dhobikikutti: earthen diya (Default)
Dhobi Ki Kutti ([personal profile] dhobikikutti) wrote in [community profile] forkedtongues2010-07-25 03:45 pm

Post on writing fanfiction in English for a source not in English

[personal profile] raven had this to say:
A little while back [personal profile] gavagai asked me for a bit of fic: Komal/Preeti, from Chak De! India, or something about Garak and Mila from Deep Space Nine. Chak De! India - I've written about it at greater length here, but in short: it's a marvellous film about the Indian women's hockey team, and their rise to meteoric stardom. I have much love for it.

Anyway, I found both ideas equally possible, so while I've never written for the fandom, I opened up a blank document to have a bash at it.

...and then stopped and thought, huh. The problem - CDI is in Hindi. And for me, fanfiction is about voices - it's about hearing those characters' voices in your head. Sometimes it's about other things, sometimes it's about a plot or a mood or a particular thematic study, but when I sit down to write a fic for someone else at the tip of a hat, it's about seeing if I can evoke the source material for that person.

And, well. How to write it? I couldn't write a story about them with them speaking in English. They don't - they're Indian women, they're Hindi speakers. I couldn't write about them in Hindi I think. Perhaps I could, with a great deal of time and patience. (I wonder - is a feel for language language-locked, like software to an operating system? One day I plan to learn enough of my native tongue to find out.)

But even if I could have written about them in Hindi, that would be no use to [personal profile] gavagai. And while I could possibly have written them in English with only the dialogue in Hindi, footnoted, that strikes me as messy.

I do wonder, also, if the matter is complicated by the fact that I am, myself, a Hindi speaker. If I didn't speak a word of the language, would that help? Could I, say, write Amelie fic in English? (Let us please put aside my incredibly limited French.) Might it also help if the subtitles for CDI were not so incredibly, laughably, hilariously awful, and were written in such a way to convey a "feel" for each speaker? I don't know.

I really don't know, and I'm not writing this to lead up to any particular conclusion. I'm just wondering if you all have any thoughts on the matter. I mean, people writing fic in English for anime and manga fandoms have surely hit this problem before, and I'm sure people wrote fic for Chak De! India itself a couple of yuletides ago. I'm just wondering.


How have you all dealt with translative fanfic?
surpassingly: (scene: a chrysanthemum fragrance)

[personal profile] surpassingly 2010-07-25 09:25 pm (UTC)(link)
I haven't had much occasion to think about this question when I write; I've written fanfic for anime and manga series, but since I watched/read those filtered through subtitles and scanlations, it wasn't very difficult to imagine the characters speaking in English. (And, listening to the voices/looking up the raws or more detailed fan discussion of the original phrasing helped clarify the tone.) I've written fanfic for books I originally read in Filipino translations, but then found English versions for, so that sort of doesn't count either, I think, since when it came to writing I could base things on the English version.

There's this one book, though... I haven't read the English translation of it, just the Filipino original, so I don't have anything to go on when it comes to English phrasing. But I'm helped by the fact that most of the time, my internal processing is in English. Even when I'm speaking Filipino in casual conversation, I'm thinking in English. (And it's not a matter of translating Filipino to English so my English-thinking mind can understand it. It's more like holding a conversation with a person separate from the soundtrack playing in my head.) So as I'm reading the Filipino text, I'm building a response to it in my mind -- in English. Thus, when I start thinking about fanfiction for that book, I can do it in English and it feels natural. There's a sort of translation here (for instance, how can I carry over a character's feel in Filipino to English?) but I've grown so used to processing everything I experience into English phrases and frameworks that I don't even notice it that much. Direct translation of specific sentences requires more conscious effort, certainly, and it's harder because I tend to zone in on details, but when it's me who's making up the words being said, it feels much easier. In my head, the characters from the Filipino text are bilingual too.

Erm. I'm not entirely sure that made sense; I'm still trying to figure it out myself. Maybe when I grow more comfortable with written Filipino I'll have more distinct ideas of different voices and "feel"? I don't have that right now.
surpassingly: (Default)

[personal profile] surpassingly 2010-07-25 11:21 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm now rereading my comment and wondering wtf I meant by "in my head the characters are bilingual too". Haha! But, yeah. It's like, I can write a story all in English, and imagine that everyone's speaking the Filipino equivalents anyway...? Something like that.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)

[personal profile] seekingferret 2010-07-26 01:15 am (UTC)(link)
A relevant discussion on my journal about how I found the voice for the polylingual pirate captain in my Pirate Rabbi RPF.

Basically, I do it by analogy. I try to figure out a class of English speakers whose voice would be similar and I use that as my model, tweaking as necessary. What else can you do?

Given that fic is inherently a transformative act, I think adding translation to the act is only a change of degree, not type. Translation is itself a transformative act, and I think there's a strong kinship between performing the two tings.
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)

[personal profile] troisroyaumes 2010-07-26 02:24 am (UTC)(link)
I definitely have this problem for Korean language fandoms, and it's the main reason why I can't read a lot of fic for K-dramas or K-pop RPF.

