Author Topic: Japanese in BT Novels  (Read 4764 times)

HikageMaru

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Japanese in BT Novels
« on: 19 July 2011, 01:20:02 »
So I'm reading Heir to the Dragon finally after all these years.  Love it so far and I don't know why it only took me 18 years or so to get to it.

But there is one issue I have---it feels like the Japanese language usage was taking from anime or something.  It's not realistic.

For example, in the beginning of the novel Takashi Kurita says "wakarimasu ka?" ("do you understand?") to his six year old son (later in the novel, this word is misspelled wakarimas).  An odd thing to say to one's own child, as this form of the verb is distal---it's what you would say to a stranger or a business partner or your boss, while one would speak in the direct style ("wakaru?") to one's own son.  But Takashi is precisely the kind of person who would talk in the distal style to his own son---so I think it works great.  But later, Takashi says to his now adult son so ka ("I see," "oh, really?"), which is direct style and familiar (rather than "soo desu ka," the distal style and the same style he used when he addressed his son as a six year old).  In fact, every time anyone says the phrase, it comes out as "so ka"---regardless of the circumstances---when "soo desu ka" probably would have been more appropriate.  On a similar note, I think the distance in the relationship between Theodore and Takashi would have been shown had Theodore said "domo arigato gozaimasu" when Takashi "congratulated" him upon his graduation, rather than the direct style and less-formal "domo arigato."

I've also noticed that every time someone says "yes," regardless of the circumstances or who they're talking to, it's "hai," but in most circumstances this is said, it would have been more appropriate to say "ha" ("yes, sir").

And outside of anime, I don't think most people call other adults with the suffixes "-kun" or "-chan," unless the two are very young adults or very close---otherwise it's demeaning.

Phew.  Sorry: it's sorta like watching a lawyer TV show where they get everything wrong.  I really can't complain, though, because I think the novel is outstanding.  And I reckon these issues I raise don't matter to the vast majority of readers (because y'all don't speak Japanese).
« Last Edit: 19 July 2011, 01:21:36 by HikageMaru »

PhoeniX0302

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #1 on: 19 July 2011, 14:08:02 »
Having lived in Japan for a long time and speaking fluently Japanese, your "complains" have been the same as mine. However, the same goes for the usage of German by Steiner-characters. The novels are great, but honestly, we, who know it better, should not complain, as the writers tried hard to present a good story. It's nearly the same for one of the active topics here right now, concerning the spell and grammar checking of sourcebooks...

Besides, the usage of -kun and -chan is not as restricted as you might think. I was called -kun by my superior of the Nikkei newspaper, but not because we were very close. It was due to our working relationship, as he was my superior. Often, foreigners are not spoken to in the same way, as Japanese to talk Japanese, even if one foreigner speaks Japanese well enough.


trboturtle

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #2 on: 19 July 2011, 15:44:53 »
One thing to remember -- the Battletech universe isn't here and now. It's a thousand years in the future, and language doesn't stay static. It is safe to say that the Japanese of today isn't the same Japanese spoken in the Draconis Combine. It's a language that has undergone changesand isn't quite the same language -- just as the Combine culture isn't 100% Feudal Japan.

It's hard enough figuring what's going to happen next week, let along a thousand years from now...... ;)

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Fallen_Raven

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #3 on: 19 July 2011, 16:53:45 »
Takashi speaking with differing levels of formality makes some sense because some times he is talking to the future ruler of the Combine, and some times he's talking to his son who won't get his act together. You often find that members of the nobility can have wild swings in their level of propriety in a single letter.

Then there is the fact that not every English to Japanese dictionary mentions what situations a phrase is appropriate in.
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HikageMaru

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #4 on: 19 July 2011, 19:16:32 »
One thing to remember -- the Battletech universe isn't here and now. It's a thousand years in the future, and language doesn't stay static. It is safe to say that the Japanese of today isn't the same Japanese spoken in the Draconis Combine. It's a language that has undergone changesand isn't quite the same language -- just as the Combine culture isn't 100% Feudal Japan.

It's hard enough figuring what's going to happen next week, let along a thousand years from now...... ;)

Craig

That's how I ultimately justified it in my own head.

