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Can translators still translate controversial terms?

Medical Pharmaceutical Translations • Feb 4, 2020 12:00:00 AM

A recent controversy in the gaming world reflects a strange part of our reality. For four years, an anonymous translator has been working on an unofficial English translation of obscure Japanese video game Goemon 3. When the translator shared a few scenes featuring previews of their work online, fans gleefully got on board…until something upset many of them.

In one dialogue between characters, the translator included the word “tranny”, a derogatory term for a transgender person. Some players immediately accused the translator of choosing this word to show hate, but the translator explained that that it was simply an exact translation. The word used in the Japanese version of the game is also a considered a slur.

Regardless of accuracy, a number of fans berated and attacked the translator for not opting for a more politically correct term instead. They found the translator’s Twitter account and began picking apart their social media presence to prove that they were “right-wing”. The translator ultimately deleted the account and released a statement, saying that they loved all people and just wanted to make a faithful translation. The incident, they wrote, “has crushed my passion for translating, video games, and even simply writing in general.”

However you feel about political correctness and LGBTQ+ rights, this is a fascinating and troubling issue. In an era where political correctness reigns, what happens if a translator stays true to controversial source material?

Some, like the fans up in arms over this particular incident, would say that there’s no need to translate hate speech. But what if that hate speech conveys something about the character who’s said it, or their society? What about people who trust a translator to truly convey the meaning of the source material, not a censored version?

Read on for a detailed account of the incident, as well as a statement from the translator.

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