More Fun With Translations (part 3) – Translating Techniques

Thought it was time to do another ‘fun with translations’ post! So on part one, we talked about names of creatures, and in part two, we discussed fantasy term translation like ‘adamantine’. In this part, I’d like to discuss translations of something really important to me; techniques. Technique names have to be cool, and a proper sounding technique title makes its wielder sound badass; imagine if Cloud used ‘Hits With Sword Many Times’ instead of ‘Omnislash’, for example!

I spend a lot of time on technique names, and some of the translations, I’m more satisfied with than others. ‘Wielding something heavy as though it were light’ was one of the ones I truly disliked, because it is so long and unwieldy, but there was no other way to translate it; the original Chinese is a pithy 举重若轻, ‘Lift Heavy Like Light’, but in English, it became a monster! I ended up just using the unwieldy translation because I knew it wasn’t too important in the grand scheme of things. I do spend a lot of time on the various ‘Law’ based techniques though, especially on Linley’s special attacks such as the ‘Profound Truths of the Earth’, or as it was known the original Chinese, 大地奥义. 大地 literally translates to ‘big earth’ (I often use ‘world’), so that was easy, but 奥义 was a bit tougher; 奥 by itself usually refers to something that was obscure or mysterious, while 义 means ‘meaning’; combined, 奥义 is often used to refer to something which has a deep, hidden meaning which takes a great deal of thought to understand. I toyed around with ‘Secret Mysteries of the Earth’ and ‘Profound Mysteries of the Earth’ and many more, but in the end, I settled on ‘Profound Truths of the Earth’.

I was fairly happy with that one. But to this day, there is one translation I still am not happy with, and I don’t know how to rectify it. This is for the translation of the ‘impose’ level. The original Chinese character was ‘势’, which has multiple meanings; it can mean ‘power/force’ (noun), ‘influence’, ‘outward appearance’, ‘momentum’, and more. Notice, however, that ‘impose’ is NOT one of the meanings of ‘势’. As used in this novel, ‘force’ is probably the most appropriate translation, because the novel constantly refers to using the ‘force’ of the world and of nature. So why did I choose to translate it as ‘impose’ instead of ‘force’ when even I admit that ‘force’ is closest to its meaning?

Remember, ‘势’ has multiple meanings, and the important thing is, Linley didn’t know which one of the meanings was correct, since the ancestral records of his clan only briefly mentioned the ‘势’ level. This ambiguity about what exactly ‘势’ meant was an important part in Linley’s early development. If I translated it purely as ‘force’, all ambiguity would be lost, and Linley’s ruminations about what ‘势’ meant would sound stupid. For example, there is one line where Linley is wondering to himself, “Could 势 be referring to one’s 势 (outward appearance) when wielding the sword? But how could one’s 势 (outward appearance) make one’s attack power go up?” If I translated ‘势’ as force, that line (and quite a few others) would make no sense! I spent literally an hour searching for the correct word for what to use as the English translation for ‘势’, and in the end, I (unhappily) settled on ‘impose’. As an adjective, ‘imposing’ is usually referred to an eye-catching, dramatic appearance, which matches with Linley’s rumination about one’s “appearance” when wielding the sword. As a verb, ‘impose’ means to ‘pressure’ or ‘force’ someone to do something, which is somewhat related to the correct definition of ‘势’ as ‘force’; in addition, given that ‘势’ entailed using the power of the environment to ‘lock down’ space, I thought the ‘pressure’ component of ‘impose’ also made it a good choice.

So I’ve continually translated ‘势’ as ‘impose’, even though it is, frankly, a mistranslation. But I can’t think of any better way to translate it, which is why I’ve had to let it stand. This has resulted in a number of small editorial decisions; for example, later on, the novel often talks about how ‘势’ meant to ‘borrow the force of the heavens and the earth’; in order to keep the word ‘impose’ in there, I changed those lines to ‘borrow the imposing force of the heavens and the earth’. Again; not happy with it, especially because I hate making editorials to the original text, but I frankly didn’t see an option.

So there you have it! The hidden secret behind the translation of the ‘impose’ level, which I am unsatisfied with. How about you guys? Given what you’ve just read, do you have any suggestions as to how you would have translated ‘势’? Also, just out of curiosity, what do you think of the ‘technique names’ that I’ve been using so far? 🙂

Posted by RWX

87 thoughts on “More Fun With Translations (part 3) – Translating Techniques” - NO SPOILERS

  1. These posts are always a interesting read, I’ve always wondered how some translations come up with some of the more out of the way words, or even how they go about deciding what word best fits one with multiple meanings. Thanks for the Insight into translating :D.

