On the Use of Japanese Honorifics in Fire Emblem Fates and My Policy Going Forward

You may remember way back in the spring of this year that I ran this poll on the site to determine what to do about the use of Japanese honorifics in Fire Emblem Fates. This was due to a reader helpfully pointing out on the Project Help page that Byakuya/Hoshido should perhaps have them preserved since it’s mimicking Japan’s culture, while Anya/Nohr should not because it’s mimicking an outside culture.

After a lot of feedback in terms of voting in the poll, comments here, through e-mail or DM, Reddit comments and so on, I’ve made a decision.

When Byakuya characters use honorifics, I will sometimes leave them in. These sometimes are dependent on a few things:

  1. Do I get the sense that the author is using them as a way of distinguishing them as a means to show Byakuya’s closeness to Japanese culture rather than as a side effect of the usual way of writing in Japanese that you can also see in Anya and other Fire Emblem titles?
  2. Does the character put an unusual amount of importance on treating somebody in a different way than you’d expect and without that little bit of information, it’s more difficult to see how they’re acting?
  3. If those two things, along with the fact that they are a Byakuya character align, then is the use of the name instead of a pronoun also appropriate for translation? That is, sometimes character names in Japanese should be translated as a pronoun in English because it sounds awkward otherwise and there’s often no good way to represent the way Japanese people use names in place of pronouns as a means of social convention.
  4. I will not in any way shape or form translate titles that have equivalents in other languages, such as Princess, Prince, Your Majesty, my liege, Lord, Lady, Count, Earl, General, Boss and so on. This is not unique to Japanese culture and should be translated.
  5. Therefore, this only applies to uses of -san, -sama, -kun and -chan, and if it appears, -senpai, but I don’t think it does in Fates. Contrary to popular belief, -san does not directly correlate to Mr. or Mrs. in English (which these days is more appropriately referred to in Japanese with the suffix -shi) and -sama is not directly equivalent to Lord or Lady or an address to nobility. As in all uses of honor language in Japanese, it’s much more dependent on in-groups and out-groups than it is on the person’s actual status. Therefore, Kamui’s dialogue will be handled on a case to case basis, since this character has a unique perspective from the rest and in any case, I have to translate all three politeness levels anyway.

I realize some people believe that leaving in honorifics, even at this extent will make it sound awkward and dumb and that people will point and laugh. However, I don’t believe it’s appropriate to do a translation by trying to appease others for a reputation. One reader did point out to me in an e-mail that you can see cases of Spanish (ex. senorita), French (ex. Monsieur, Mademoiselle) and German (Herr) terms of endearment or titles left intact in English from time to time depending on the case, so why should Japanese be any different?

That said, I do agree that sometimes it is more than sufficient to translate a sentence with all the tools that are available in English to match the politeness levels and cultural understandings of the Japanese version. If I, a native Japanese person who speaks it as his first language, think nothing is lost in such a translation, then I somewhat doubt that there is something that needs to be preserved.  In such cases, I will continue to translate by context clues.

As such, I will be going back to edit Byakuya characters dialogue to reflect this and continue translating using this new policy. (The older versions that have already been translated will of course be preserved below the version 2.0 translations if you prefer that.) As always, if you’d like to leave any input on the individual translations about whether you think the use of a honorific is appropriate in that case, please leave me a comment. As usual, I will consider your feedback and adjust the translation as necessary.

Thank you very much for all the kind feedback I’ve received on this issue and for helping me make a decision on this. Together, we can make this the best Fire Emblem Fates translation it can possibly be! I welcome all your constructive criticism and feedback in the future too!

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Poll: Deciding Character Names – Elfy/Elfi/Elfie

As explained in a similar poll about Marx/Marks, the code/text dump for the Japanese version of Fire Emblem Fates has some English spellings of the character’s names in it and I’ve largely been going by this to decide on how to transliterate their names in times of doubt. This is largely why you see me refer to ディーア as Deere, even though other translations make him into Dia, or the official translation puts him as Dwyer. The actual official code calls him Deere, so I consider that the most official and accurate source. That is after all how you would approximate a name like Deere in Japanese.

