Any advice when translating puns/jokes from English to Japanese?
Thread poster: matsuquin37

matsuquin37
Local time: 17:40
Japanese to English
+ ...
Sep 9, 2009

Hi there,

I am currently working on a translation from English to Japanese, of an educational game that tests the player's mental dexterity. The content is widely varying in the range of topics that it covers and there is a large number of puns and jokes in one section that I will need to translate from English to Japanese.

Is there any advice on the best way to approach this? The only thing I can think of doing with this is to translate the joke in a literal way and then give a really brief explanation of the pun in parenthesis afterwards.

Example: "Q: Why didn't the pelecan pay for its meal? A: Because its bill was too big (Note: Bill = amount to pay, it is also another word for 'beak')."

This would then be translated into Japanese.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


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irina savescu  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 19:40
English to Romanian
Dajare Sep 10, 2009

The only thing I can think of doing with this is to translate the joke in a literal way and then give a really brief explanation of the pun in parenthesis afterwards.


I've seen this done so many times the other way around, from Japanese into English, and while this is really interesting for someone interested in Japanese language or culture, it really has no literary value and the humour is out the door.

Why not just replace it with a Japanese pun? You'll lose the pellican but you'll keep your audience interested. Focus your effort on finding the best Japanese equivalent, perhaps something with animals or birds that have some outstanding feature (tanuki is just too easy of an example, perhaps not a very appropriate one if the game is meant for children), and keep the game interesting and challenging in Japanese too.

This advice should really have IMHO all over it.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:40
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Linguistic jokes are untranslatable per definition Sep 10, 2009

I agree with Irina. Such puns that play with language are not translatable and you better not attempt to translate them and explain afterwards, why the pun is originally funny. This is boring! So most of the jokes should be replaced by jokes of the target culture.
According to research, most jokes are very culture-specific, and even many British jokes are not funny to non-British English speakers.

Cheers
Heinrich

[Bearbeitet am 2009-09-10 05:49 GMT]


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Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
like idioms Sep 10, 2009

Like idioms, jokes should ideally be translated by an equivalent or close enough joke in the target language...
Which is not always easy, I agree...
頑張ってください~~~


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Mykhailo Voloshko  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 19:40
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
birds Sep 10, 2009

Look for Japanese words you can play upon, and you'll be lucky if they concern birds. Though if not you can take the relevant words from close topics such as Animals or Fish or Plants.

Good Luck!


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matsuquin37
Local time: 17:40
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone Sep 10, 2009

I think that Irina, Heinrich and France-Japon have hit the point that, by their nature, cross-culture/language linguistic puns and jokes just don't translate well!

It really looks like the best approach is as you guys suggested; to find a close equivalent pun, joke or proverb as applicable and use that in its stead.

Having poked around on the net, the websites dealing with Japanese-English puns go to show how disasterously un-funny attempting such crossover jokes can be.

Mykhailo's suggestion, though good, would require a greater skill for comedy than I possess, not to mention more time than I have available!

Thanks one and all.


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Kroz Wado
Japan
Local time: 01:40
Japanese to English
You could use this format... Sep 15, 2009

You could use this kind of format...

http://dr-hato.se/research/nagoya07.pdf

It's popular with kids riddles. There's a lot of ones revolving around rhinos.


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