We have taken many expressions and chosen to express them in one way or another in translation. Here is a list in case it gets confusing. You can always leave a comment here or through WuxiaWorld if you have a strong preference. If there is enough preference comments we will hold a poll and go with the majority!
In general we prefer pinyin over Wade-Giles, which is not very intuitive. However, we will often defer to more commonly known phrases for the sake of readers whenever we feel it is necessary. For instance, ‘ketou’, is commonly known as ‘kowtow’. In Wade-Giles, the other romanization system for Chinese, it is ‘k’o-t’ou‘. To us, that looks like it will generate quite the mispronunciation, and even though the pinyin ketou is more correct, kowtow is more widely known. Here is a link to the University of Chicago’s pinyin-Wade-Giles converter.
How we space characters names – You may notice how we choose to use “ChangAn” or “Ruan QingShuang”. This is not proper pinyin. Proper pinyin would be, for example, “Xi Jinping” or “Beijing”, or using the previous examples, “Changan” and “Ruan Qingshuang”. We choose to capitalize it as such as a reading aid for non-Chinese readers. Once I took a course in Asian art, and had to memorize a bunch of Indian art pieces and could not wrap my head around it all. Instead I just made up phrases associated with certain works of art because I didn’t know how to break up very long names. Recognizing this would be a problem, we chose to write out names in such a way that would be “bite sized” for readers.
暴力狐尊仇妍 ‘Bàolì hú zūn chóu yán’ – lit. “Violent Fox Ancestor Qiu Yan”. We freely switch between “Violent Fox Lady Qiu Yan” and “the venerated Violent Fox Qiu Yan”, whenever we feel either is more suited to the situation. Lady is used because of the shortage of honorifics in English. We were thinking of putting ‘Master’ but it just seemed awkward. Without any more honorifics to work with, we chose ‘Lady’, and use the first one as well if the sentence has too many long, drawn out elements to improve flow.
药膳馆 ‘Yàoshàn guǎn’ – lit. “Medical meal house/hall”. We have decided to translate it as ‘panacea’ restaurant. It is a restaurant which features traditional Chinese medicine ingredients to create a meal, and is thus healthy, maintains health and also serves as a meal. The concept is very interesting, since traditional Chinese medicine tastes absolutely awful, but having some cooking background ourselves, we can see that it has potential but don’t know enough about using these kinds of ingredients. Though we’ve had some dishes that qualify to be served at this type of restaurant, we’ve never actually been to such a restaurant before! Definitely will try one the next time any of us head to Asia 😛
师父 ‘Shīfu’ – lit. “Teach father”. We decided to leave shifu, or perhaps you may be familiar with the Cantonese version, Sifu, since the eastern relationships involving ‘teacher’ and ‘master’ just don’t equate the English ones. We felt that it was a familiar enough term to leave as is.
妹妹 Mèimei – the word for little sister. Though it is repeated, just one ‘mei’ is enough to describe a younger sister, but it also can refer to a younger female. The best equivalent we can think of in the West is ‘sistah’ used by the African-American community after the Civil Rights Movement, wherein it simply refers to a female and can potentially be a love interest. We have chosen to not use ‘name-sister’ or ‘sister-name’ because that is how nuns are referred to, making it kinda weird to us. Of course we do not mean to be critical of anyone’s translation on the matter – in the same way every artist has their own way of doing things, we have chosen to do it this way and respect each translator’s choice and right to pick what they feel is most appropriate.
It is also used to show kinship and closeness, as well as seniority/inferiority. English has NO equivalent that is remotely close, so following our senpais from the Japanese translator community of leaving intact suffixes, we have decided that if this bit of language/story element/relationship marker were to remain in the translation, it has to remain in this way in order for the meaning to be clear; otherwise it should be removed since these markers are not necessary for equivalent relationships in the West. This applies to all the other relationship suffixes below.
姐姐 Jiějiě – older sister. Males and females alike use the same term, unlike Korean. Like ‘Meimei’, you only need one ‘jie’. Again it is relationship marker as well, not necessarily about true kinship. Someone in the ‘jiejie’ status does not necessarily refer to their ‘meimei’ as ‘name-mei’, but simply uses their name. In Chinese as well as the East Asian sphere in general, it is a very common and natural to use these terms.
哥哥 Gēgē – older brother. ‘gege’ can also mean big brother, as well as ‘da ge’ (大哥 lit big brother), and the reason we chose to leave it as is is because there is no English language equivalent. In our adult lives, we have never heard anyone address their older brother as ‘big brother’ or someone else’s older brother as ‘big brother’, so to maintain flow we have also chosen to keep the suffix. In the case of Chinese gangsters, it is very important who is called the ‘ge’, and because we would encounter this phrase a huge amount since it was about gangsters, we thought that it had to either be accurate, or simply removed.
We have chosen to preserve the self-reference in Chinese, simply because in American English at least, referring to one’s self in third person is considered an act of narcissism (though it is very common in other languages). In order to preserve the flow of the author and to not completely alter the sentence just so it sounds natural in American English, we have decided to keep it.
More coming soon!