How Death Mage is translated

Hello readers! Today, I want to show you a little behind the process of how I translate Death Mage.

My “translating style” has evolved over the ~2.5 years I’ve been translating. There is obviously a huge difference between chapter 1 and the most recent chapter of Death Mage, for instance.

When I first started, I adhered to the raw very strictly and did everything I could to keep the word order the same where possible. This results in an accurate translation, but a very unnatural one. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 1 of Death Mage:

「Hmm? Are you curious as to why your mommy’s skin is a different color? You’re clever, aren’t you, Vandalieu? To notice that already. But don’t worry. Vandalieu, you just look a lot like your daddy, but you are definitely your mommy, Darcia’s, son.」(Darcia)

As Darcia, Vandalieu’s mother, smiled gently, her words dispelled his doubts. He realized that he was a child of mixed blood, born to parents of different races.

 

You can understand what’s happening, of course, but it’s very unnatural writing in English.

First of all, Darcia’s dialogue is very unnatural with the sentences ending where they shouldn’t in English.

Secondly, there are too many commas in the first narrative line after the dialogue as a result of keeping the word order the same as the raw while still making it technically grammatically correct in English.

Finally, separating the dialogue completely from the narrative isn’t done in English – there is almost always a speaker marker (like “said Darcia” on the end of the dialogue line). Japanese doesn’t have these and simply leaves you to guess who is speaking based on context and speaking tone which is difficult or impossible to convey in English in many cases. As a replacement for the missing speaker marker, I’ve added a very unnatural (Darcia) in brackets after the dialogue to indicate who is speaking. But it’s best to add a proper English speaker marker, and as a bonus, additional details can be added to the marker!

If I were to translate this now, it would be something like this:

“Hmm? Are you curious as to why your mommy’s skin is a different color? You’re clever, aren’t you, noticing that so quickly! But don’t worry, Vandalieu. You look a lot like your daddy, but you’re definitely my son,” said Darcia, giving a gentle smile.

Vandalieu’s doubts were dispelled and he realized that Darcia really was his mother. He was a child of mixed blood, born to parents of different races.

 

Doesn’t that sound much more natural? Isn’t it much nicer and easier to read?

Next, I want to show you an excerpt from chapter 188, which I released last Sunday. Here’s what the text would have looked like with my older translation style, if I had adhered to the raw:

Yond, the grain-nation. It was the western vassal nation with vast lands filled with granaries that supplied the Amid empire. It was separated from the ocean by rows of rocky mountains, but it was a nation with moist soil that blessed the people with the gifts of the earth.

Yond was on the opposite side of the Amid Empire from the Mirg shield-nation, so it had never been directly exposed to war. It was always filled with a peaceful air.

“IT’S A MONSTEEEER! RUN, WE’RE GOING TO BE KILLED!” (Farmer dialogue)

“Help! Help us, aren’t you supposed to be a soldier?!” (Farmer dialogue)

“Shut up! If you’ve got the breath to be screaming, use it to run faster!” (Soldier dialogue)

But the air in Yond today was far from peaceful.

As farmers and a young soldier fled with desperation in their faces, in the distance, there was what appeared to be a humanoid creature covered in black fur, chasing after them.

“GIBUGEGUGEGEGEGEENAAI!” (Monster noise)

But upon closer inspection, the thing making this strange noise was actually a person with its entire body covered in sharp black needles.

 

Again, you can understand what’s happening. In fact, I don’t really mean to brag or anything, but it has all the details correct so this is still probably better than what most other translators out there would produce. But it doesn’t flow at all and certainly isn’t natural English.

It took a lot of “post-processing” effort to make this part flow well.

In English, dialogue happening before the scene is properly set is super unnatural. Thus, I had to shift the scene-setting narrative before the dialogue.

The dialogue has no speaker markers, and in Japanese you basically have to guess who is speaking based on the dialogue itself. I had to figure out who is saying what, then add the appropriate dialogue markers.

The sentence that contains the farmers and young soldiers fleeing and the description of the monster is too long and has too much information in it. Thus, I split it in two. The first part belongs to the scene-setting part necessary for the dialogue to make sense, so I put it up before the dialogue. I decided that the second part can come after the dialogue, so I put it there.

Finally, we don’t really literally transcribe noises into text in English, so I cut out the monster noise and went with what I imagined – a guttural noise – and added that into the description. I’ve been trying to phase these “noise-transcribed-into-text” parts out where I can.

The final result:

Yond, the grain-nation. It was the western vassal nation with vast lands filled with granaries that supplied the Amid empire. It was separated from the ocean by rows of rocky mountains, but it was a nation with moist soil that blessed the people with the gifts of the earth.

Yond was on the opposite side of the Amid Empire from the Mirg shield-nation, so it had never been directly exposed to war. It was always filled with a peaceful air.

But the air in Yond today was far from peaceful.

Farmers were fleeing with desperation in their faces, there was a young soldier following them.

“IT’S A MONSTEEEER! RUN, WE’RE GOING TO BE KILLED!” one of the farmers screamed.

“Help!” cried another. “Help us, aren’t you supposed to be a soldier?!”

“Shut up! If you’ve got the breath to be screaming, use it to run faster!” the soldier shouted back.

In the distance, there was what appeared to be a humanoid creature covered in black fur, chasing after them.

But upon closer inspection, it was clear that this creature was actually a person with its entire body covered in sharp black needles, letting out strange, guttural noises.

 

I hope this article gave you some insight into the work that goes into translating Death Mage. As you can see, there are also some artistic choices that I have to make when translating like this, so I hope you guys like the way I write! I sometimes dream about “remastering” the older chapters into today’s translation style, but unfortunately that would take far too much effort that would be better used advancing the story 🙁

Thanks everyone for all the support. See you with the next release, which will be very soon!

~ Yoshi

Please Login to comment
Pablito
Member
Pablito

Thanks for adapting the Chinese (is it Chinese or Japanese?) into proper English, I think that the less tiring option was to just follow the script rather than adapt the original to proper English, so thank you. Though maybe it kinda made you cringe when you read what you translated XD