    1. Yup, I have fun with these posts, and they seem to be interesting to many of you as well! I’ll keep doing them once every week or every two weeks or so 😀

  2. I think that “Wielding (…)” xD, long phrase is not that bad. Especially since it’s name of “arts” and not a specific attack, well, at least at most times xD

    I also really like “impose”, why are you dissatisfied with it anyway? 😛

    “Profound Truths” was a spark of genius that allowed you to reach Diety level as translator, haha 😉

    1. Hehe, I like Profound Truths as well! Impose…it just feels ‘off’, especially because I try really hard to get both the ‘feeling’ and the ‘meaning’ of the words both correct. But I can’t find a better one =\

      1. There are a lot of words i know in other languages which i can not translate well for my own use when writing in polish, so i know this feeling 🙂 Sometimes it’s just impossible, and you know that if reader knew the meaning of original word there, it would make this certain phrase even better, and it is very frustrating when you need to settle for something similar, but not as good. Yup, yup 😉

  3. ‘Wielding something heavy as though it were light’ -> weightless heavyblade? ;P

    ‘Wielding something light as though it were heavy’ -> 10ton featherblade? xD

    total recreation of the names there for the first thing that came to my mind lol

    1. don’t worry about the ‘mistranslations’ ren 🙂

      there are many languages precisely because they cannot be perfectly translated on a 1-to-1 basis of word to meaning, words have always had vague uses and meanings due to the intention and origins behind them. in my opinion you more than qualify for being a ‘true’ translator in that instead of sticking to a word for word transliteration, you put in real effort to do the author justice and find a local word with a much more appropriate meaning. it’s talented and hardworking individuals like you who should be the ones getting officially hired on to do the translations for popular stories that are being released locally because you do both the story and the author proud 🙂

      (this was originally less wordy but the time-out on edit wiped my previous attempt, and i am incapable of writing the same thing twice xD i mentally cannot think the same way twice lol)

    2. Haha, ‘weightless’ was one of the things I originally considered! But the thing is, weightless seems to suggest like an antigravity or somehow making the weapon light, which isn’t the case; the weapon is still heavy and it still hits like a truck, the technique only allows someone to USE the weapon as though it is light.

  4. Wow, ren your dedication to translating is really impressive and inspiring considering you have a 9 to 5 day job. Thanks for your hard work. As a non-native english speaker I know how hard translating something to english is. Seeing how difficult chinese is, it makes your dedication to translating more inspiring.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words and for joining our community, Frankenstein! Yeah, I really care a lot about the quality of translations. I’m a little OCD that way I guess, hehe.

  5. Ren your Translations of the Techniques sound good, i was really only interested what impose really meant because every single character in Chinese and other Asian alphabets have many different meanings and impose sounds odd. Cool so impose is truly meant to Impose Force so its explained the meaning in itself. Could u maybe explain what Earth Pulse could mean too.

    1. Novanether, the term for the ‘Throbbing Pulse of the World’ is 大地脉动, literally ‘Big Earth Arteries Moving’. 脉动 together usually means ‘pulse’ when referring to living creatures, or a ‘throbbing movement’ otherwise. Thus, I put them together as ‘Throbbing Pulse of the World’.

      1. Wow it’s a truly good Translation. Sadly if more Translators were dedicated to translating the meaning of what is written more accurately there would be more People reading Asian works, well that can’t be said enough : Thank you very much for this fantastic translations Ren.

  6. I like impose
    Force wouldn’t have worked
    and it seems that impose properly gets the original meaning of the text out and that is really important
    I also really like the “profound truth’s of (insert element here) because it gets across the fact that they are their it is just people do not understand them
    Thank you for the hard work you do

    1. Yup, that’s why I settled on the ‘Profound Truths’; I also toyed with ‘Obscure Truths’, but I decided ‘Profound Truths’ sounded cooler 😀

      1. Cogent, cogency instead of Impose/imposing. It’s not that much of a used word, and most of it meanings don’t have to do with it, but some have to do with conviction, force, power, strength, and potency.

        1. Huh. I’ve always felt cogent to be an adjective meaning ‘believable’ or ‘convincing’, especially in terms of an argument. Didn’t realize it had anything to do with force of power. I’ll take a look at it later 😀

  7. I like your technique names. You should be happy with impose also.
    I think your use of it captures what the author was trying to convey, which is better than a more literal translation.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, blanket, and for joining the community! I think impose is a ‘workable’ translation, it just frustrates me that it isn’t an ‘accurate’ one as well, hehe.

  8. Well, thanks for the the hard work on the correct meanings of the translations ;). I found ‘impose’ as the name of a technique okay, heard far worse names of techniques.

    But i have to admit, my personal favorites up to this point are definitely ‘Worldbreaker’ from Haydson and the ‘Pulseguard’ defense.

    1. Those two were fairly easy (and I like them as well); Worldbreaker was ‘大地裂’, ‘Big Earth Break/Crack’, while Pulseguard just followed the previous naming conventions (like the ‘Earthguard’ spell).