I'm fortunate in that after a lifetime of translating for my parents, it doesn't take much mental effort to translate Korean to English. (Whether that translation is accurate or really captures voice and nuance is a different question.) It's the facility I rely on when I do write dialogue in fic for Korean fandoms; I almost always think of what they'll say in Korean first and translate to English in my head as I write. It's tough though, and it's telling that a lot of my fics for Korean fandoms don't rely so much on dialogue as my other fics do. I suspect the English sounds a bit more stilted as well.

In one fic for an anime fandom that had Korean characters, I included lines involving wordplay in Korean. I ended up providing the English translation (which lost the wordplay) and providing a footnote with the original Korean and an explanation of what I intended.

One of these days, I would like to write bilingual fic, although admittedly, it would reduce my audience. I did submit bilingual original fic for a high school English class once, and I ended up translating everything for the benefit of my teacher. Not sure if I want to invest that much effort in making the fic accessible to an English-language audience though.
delfinnium: (Default)

[personal profile] delfinnium 2010-07-26 03:13 am (UTC)(link)
I'm still thinking about how to deal with it - anime and Western fandoms are all English fanfic, because I watch anime with subtitles or scanlated manga, but Chinese fandoms... Those are difficult.

Especially since I really like Wuxia, a lot of it doesn't get translated well into English, because of forms of address... I've tried writing English fanfic of Chinese fandoms, and so far it's been okay, only it results in some rather stilted dialogue.

:| I'd write it in Chinese or with Chinese terms only my Chinese is horribly poor.
applegnat: (Default)

[personal profile] applegnat 2010-07-26 12:20 pm (UTC)(link)
I can hear myself thinking in a very specific patois when I'm writing fic for Kaminey and I write English language fanfic since the framing voice, which is mine, chooses my own English idiom. I work on getting the same sound in English. I try not to typecast characters by correlating their voice to a similar voice in English, since I abhor reading, say, Cockney slang from some charming scoundrel who is clearly speaking in a whole different language. Instead, I try and focus on the lower registers, under the tics and slang, and try to mimic the way the character would sound to herself or himself, in their own head.

I usually write in third person, so that helps. And when I need to use a word from outside English, I just do, and provide a glossary at the end.

[personal profile] ex_ayalesca554 2010-07-26 03:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Mostly I try to convey attitude and feelings and intent that is characteristic of that person, if not an exact parallel. Languages don't map perfectly anyway, so I don't push myself too hard to get exact copies. I do try to read translations in the languages involved to get an idea -- since if someone else can do it, I can probably try to aspire to the same. That tactic does depend heavily on good translators being published.

(Wuxia, though, I don't personally touch - the poetry aspect just sounds ridiculous in English in the hands of most people, unfortunately.)
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[personal profile] starlady 2010-07-28 04:18 am (UTC)(link)
I read the canon for my Yuletide story last year in the original language (Japanese) and it was interesting and frustrating trying to capture the characters' speech styles in English. A few times I came up with dialogue in Japanese and then translated it directly, other times I would write the English first and then translate it in my head to see if it 'sounded' the same.

I didn't worry so much about the narration, because manga is visual anyway, and text isn't. But one thing I was concerned about was not throwing in too many untranslated Japanese words, because I didn't want exoticism, or to contribute to pernicious language myths.
starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)

[personal profile] starlady 2010-07-29 02:47 am (UTC)(link)
Well, I'd definitely say it probably depends on which language(s) and which myths--there's a few phenomena associated with Japanese and with anime fandom that I was particularly trying to avoid in that specific instance, but I'm sure other writers would do things differently, particularly in other languages. I've read fics with untranslated dialogue and with glossaries at the end and enjoyed them thoroughly, and I certainly think the approach is completely valid.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)

[personal profile] seekingferret 2010-07-28 09:23 pm (UTC)(link)
The tradeoff for me comes in punning. I don't subscribe to the idea that words are untranslatable, but I do hold that puns are untranslatable, so when I need to pun I do it in the original language. And um... I pun a lot. It's rather a personal vice.
starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)

[personal profile] starlady 2010-07-29 02:50 am (UTC)(link)
See, I'm bad at puns. Japanese puns in particular, since they're all based on kanji. *g*

I think the things that get a rep as "untranslatable" are frequently the parts of the language that most thoroughly encode culture, which is why they are so difficult to translate. But I think what those parts are can vary by language? Like, in Japanese I might pick puns (or four-character phrases), but in Latin I'd definitely pick the idioms.
pulchritude: (7)

[personal profile] pulchritude 2010-07-28 07:49 pm (UTC)(link)
I pretty much don't touch any English fic whose canon is Chinese. The feeling is different for me in English, and there are so many subtleties that don't come through. (I approach pretty much everything from a Chinese perspective...even when I am doing stuff in English, I often find myself attaching Chinese attitudes towards stuff, so it's hard for me to...not find it off.)

I do feel like the feel for language is language-locked, at least for certain languages. I find it really hard to translate stuff between Chinese and English for this reason. 3: