I'm a JP>EN translator who mainly works on novels. I've been doing some research into dialogue attributions, their differences between languages, and ways to translate them effectively and naturally. I've identified a variety of types of dialogue attribution in Japanese, and I have some questions for the more difficult ones. I'll be using examples from Miyuki Miyabe's 龍は眠る as she is, to my knowledge, a technically proficient writer (although I only own the Japanese version and not the English translation to compare with).
Also, I understand that this is kind of bordering between "question" and "discussion," so if it's gravely against the rules or something, do what you need to do. A lot of my questions involve whether something is "acceptable" or somehow losing meaning.
- Attribution directly after dialogue
This seems easy, but I notice I don't see it very much at all compared to its direct English equivalent. Sometimes I see it with a と in between, sometimes not.
"Did we run over something?" said Shinji quickly.
- Pseudo-attribution directly before dialogue
I call it "pseudo" because it's not in the same sentence, but given the two following options, combining them with a comma instead of the original period seems more natural.
Shinji looked up a little, then said in a soft voice, "Its name is Monika."
However, I have noticed in some cases it can feel better to use the period like the author does. I'm pretty sure doing either is okay in a translation.
- Attribution on the following line
This is where it starts to get hairy. I personally feel like this is the sort of thing that should be combined into one paragraph in English, but is okay in Japanese. Is there a general consensus among translators for this? Because this is how I would state it. It just looks more natural to me.
"How does it look?" asked Shinji in a loud voice [loudly].
- Pseudo-attribution on the following line
For this one I'm going to straight up ask if modifying the paragraph structure like this is okay:
"I'm sure it was just a tree branch or something," I said, brushing it off. Still, I had a bad feeling about this too.
I don't honestly know--does Miyabe breaking it up like she does carry some kind of additional meaning? Would I instead leave it something like:
"I'm sure it was just a tree branch or something."
Though I brushed it off, I had a bad feeling about this too.
- Split lines with actors changing in the middle
Literally translated, this sentence structure--correct me if I'm wrong--almost never comes up in English, but I see it somewhat often in Japanese. And it looks awkward if you keep the paragraphs the same. Below is my personal method of translating things like this. Is it okay? Should I not be juggling phrases around so much, or is the sacrifice worth it for the sake of good flow?
Ikoma broke the silence. "We're terribly sorry for disturbing you during work."
Kawasaki lifted his hands in a generous way. "I don't mind," he said. "I was just between classes."
I add a "he said" in to add sentence variety, since moving both those phrases before their respective quotations makes it feel pretty flat. Plus, Japanese doesn't have that quick, mid-sentence attribution you see all the time in English to break up multiple sentences of dialogue.
- A certain light novel author's method of attribution
I figured I'd throw this one in because I run into it a lot in a novel series I'm translating professionally (and you could probably learn which one from the dialogue) and have difficulty handling it over and over again.
This is a veritable mess to translate. If I keep the paragraph structure, it turns into something like this (dialogue liberally translated):
"Nice work out there, Chief."
"Man, that was a waste of energy."
Under a sky beginning to whiten, without scolding his subordinate who was very obviously holding back laughter, Chief Chiba muttered, as though it were someone else's problem.
The dialogue attribution is technically present--waaaaay at the end of that sentence. Is the following structural change considered kosher? Is the original even considered good writing in the first place?
"Nice work out there, Chief," said Inagaki as the sky started to brighten, very obviously holding back laughter.
Chief Chiba didn't bother to scold him for it. "Man, what a waste of energy," he muttered, as though it were someone else's problem.
This author does this all the time and it drives me up the wall. Sometimes there's even a second dialogue attribution present in the same sentence, too, in the middle of all the descriptions. Does anyone have any advice when handling things like this?
Phew. In any case, I apologize for the long-winded question. I enjoy doing research like this, but I've only been doing this job for a couple years, and these things don't quite make sense to me just yet.