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- Let's start with some general Japanese terms that fansubs and scanlations commonly get wrong. Translators understand that some words (like "tsundere") don't have a serviceable English translation, but they tend to vastly overstate how many such words and phrases there are. Fans have latched on to many of them and turned them into Anime Fan Speak. The biggest example is the work baka, meaning "idiot" or "fool" and easily translatable as such, but nearly always left in untranslated. Other times, translators refuse to do a Woolseyism and insist on a literal translation, with similarly awkward results. Some examples include:
- "Kore wa...", which is almost always translated as "This is...". This is the proper literal translation of the phrase, but it's often used in Japanese when the speaker is shocked or confused. An English speaker would say something like "What the...?" "This is..." in that situation sounds incredibly awkward, but you still see it all the time.
- The sentence structure "That's why... [beat] [explanation]" is often used in Japanese, and it's again translated literally in spite of it looking really awkward in English. A good translator will find a more natural way of giving the explanation, but fansubbers insist.
- The derogatory suffix -me following a proper noun is almost always rendered by fansubbers as "that damn [proper noun]", even when it would sound awkward.
- And perhaps the most awkward is how Japanese renders personal pronouns. The Japanese terms for "he" and "she" literally translate to "this person" or "that person". Fansubbers will insist on using "this person" or "that person", or even "this man/woman" or "that man/woman", when English has perfectly serviceable words for this. It completely fails to take into account what the point of the sentence is.
- The terms "sempai" and "kohai", much like honorifics, are also often left in. The word "sempai" translates directly to "senior" or "mentor", but English speakers in the same situation wouldn't refer to their mentors in those terms (at least in this day and age), and their usage in Japanese is pretty culture-specific. Latin American Spanish dubs sometimes use the word "superior" (deriving from military usage) or "señor", which flow more naturally.
- Certain Fan Speak terms like moe and otaku are left untranslated as well. They have sort-of translations ("cuteness" and "geek" respectively), but their usage in Japan carries additional connotations that the English terms don't. Anime fandom itself often uses those terms, and they're often left untranslated — even in official translations — in anime that focus on anime fans or fandom themselves. It's assumed that if you get these works, you would know what those terms mean and understand the nuances anyway. Works which don't translate these include Lucky Star and Ouran High School Host Club.
- Keeping honorifics is usually okay. But keeping them in non-Japanese settings is unusual. And keeping them in works where the characters are supposed to be speaking English is even weirder. Yet this is exactly what fansubbers will often do. This happened to Gun Blaze West (set in 1870s Kansas), Chrono Crusade (set in the U.S.), Gunslinger Girl (set in Italy), Blassreiter and Monster (set in Germany)note , Hellsing and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part I (set in England), and others. Fansubbers defend this by saying that any anime or manga, regardless of how Japanese it feels, needs to be as Japanese as possible.
- Abuse of "translator's notes" is also common. This allows a fansubber to leave a term in Japanese with another subtitle explaining what the term means. The phenomenon led to the Image Macro of a screenshot of a scene from Death Note, where Light's famous "Just as planned" line is rendered "Just according to keikaku" with a note reading "Translator's note: Keikaku means plan." The fact that this isn't very far from the truth should show you what you're dealing with when you watch some fansubs.
- The Monogatari series and Gintama have both been officially called "undubbable", as they contain massive amounts of Japanese references and wordplay that would be hard to translate into English. It's theoretically possible, but not in a way that syncs with the Mouth Flaps, hence why they're "undubbable" and not outright "untranslatable".
- The Sailor Moon fandom will almost always refer to the Sailor Senshi as such, even though "senshi" could be translated as "soldier". The current official translation refers to them as the "Sailor Guardians", and the original English dub (which the fandom doesn't like anyway) used the term "Sailor Scouts". Even the official term used in Japan was "Sailor Soldiers", as shown in the original manga and 200-episode anime (as heard in the background music during the Transformation Sequences, in spite of what future dubs may call them). In some sense, the English fandom gave up and called them "senshi" just to come up with some common resolution.
- Mamoru's alter-ego Tuxedo Mask is usually called "Tuxedo Kamen", and the fandom will also almost always use the term "Ginzuishou" when there's a perfectly acceptable translation: "Silver Crystal".
- One Piece has a number of words and phrases — tricky or not — which the fandom doesn't want to translate.