With エルフィ however, it’s a little difficult. Using the convention of names in English and the rules of English spelling, a multi-syllabic word that has the sound of “ee” is most often spelled with a “y,” or even sometimes “ey” and much less often spelled with “i.” When it is, it is often spelled with “ie,” such Richie, Cassie, Louie or Charlie. You’re much more likely to see Jenny, Mikey, Danny, Mickey, Mary, Bobby, Johnny, Betty and so on. That’s why I translated it as Elfy. But in the code, she’s referred to as Elfi. Treehouse translated it as Effie, which is altogether different, because it gets rid of the L sound.

As with Marks/Marx, did the primarily non-English speaking coders and developers at Intelligent Systems just make a simple mistake or is that the way it should be? Should it be transliterated as Elfi, Elfy or maybe a compromise of Elfie to go along with the Charlie-type names?

Please vote in this poll and let me know which one you think is the most appropriate.

Or let me know in the comments below if you have a different idea or some reason for your decision that you think should be taken into account. Keep in mind, there is no option to keep it as Effie, because we’re not here to repeat Treehouse’s mistakes.

Poll: Deciding Character Names – Marks/Marx

In the official Treehouse translation of Fire Emblem Fates, the eldest prince of the Nohr/Anya Kingdom is known as Xander, but in the Japanese Fire Emblem if, his name is マークス which can be transliterated as Marx or Marks. Why the change? Who knows?

So far I’ve been using Marx because I feel like his character is a very obvious reference to the very famous Marx whose political philosophies have had such an influence on the world, much like Ophelia (Shakespeare), Joker (trump cards) and Eponine (Les Miserables) reference things outside of the world of Fire Emblem.

However, I found in the files of the game that the code refers to him in English as Marks. Is this because non-English speaking coders aren’t aware that the x in the English alphabet is meant to approximate the sounds of k and s at the end of a word? The code doesn’t seem to have problems transliterating other names or it doesn’t seem to have typical Japanese transliteration mistakes, so I’ve been treating it as accurate. Is this the intended English spelling of his name or did they intend to reference good ol’ Karl?

I don’t know. So let’s start a poll. Click here to cast your vote on whether it should be Marks or Marx.

Thank you your participation. And please if you’ve read this far, don’t be lazy, cast your vote! 😛

Poll: Should Byakuya Kingdom’s characters use Japanese honorifics?

You may be familiar that of the two main nations of Fire Emblem Fates, the one known as Byakuya/Hoshido is based on Japan, while Anya/Nohr is based on European medieval countries. A few days ago, a site viewer had the interesting suggestion on the Project Help page that because of this, perhaps Byakuya translations should include the original honorifics. So instead of saying, “Prince Ryoma” or “Lord Ryoma,” it would translated as “Ryoma-sama”  and the same for the rest of the characters. Should I do that or go by the usual method where it’s translated to English alternatives based on the context.

What do you think? Please vote in this poll and let me know.

If you have another opinion or a more detailed opinion, also let me know in the comments below.

Feedback: Name for another world

If you’ve played Fire Emblem: Awakening, you know that recently the idea of visitors from another world is in vogue in the series. The same is true of Fire Emblem Fates, but without spoiling, it’s a little more involved in this game.

In the Japanese version, the word 秘境 (hikyou) is often used to describe interactions with this other world. It’s a word that’s often used to describe hidden pleasure spots when going on vacations to foreign or exotic countries. For instance, in Xenoblade, when you discover a landmark or place you haven’t been to before, you’ll get experience points and in the Japanese version, they would use the words discovering “hikyou” to describe it.

Nintendo has translated this as Deeprealms or Deeprealm. Realm isn’t a bad translation for 秘境, and 秘 does carry a meaning of secret, not well known, somewhat off limits, while 境 is the word for border. Thus other good translations might be Secret Realm, Hidden Realm, Border Realms or something else entirely, but probably not the Secluded Border World of Missing Socks. Personally, I don’t think Deeprealms quite works, but that’s why I’m asking you guys.

