How it feels to be a translator

Since I have picked up Sword Art Online for a translation, this site has undergone somewhat of a small explosion in popularity, along with many comments about the quality of the work I do. I want to take this opportunity to suggest some ideas I have on this topic.

If you are unaware, I am a Chinese to English translator; therefore, it’s not unreasonable to assume that I cannot read Japanese and thus cannot verify that my translations are entirely accurate to the original Japanese text. I only translate from existing Chinese resources: be it the official release or a fan translation. Unless I master Japanese fluency down the road, that is where I will stay. Stay with me: I’m going to attempt to posit to you what it feels like to be a translator.

This has to do specifically with highly popular works such as Sword Art Online due to many factors:

1. There is considerable pressure to produce a high-quality output. If you have the opportunity, I highly suggest attempting to start a publication by yourself, or at least rationally imagine doing so. Unless you have experienced the feeling of having an expectant audience to deliver to, you will most likely have difficulty understanding my mentality.

2. There will be comparison to others. This is quite subjective as it is purely in my case, so I will attribute it directly to SAO. The only reason I’m translating SAO is for the benefit of the community. There is an existing translator of SAO, Tap, who produces with decent quality, but since he is slower than people would like, I have taken to letting people read the general idea first, and when Tap’s version releases, direct them to that in order to flesh out the details.

3. This is voluntarily free. I’ve said it before: I will never monetize my translations. If you see ads here, those are there because of WordPress. I cannot remove them without a yearly subscription. Since this is merely hobby, I will not readily spend money on this project unless there is a much larger cause. However, since this is free, it becomes difficult to deal with a tough crowd – such is the case with most translators.

My situation has greatly improved since the beginning of this project – I now have two editors who perform fantastically, and I am deeply grateful for their help. I expect that this project will continue to develop into something competent and appreciable, and one of the next steps I will take in that direction is to limit the promises I make. I quickly find that I am unable to honor most of them and in turn disappoint.

Enough of the tangent. The fact of the matter is that translating is not a cakewalk. By no means should this post be considered accusatory: I am merely attempting to convey some sense of what I do in order to help people appreciate it more. To appropriately apply the old and wizened adage: “By the fans, for the fans.”

Also, if you’re wondering, Sword Art Online Volume 15 Chapter 16 will be released this weekend, and please expect Kokoro Connect Volume 5 Chapter 3 soon.


Author: defan752

I translate stuff for you all to read.

27 thoughts on “How it feels to be a translator”

  1. I dunno what to said, but japan translator who want too translate LN too public even didnt paid is rare, and my big Thanks for u and tap for translate SAO arc (my vav).


  2. Even though that I know that many would prefer to have a weekly-released translation of a chapter, including me when I have nothing much to do, I would still prefer a weekly release of a constant amount of translations. If the rest of the volume gets translated too fast, I believe I might run out of things to read, heh. The next volume (16) in original Japanese won’t really be released until Autumn I believe? I don’t really like huge gaps of waiting when I’m really enjoying a work, let’s say, “progressively”. I do believe that it’s easier to find a substitute for a short period of time than a long one.


    1. Not sure what you’re trying to say. Do you prefer weekly releases? Regardless, I’m likely unable to provide them, as translation is a long, hard slog.


      1. What I basically meant is that I prefer short weekly releases if ‘normal’ ones are not possible, such as a few pages with ‘decent’ termination points, or splitting parts of a chapter into even smaller subparts (if possible). I believe that would be better than no releases over a few weeks, if translation time is an issue.
        The other point I was getting at is that if you finish everything in one go, you would have to wait long for the next official release and then forget some parts of the story which will then require some recap.


  3. Some people don’t understand how hard it’s for translating from Japanese to English or Chinese to English. For starters, the sintaxis(way the sentence is written[not sure I wrote it right]) is very different and also the kanji which is hard to translate. That’s all I know for now.


    1. Syntaxes I think. Yeah there are a lot of occasions where a sentence becomes very awkward if directly translated, and sometimes part of the unimportant detail in the original have to be left out to make the sentence flow (well for a noob translator at least.)


  4. First of all, thank for picking up SAO and you even asked for permission from Tap…. Well it may sound rude but will this pace keep up? Like one chapter a week? If it does that would be awesome ^_^

    Me and the SAO fans are very grateful to you guys


    1. Like I said in the post, I really can’t make any promises as they’ll only end in disappointment. I highly doubt that I can keep this pace up because of many factors: for example, the chapter lengths vary greatly, and I will often be busy IRL.


    1. The problem with doing Progressive is that I will be translating very close to Yen Press’s official release date, which they don’t like; it’s how The Isolator got struck with DMCA. I would gladly do it if it weren’t licensed.


      1. Oh okay. Its just that (lol) i dont have availability to buy it. Well thanks anyways. But do u think there would be problems with translating progressive vol 3 as it has no set yen press realese date


      2. Lol ok. Thanks anyways and I dont think that you should take the critism too bad anyways cuz lol it is still readable and captures what the original novel is trying to express or say


  5. Ty for translating. May I ask which verison of the Chinese SAO you are translating from? I could only find the translated web version.


  6. I do have some questions, sorry if I am being a bit rude or blunt, but what other light novels will you be translating in the future?


      1. If you’re not sure, can i make a polite recommendation?
        Accel World, it’s translation is completely halted and only 5 vol. has been translated, and Since its in same universe and few decades later than SAO i really want to read it. and i’m sure many others too.


        1. Couple of things: It is actually being translated, very slowly, here. Also, the author has denied that they are in the same universe (although he can lie if he wants).


      2. Yeah well, it’s been only a year since i’ve been following that page and they’ve finally updated one part of one chapter of vol. 6.
        so i think at this pace i’ll get old before they’re done translating.
        If kanji weren’t so hard i would have read the raw version on my own but, Learning Kanji is HARD!!!!
        and about what author said, i think it was about current characters having no relation with SAO characters, they ARE is same universe obviously, otherwise Incarnation and Virtual Reality, not to mention the technologies that kirito mentioned that will be created in future being present in AW, will be too much irregular


  7. Its sad that SAO v15 ch16 got delayed, but seeing how its you and tap who seem to be the only ones attempting to translate it… I think I’ll just keep my mouth shut and take whatever you two will give me. The alternative (waiting for official release) would be much worse and take a whole lot longer. Its a great story and cant wait to see what happens to Alice and Kirito next. Thanks for your efforts to bring it us!


  8. I’m just happy that someone translates even if it is not exactly accurate translating from Japanese/Chinese will never exactly work out in English. Keep up the good work hoping for the next chapter to be released soon :)


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