To show what I mean, let's consider a couple of English lines from Shenmue that sound slightly "off", and compare them with the original Japanese that these translations come from to find out how they compare.
In this post we'll look at a first, simple example.
Ryo at the Tomato Convenience Store
|I will avenge my father's death... but I'm getting kind of hungry.|
OK, here's the scene: the brightly-lit Tomato Convenience Store on the main street of Dobuita as dusk starts to settle in. Ryo Hazuki, pausing before the automatic door, realizes that he has not eaten anything in a long while. He resolves to briefly put aside the quest to avenge his father's death in order to buy a snack. He steps up to the store's doors which slide open and the chirpy Tomato Mart theme greets him as he strolls inside.
Scenario: Ryo Makes a Purchase
Ryo spies the shelf with boxes labelled "Shenmue Caramels". A single box conveniently sits apart from the rest at the front, so he chooses it and takes it to the clerk at the counter where the following exchange takes place.
Minako: Ryo. May I help you?
Ryo (placing the item on the counter): This...
|Um...would it be OK if I just hang out|
and listen to the Tomato Store theme for a while?
A Brief Analysis
A lot can be explained by comparing what Ryo says in the Japanese version of the game. Predictably, "This" is also exactly what Ryo says there - so it's a seemingly straight-forward one-for-one translation.
However, in the Japanese language a single word or two will often suffice where the rest of the sentence is implied - much more so than when speaking in English. This is particularly common in a situation where the speaker doesn't feel the need to be overly polite, such as being a customer, or talking with someone like a friend. It's more of a male speech pattern than female.
So for the case above, in Japanese it is sufficient for Ryo to make this simple utterance when buying something. But with the English version, it sounds a bit... not rude exactly, but abrupt, or incomplete.
I think that adding an extra word or two to the English version - "This, please." or "I'll take this." - would sound smoother to an English-speaker's ears.
|Though even a single word is quite talkative for Ryo.|
A Further Example
This was just a small example but I hope it gives a little insight into how translation between languages can bring subtle challenges.
In a future post, I want to stay with the convenience store scenario to cover one of the most well-remembered phrases encountered in the game (hint: it concerns losing a raffle and "merchandise").
What are your favorite "slightly awkward" English phrases or quotes from Shenmue (either game)? Share them in the comments!