  9. ‘Wielding something heavy as though it were light” I actually like this one. It makes sense that it would be longer if liney’s ancestors where trying to help their descents understand. Also, I feel like the setting or the era of the story would have lengthy descriptions.Either way, I think the length is appropriate. I had incident myself where it made more sense to use a lengthy title compare to shorter one. The title of the capital city is something like 24 words. After the first translation you realize the main characters actually our unnaturally long winded so it only makes sense to later mimic this style. Thanks Ren for taking the time to make it seamless.

    ~ snoozing kitten translator

      1. A group of us are working on the MA series. It’s a comedy and fantasy novel deals which makes people think about political, ethical and moral issues. It’s makes people think, which is why I like it. Of course, it’s hilarious too, what other character gets flushed down the toilet to start a story. It’s my first time working fiction. As, I was translating poetry before now. I happen to being taking time in order to greater understanding of translation. Though, I get easily distracted reading others translations. It’s always fun to get better insight on the art of translation. 🙂

        1. I recently joined the MA series on Baka Tsuki. It’s a project that has been worked on by several other translators. Imagine terms that been translators 3 or 4 different ways by others. Then top it off the anime has a different sets of translations. What do you use? The confusion is real. It’s okay though since I the super fan whose watched and read all the translations too many times for over a half a decade. It’s my favorite series of all time. Sry Ren 😉

          There’s something like 11 novels translated. I am passively working on the 35 page story short until v12 and v13 are done.

          Thanks for your work and insight. It’s much appreciated from this reader and fellow translator.

          1. Oh yeah, that’s why I’ve never liked doing ‘group’ translations. It can be a super pain xD. What is ‘MA’ though?

          2. Maru-MA or kyou kara maou

            Our main character becomes a demon king.

            There’s an anime with 100+eps,18 novels, a few games, a manga …and a cult following

  10. I think after reading up to this point of the story I would say that profound truth could be also called profound way. As there are many paths in understanding the laws of earth. Haydon and Lineley method of understanding differs but both ways work for each other. As Linelys says there are many ways to the vast law of earth. Truth would mean a universal understanding. Impose was really weird and I can’t appreciate the difficult in translating. Not sure but pulse could have been use bc of the forces impose uses is a pulse pressure. But as reader trying to understand these difficulties is beyond our point of view.

  11. I actually like the way you’ve chosen to mistranslate those names. I felt that they made sense and worked with the flow of both the story and the individual sentences.

  12. wow that impose one does sound hard to translate. honestly I think you picked a good word. The only way I think you could do better would be the first time impose was mentioned if you put in parenthesis some of the different meanings the word could have.

    1. When you first mention something hard to translate like impose give a general idea of what the word means in parenthesis or in a citation then you could use the word force. and then maybe have a place somewhere on the website were we could look up and reread a broader explanation of what the original text means by the word just so that if we ever forget we can use it as a source to remind ourselves. and if you use citations that are linked to another page that gives the explantion it wouldn’t break immersion as much.

  13. Honestly, I think your translations are much more appropriate and appealing than some others. [Another] translations honestly put me off from reading it. When I was reading your novel, it felt more natural.

    Also your efforts into making it seem like its a story in English rather than a pieced together translation is what made me stick with the story. The greatest challenge of a translator is to translate without making the reader aware that it’s a translation. I think you do it pretty well. I think translators need to have a command over both English and the native language they are translating from, to have the meaningful insights you have. Again great work, thanks for this literary adventure.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, anudeepkurudi, and for joining our community! I edited your comment slightly, as it was a bit of a knock on another translation, and I don’t want people elsewhere to feel like their translations are being disparaged at Wuxiaworld. Anyhow, great to have you! 🙂

  14. Why I think Impose is a pretty good name for that technique.
    One of the definitions of impose is to force your will onto something else.
    Where the energy comes from is the force of the heavens and the earth.
    You can reach the word impose by combining two of the original definitions. Impose can be described as influencing the force/power of the heavens and the earth to do something.
    If I recall correctly. Impose was the name given to the technique and then borrowing the power of the heavens and the earth was the description for the technique. The description is not necessarily a perfect definition for the technique name. Anyways, if you think of it as influencing the power inherent in the heavens in the earth, or forcing your influence over that power then there is the link to the word impose.

    1. Thanks phalkor, yeah, that’s why I ended up using ‘impose’. It still just doesn’t feel perfect though…hehe. Anyhow, thanks for joining the community, Phalkor!

  15. I really like your translations. Especially profound truths is great. You really are great a transmitting the legend feeling that the whole thing emits.

    Shame it takes you so long though. I waste like hour of my day pressing F5…

  16. Myself i would prefer something like “shut void” rather than “impose”. It is of course not a tiny bit accurate, but… i also like ST, so it kind of influenced me and a way to look at Coiling Dragon 😀

  17. I also like impose. Another option is transliteration, but that would require updates to the glossary. Heck, shoryuken and hadouken are already household names for techniques.

