/yxCsx6L9wb— etvolare (@etvofluff) April 21, 2020
Naming stuff is always a helluva ride. A mighty pill shows up in the first NECRO chapter and translated literally, it's Nine Openings of the Human Body Golden Pill. = =— etvolare (@etvofluff) April 21, 2020
Latin is a frequent source of inspiration in fantasy, so I opted for their Latin roots: Aurum Openia Pill. pic.twitter.com/Rrd7DICIq3
Here's a batch of translation thoughts from the 2019 holiday period!— etvolare (@etvofluff) January 3, 2020
Idioms are so crucial.
Talking about a mouse stealing a piece of candy sounds odd in English & frankly a hygiene issue. I drew inspiration from 'hand in the cookie jar' & when you give a mouse a cookie… pic.twitter.com/jSHHLmNGMd
Puns puns puns. Oh my, this is a slight bane of my existence. Puns are so hard to do right!— etvolare (@etvofluff) January 3, 2020
Here, the pun had to do w/ uncooked & childbirth using the same character. I wracked my brains for similar wordplay & am pretty happy w/ the result.
It's tempting to skip 'em, but nuu! pic.twitter.com/M3fSNtpUTT
I actually really like translating Chinese imperial edicts. Lots of grandiose fluffiness + highfalutin’ sentiment = an excuse to flex those diction muscles. I read the same passage to my mom and she left halfway through. XDD Mom! Don’t you want to know what I did at work today? pic.twitter.com/SRsypG0BqK— etvolare (@etvofluff) November 13, 2019
HERRO TYPO AGAIN. Why do these never register when I double check them… I knows proper grammah and decided to upgrade the second typo’ed sentence. Here’s how it looks now, a peek into the ongoing process of translation! 😀 pic.twitter.com/eMighZKORx— etvolare (@etvofluff) November 14, 2019
On the topic of being literal, or not. I used to be 100% word for word literal, but now I subscribe to the school of thought of conveying the meaning of the CN in a way that’s relevant & digestible in EN.This a commonly seen CN phrase & how I localize it in two ways. pic.twitter.com/GcnNgasNzs — etvolare (@etvofluff) October 11, 2019
Sometimes, we run across less than polished source material, especially in web lit. After four years, I feel comfortable enough in making judgment calls on judicious rewording or even cutting repetition (web novels only!). The key, IMO, is to make sure the meaning stay the same. pic.twitter.com/57YR0QkWvo— etvolare (@etvofluff) October 11, 2019
Much like the example above, in which the narrative tells us the connotations of the speaker’s words, here the narrative tells us the two maids’ thoughts.Rather than write that out, I just turned it into the maids’ thoughts to begin with. IMO, this is more impactful in EN. pic.twitter.com/qurTJd1Esv — etvolare (@etvofluff) October 11, 2019
Another example is a 1:1 replication of source language syntax. Sometimes, judicious rearranging will help the scene make more sense to readers of the target language. Following the CN here would have QYN talk about her style before the mental note of being straight as a rod. pic.twitter.com/3kvZcD4vqv— etvolare (@etvofluff) February 2, 2019
Heck! I love the next part of the monologue as well. As @GuanZhongWuxia says, this is when close attention to the scene is needed, and translating mechanically wouldn’t have the scene come out as well. But aye, it’s easy to go garbage in and garbage out and translate on autopilot pic.twitter.com/eNJqBZtFvv— etvolare (@etvofluff) December 11, 2018
The following are examples shared or question responses in Discord.
Going for the essence of the words instead of following character by character.
Judicious use of English sayings can give an insta-shot of cultural relevance and humor.
Don’t be afraid to personify something to give it more character and write in active voice.
Cross referencing Chinese apparel and accoutrements to English equivalents. It’s tedious, but necessary!
And here’s something I’m rather proud of…
Compared to the outer room, the old dowager’s quarters were as warm as spring.
Sunlight streamed in through windows gridded with Goryeo paper, gracing the exquisite, carved sandalwood decorations inside with a soft layer of light. Pale-green brocade cushions scattered with flowers sat on chairs, and more flowers blossomed on soft, brocade carpets from Persia. Fine, glittering charcoal glowed in a brazier in the middle of the room.
Two young married ladies attired in fine jewels were in the middle of shifting stools over to the brazier for warmth, and five other charming young girls were either standing or sitting next to the luohan bed that was placed by the window. The bed, made from fine grain sandalwood, was adorned with carvings of well wishes and good luck.
Sitting cross-legged on the luohan bed, the old dowager was wearing a dark gold jacket with a row of buttons down the front, topped with a high, round collar. A brocade headband of the same color, embedded with jade, wrapped itself around her head. A golden hairpin tipped with a jade flower had also been slid in diagonally into her hair. A pale-green cylindrical seat cushion adorned with inky-green flowers supported her back.
As Qin-mama walked in, she was tugging on a young, delicate girl next to her who was wearing a light blue beizi . The old dowager’s expression was quite benevolent and loving, no different from what it was normally.
Nevertheless, Qin-mama was inwardly at solemn attention. The fourth miss was the most favored one alright! Her status in the old dowager’s heart still hadn’t decreased in the slightest even after such an event!
A cultivation/fight scene:
“Treasured blade, I barely caught a glimpse of the passing beauty that was your splendor that night. The spirit energy that flitted as a white pony’s shadow across a crevice, the aura that once pierced the stars, the secret that palpitated hearts… will you awaken at this moment?”
Jiang Chen had thrown all random thoughts to the back of his mind in this moment of life and death.
Whether he lived or died would be decided in this pivotal moment.
The true qi within his body surging up like the tidewaters, he circulated to the utmost the currents of the “Secret of the Nine Laughing Oceans”.
Coalescing nine meridians true qi as one.
Surge to the treasured blade in hand!
“Second form of Vast Ocean Current Splitter – Wave Breaker!”
In that moment, that simple and unadorned nameless saber suddenly awoke — an ancient deity reviving from its slumber. It clawed free of the shackles of heaven and earth, trampling the rivers and mountains of the world as it did so.
The dusky splendor of stars. A dim sun and moon.
The vast waves true qi around the nameless blade coalesced into the vague shape of a deity from time immemorial, holding up the skies and earth.
The aura of this stroke seemed to carry the representation of the ancient deity — as if it held the terrifying power to destroy the heavens and earth.
A crisp crack sounded out twice.
The blades had connected. Under the edge of the nameless saber, the golden runes on Long Yinye’s broadsword flickered out like a snuffed candle. The shadow of the grimacing, five-clawed dragon scattered in the wind.