I reckon what I'm getting at is the Japanese language could have been used to exploit the depth of the complex relationship between Takashi and Theodore, but ultimately going to the pains of researching the language to that extent in order to satisfy me and PhoeniX0302 and those others who speak the language probably would not have justified the time and expense.  Oh well.  Otherwise, great novel.

HikageMaru

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #5 on: 19 July 2011, 19:19:02 »
Takashi speaking with differing levels of formality makes some sense because some times he is talking to the future ruler of the Combine, and some times he's talking to his son who won't get his act together. You often find that members of the nobility can have wild swings in their level of propriety in a single letter.

Then there is the fact that not every English to Japanese dictionary mentions what situations a phrase is appropriate in.

I myself am Korean and I know what you mean when you speak to your children with different levels of formality.  For me I typically heard two levels of Korean formality in the home: the profane and the obscenely profane. [tickedoff]

Adrian Gideon

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #6 on: 20 July 2011, 02:13:32 »
I myself am Korean and I know what you mean when you speak to your children with different levels of formality.  For me I typically heard two levels of Korean formality in the home: the profane and the obscenely profane. [tickedoff]
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StuartYee

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #7 on: 03 August 2011, 23:06:29 »
As much as I dislike Michael Stackpole's dialogue, you have to give him credit for at least attempting to write dialogue in three other foreign languages plus Davion "British" English.

I did notice however (not being a Japanese language scholar by any means) notice passages in which Damei (emphatic "NO!") would have been much more appropriate than Iye (generic, polite "No.") for dramatic purposes.
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Caesar Steiner for Archon

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #8 on: 06 August 2011, 03:25:55 »
As much as I dislike Michael Stackpole's dialogue, you have to give him credit for at least attempting to write dialogue in three other foreign languages plus Davion "British" English.

I did notice however (not being a Japanese language scholar by any means) notice passages in which Damei (emphatic "NO!") would have been much more appropriate than Iye (generic, polite "No.") for dramatic purposes.

Like when Theodore stops his daughter from fake killing herself (FOR ATTENTION).

I actually got a kick outta that, back in the day when I read it and still remembered all the courses I took on the language.


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StuartYee

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #9 on: 08 August 2011, 21:44:32 »
Like when Theodore stops his daughter from fake killing herself (FOR ATTENTION).

I actually got a kick outta that, back in the day when I read it and still remembered all the courses I took on the language.

Just read "Fighting Withdrawal" beginning on p. 94 of Total Warfare, and again it grates my nerves:

"Hell, no," Olivares snapped. "I mean, iie."

Is it just me or is that one a head-scratcher?
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Caesar Steiner for Archon

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #10 on: 09 August 2011, 08:24:41 »
That just screams "I googled what 'no' was in Japanese!"


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HikageMaru

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #11 on: 10 August 2011, 03:03:47 »
That just screams "I googled what 'no' was in Japanese!"

He wouldn't even say "iie" if he wanted to say no.  He would say "iya."

It's funny how everyone in the Draconis Combine says "so ka," and not the other variants: "a so," "so desu ka" "so da," or "so desu nee," and nobody ever answers, "so yo."

Okashi na?

Caesar Steiner for Archon

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #12 on: 10 August 2011, 03:57:01 »
I have always liked to translate "so desu ka?" as "Can you dig it?"

Not the most accurate, but the most funky.


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Peacemaker

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #13 on: 10 August 2011, 07:04:03 »
I also like how many references there are to tea ceremony in the Kurita-centric novels. BattleTech is a child of the Eighties, the Draconis Combine especially so.

StuartYee

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #14 on: 10 August 2011, 19:27:25 »
He wouldn't even say "iie" if he wanted to say no.  He would say "iya."

It's funny how everyone in the Draconis Combine says "so ka," and not the other variants: "a so," "so desu ka" "so da," or "so desu nee," and nobody ever answers, "so yo."

Okashi na?

And you're an example of someone who has a much greater authority on the Japanese language than I (my Japanese language knowlege comes mainly from Akira Kurosawa/Toshiro Mifune films).

Despite the lack of google in the 80's, would it really be that hard to find a native Japanese speaker?