      1. I checked some synonyms for influence. Impact and govern stood out to me. But I think “impose” can also be seen as a form of “influence”, “impact”, or “govern”. It’s just a more forceful expression of those words.

        I don’t think the fact that it’s not the definition of 势 in a Chinese to English dictionary makes a difference. The meaning is what matters in translation.
        Well, you know that, lol. But I just felt like saying it?

  18. When I read the chapter in which Linley develops technical “impose” I thought the difference between power and strength.
    Power is the capacity, something static, force is the exercise of power in something.
    Linley had mastered “Wielding something heavy, like light,” releasing his power correctly in blows. He was reflecting on how “impose” would be different if the lvl 2 of the techniques of his clan was the “domain” of their own strength then the lvl 3 would be something external Added to this, in fact, he came to the conclusion that the next phase was to “dominate” the power of heaven and earth to enforce against his opponent. Although the translation is not literal, conveyed the meaning correctly. Stay calm about it. Anyway, I like his translations of technical names.

    observations: 1. This is just my interpretation. 2. I do not speak English fluently, I’m sorry for setbacks.

  19. Everything sounds straight. I don’t think there are any other names to call em really.

    I mean, Impose sounds good enough for me. As for heavy as light, you can shorten it to that. Or Metal as feather! But, personally, I prefer close to literal translations myself… or as close as possible, without sounding retarded.

  20. Oh! I have a translating question though, what kinda of software do you use when you translate? Do you just do everything with Google searches for researching specific terms and then type it all into a word document? Or do you use other software too help you work efficiently? I saw HotStrings mentioned in a Reddit post, is that something you use or are you just good old fashion pure Microsoft Word?

    1. All manual, baby! Microsoft Word and notepad, with online dictionaries like mdbg.net if I need to look up a specific word, and a few Google searches mostly for names and fantasy terms. No clue what Hotstrings is.

      1. It’s a bit of script that lets you set shortcuts so instead of writing Profound Truth of The Earth everytime, you just type pfote or something. Heck we could even just have one that you type ptmb and it would output: Panther-type magical beasts etc. etc.

  21. Damn I really enjoy these interesting extras, and helps keep my own attitude towards the translators to be more respectful and being more “ah that damn sly sonofa left me on ANOTHER awesome cliffhanger” instead of “PSH only 7 chapters?” =p

    side note in my head i’ve always thought of the “wielding something heavy as light” (and vice versa) more as wordy “gravity manipulation” in the beginning but its grown me and has a charm of its own..

    so.. you’re doing awesome Ren! xD

  22. hello RWX first thanks to u for all of your hard work… because i’m an asian & i watch many wuxia film in my opinion “Wielding something heavy as though it were light” u can sum it to ” HEAVY BUT LIGHT ” .. an example :
    1. mastered the art of ‘wielding something heavy as though it were light’.
    2. mastered the art of ” heavy but light”
    but its all of course up to the translator ..hehehe

    thanks again

  23. Impose is very good given the context of Linley’s technique as applied to the sword. I like it. I also like all the terms you came up with, especially Profound Truths. “Wielding something heavy as though it were light” may seemed longish but it flows well. (Have you considered “Seemingly light but heavy”?)

    I like to know your thought process in translating Infernal Realm … cannot remember the Chinese equivalent but I recall I said to myself how to translate that when I came across it some weeks ago.

    1. The Chinese characters here were 地狱, ‘earth prison’, which of course refers to the Chinese afterlife/underworld, aka ‘Naraka’ in Buddhism. Since there is already a ‘Death Realm’ which I translated as ‘Netherworld’, Underworld was out. I thought about using ‘Hell Realm’, but that has a lot of religious undertones, and it suggests that this is a place for punishment of sinners (which I know isn’t very fitting), so that was out as well. ‘Demon Realm’ was a bit too far from the original and too blunt. So I settled on ‘Infernal Realm’, as that had less of a religious undertone, and more of a fantasy/demony undertone. The other option I was considering was Tartarus/Tartarian Realm, but I felt that was a bit too Greek.

  24. Ha, thks Ren, for the clarification. I got mixed up with 众神墓地 with Infernal Realm. You have translated this term as Necropolis of the Gods. Nice touch there on both terms!

    Happy Lunar Chinese New Year! May all your good wishes come true!

  25. haha, I have some chinese knowledge but I definitely don’t have such insights like you as to make the story and terms more interesting than they were meant to be at least when reading normally 😀

  26. Just started reading a few weeks ago and saw this.

    I liked impose while reading, but from this it sounds like you were looking for dominate. This has elements of appearance, control, and power/force, which seems to fit the way Impose was used.

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