For now I’m just using Deeprealms whenever it comes just to have a word to fill in, but what should the actual name be?  Leave me your ideas in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter with a suggestion, or e-mail me at ryan of the stars at gmail dot com. (No spaces. Fill in proper punctuation.)

Feedback: Main Character Personality/Politeness Choices and Edit Format

One thing that isn’t well known, but also has been cut from the overseas versions of Fire Emblem Fates is a feature wherein you can decide on three different personality/politeness types for your avatar and have it reflected in the dialogue for Kamui, the main player character.

This doesn’t change the plot or make for any branching dialogues or anything so sophisticated as that, but it does change the tenor of many a conversation. There are three basic personality/politeness types based on three different first-person pronouns in Japanese. 私 (watashi) for the most formal and polite, 僕 (boku) for a bit of the rustic, naive or hesitant personalities, and 俺 (ore) for the ruder, more forthright and straightforward type. I know that in English, there really isn’t much one can do to change the politeness level of a first-person pronoun, but this affects how Kamui speaks to characters and thus, something of a bit of his/her personality.

For instance, if Kamui is greeting say, Sakura, it can go three different ways. Observe:

私 (watashi) Kamui: Good afternoon, Sakura, how are you?

僕 (boku) Kamui: Hi Sakura, how’s it going?

俺 (ore) Kamui: Yo Sakura, what’s up?

My question was, how shall I approach uploading Kamui dialogues onto the site?

Approach 1:  Should I upload a different blog page for each politeness/personality type in every conversation it’s relevant in?

Approach 2:  Should I instead mark the three different variations, if there are ones (to be sure, it’s not every line this takes effect in) like above with say W-Kamui, B-Kamui, O-Kamui. Would that be too hard to read?

Approach 3:  Or perhaps we could decide on one standard and I could note variant lines underneath the standard we chose, so instead of:

End Translation

It would be:

Variants

And that’s where you would find whatever lines varied for the other two personalities/politeness types. For reference, watashi 私 is considered the standard in Japanese.

Or can you think of another way to do this? Let me know in the comments below. You can vote on an approach in this straw poll.

Now then. On to the next issue. Quite of a few of you have been kind enough to suggest changes to the script and make constructive criticisms. How shall I implement these? Keep in mind that small things like typos, spelling, sentence structure and grammar that don’t change the meaning will simply be implemented and noted with a changelog.

But for changes that actually change the tone, meaning or flow of the conversation on a more, shall we say, “debatable” level, what should I do?

Should I use strikethrough on my original writing and place the new line next to it for easy comparison?

Or should I provide the original line in a changelog somewhere outside the translation lines and keep the revised line nice and readable without any markups, so people can see what’s changed, but it’s also easy to read/copy?

And where should I place the changelog? At the top or the bottom of the page? If you could give me feedback on this and the personality/politeness conundrum, I’d greatly appreciate it. If you don’t feel like commenting below, you can also contact me at ryan of the stars at gmail dot com. (No spaces, replace with appropriate punctuation.) Thanks for any feedback! May the ravens smile upon you!

Poll: Main Place Names

As many are well aware, the official Nintendo of America translations for the two main countries in this game are Hoshido for Byakuya and Nohr for Anya.

If you weren’t aware, in Japanese Byakuya means “white night,” so it’s possible Nintendo translated it as Hoshido because “hoshi” means star and “do” is the suffix for things like bushido, the way of the samurai, or kishido for chivalry, and they wanted to give it a Japanese feeling or perhaps have a really weird pun about knights.

As well, Anya translates into “dark night.” It’s possible Nintendo wanted a name that referenced blackness or darkness for that and chose Nohr for its similarity to “noir,” which tends to bring across that idea and is itself a French word, so it also gets across the more European influence.

I’m guessing Nintendo chose these names because they’ll have more of a resonance for English speakers and are easier to pronounce for non-Japanese speakers than Byakuya and Anya do.

Nevertheless, what should our names be? Should the versions of the game also be named like the Nintendo official version, the original or something else?

Answer this straw poll to help us out and leave your comments below!

Thanks for taking the time to do so.