And the "the language of the 31st Century 'evolved'" explanation is just such a cop out.
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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #15 on: 10 August 2011, 19:58:20 »
Beyond the drift of language, considering the Combine itself had its psuedo Japanese culture imposed upon it for the sake of one coordinator's fanboyism rather than as any cultural or racial imperative, the mistakes really seem to fit. If it sounds like Anime fanfiction, it's because the Combine's spent the last four hundred years being the Coordinator's personal self insert fanfiction.

I like to imagine that those native Japanese descendants who've managed to keep their language and culture intact in the tidal wave of Urizen's Samurai lovefest have long ago convinced their mainstream neighbors that sadly shaking your head in disdain is actually a sign of deep respect.
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Caesar Steiner for Archon

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #16 on: 11 August 2011, 06:15:52 »
The locale you're thinking of is New Kyoto.


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HikageMaru

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #17 on: 11 August 2011, 17:43:43 »
The locale you're thinking of is New Kyoto.

Can you dig it?

And why would they call it "New Kyoto"?  Wouldn't they call it "Shin-Kyoto"?  Well, maybe because it sounds like a bullet train station....

Caesar Steiner for Archon

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #18 on: 12 August 2011, 08:46:49 »
I would tack that up to the Terran Alliance being the government that settled the place. That, and "Neo-Tokyo" was already taken.


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HikageMaru

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #19 on: 12 August 2011, 17:20:04 »
I would tack that up to the Terran Alliance being the government that settled the place. That, and "Neo-Tokyo" was already taken.

Ironically, "Kyoto" means "Capital" in Japanese ("Tokyo" means "East Capital").

roosterboy

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #20 on: 12 August 2011, 17:38:28 »
How's that ironic?

HikageMaru

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #21 on: 13 August 2011, 01:29:32 »
How's that ironic?
Truth be told, I don't know. Or don't remember. Maybe naming a planet "New Capital" that isn't a new capital.

Caesar Steiner for Archon

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #22 on: 15 August 2011, 06:01:25 »
Maybe naming a planet "New Capital" that isn't a new capital.

That is actually quite ironic. I'm always happy to see it used correctly.


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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #23 on: 17 October 2011, 17:21:15 »
I wonder whether any particular dialect of Japanese became more prominent on New Kyoto relative to the worlds of the Combine; it would be interesting if NK had derived its modern version of the language from the Kansai region, where the original Heian-kyo was established. (Whether or not any of the more business-minded cities there would adopt some of the terms coined down in Osaka is another story...)

By the way, are there any details about whether or not New Kyoto was considered by the Lyrans as a good place to recruit translators/agents for use when dealing with the Combine? (By the time of NK's membership of the Republic, one might imagine that government finding it easier to recuit Japanese speakers in Japan itself...)
« Last Edit: 17 October 2011, 17:23:04 by Nerroth »

Niopsian

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #24 on: 17 October 2011, 17:34:51 »
How's that ironic?

It's like raaaaaaaaain, on your wedding day.

(What, you think I was going to let the mere passage of time stop me from exploiting that one?)


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Sgtops54

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #25 on: 24 October 2011, 00:13:49 »
What about ushiro karate tori kubeshimi Sanyo?

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #26 on: 01 November 2011, 09:34:27 »
The japanese -as the mandarin, german, spanish, etc. - gives some flavor.
Can't say anything about japanese, mandarin or spanish, but the german is also strange to a native speaker. So what?
It adds flavor and 95% of the people wll not complain some misused words, grammar or spelling.
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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #27 on: 03 November 2011, 00:33:34 »
I'd really buy the linguistic drift if the used it for characters speaking English as well.  Sure it would be like reading A Clockwork Orange all over again, but that's the price you pay for handwavium away foreign grammar mistakes. 
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Peacemaker

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #28 on: 03 November 2011, 00:42:23 »
I like to pretend BT books are translated from whatever futuristic form of English is used in the Inner Sphere to contemporary English. It helps keep me sane.

ScrewySqrl

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Re: Japanese in BT Novels
« Reply #29 on: 17 February 2012, 03:44:45 »
I like to pretend BT books are translated from whatever futuristic form of English is used in the Inner Sphere to contemporary English. It helps keep me sane.

indeed.  you have to remember Modern English would be as far removed from Battletech's various Englishes as what Harold said to his troops at Hastings in 1066.