- Perhaps most egregious is the term nakama to refer to the crew. The term is synonymous with the trope True Companions. It's infamous because these fans had such an influence on This Very Wiki that the True Companions trope was actually called "nakama" for a very long time; these fans insisted that the word "nakama" contained a nuance that was missing from any possible English translation and caused much consternation in internal discussion. The word "nakama" itself most literally translates to "comrades", but the English term is associated with Dirty Commies, so "crew" or "friends" would have to do in English. The Kaizoku fansub popularized the term to the point that even then, crews in One Piece will still be called "nakama". You'll be lucky if you get a translator's note explaining the word the first time it's used.
- Fansubs and scanlations pretty much never translate the Devil Fruit names, although they might be forgiven for this one since it's a little tougher because their naming scheme in Japanese is pretty unusual. Some Devil Fruits have an obvious translation (for example, "Doku-Doku no Mi" simply means "Poison-Poison Fruit" — weird, but serviceable), while others are named after the Japanese onomatopoeia for whatever they're supposed to represent, and Japanese has a much wider range of onomatopoeia than English does. Most translations split the difference and leave all the Devil Fruits' names untranslated. The 4kids dub, an otherwise reviled official translation, even refused to translate some Devil Fruits that were translated in the FUNimation dub (for instance, 4Kids used "Hana-Hana fruit" for the FUNimation "Flower-Flower fruit").
- Many fansubs will also refuse to translate attack names. Usually, this doesn't matter anyway; they aren't relevant to the plot, some of them are Japanese puns or double meanings, and others are already foreign words (such as Sanji's attacks, which are all named in French).
- FUNimation refused to translate the term "Haki", which roughly means "ambition", leading to the term "Haki energy". They apparently did want to translate it, but Toei Animation didn't want them to.
- The Shichibukai are rarely called anything else, even though it's a word Eiichiro Oda just made up. The best literal translation is "Seven Military Seas", but the title refers to a group of people, so it doesn't exactly make sense. 4Kids called them the "Seven Warlords of the Sea", a term Viz and FUNimation would subsequently borrow. Fans don't like the term because (a) it reminds them of the 4Kids dub, and (b) they aren't really "warlords", but rather highly promoted mercenaries.
- The official FLCL dub leaves many honorifics in, but it admirably averts the trope in other instances, managing to adapt a crapton of Japanese puns and wordplay into English.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann's English dub leaves some Japanese terms untranslated, including "ganmen" ("face"), the name "Gurren Lagann" ("Crimson Lotus Enveloping Face"), and "Tengen Toppa" ("Heaven Piercing"). It even left "Team Dai Gurren" untranslated, with "Dai-" just meaning "Great", leading Kamina to rename the team without properly explaining why. The Four Generals' battleships are also untranslated: Daigunzan ("Great Face Mountain"), Daigunkai ("Great Face Sea"), Daigunten ("Great Face Sky"), and Daigundo ("Great Face Earth"). Fortunately, it worked out, because the translations sound a bit Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom, and the Japanese terms are somewhat more befitting the series' Hot-Blooded panache.
- Azumanga Daioh caused problems with Azuma's overly friendly naming schemes, which are hard to translate while keeping the social context of how characters address each other. The dub further muddles the water by translating some honorifics (e.g. "Tadakichi-san" to "Mr. Tadakichi") but not others, such as "Chiyo-chan" (leading some viewers to believe that "-chan" is part of her name). This is probably done to match the Mouth Flaps properly. "Chan" is a difficult honorific to translate anyway, with the closest translation being "li'l", which is not used in quite the same contexts in English.
- The Viz translation of the Death Note manga was inconsistent; it used untranslated honorifics at first, then stopped in later volumes. There's also a rather jarring reference to the concept of "mu" (nothingness, or an invalid question) in the final chapter.
- The dub of the 2003 Astro Boy anime, which is otherwise pretty thorough, does not translate the word kokoro. The best translation is "heart" or "soul", but without the religious connotations of the English word. It's used to describe what separates advanced AI, like the title character, from ordinary machines.
- Naruto has a few inconsistencies:
- Translations will usually leave "sensei" untranslated (including Lee's famous Catch Phrase, "Yes, Guy-sensei!"), which generally works because most English speakers can understand that much, and it thus adds to the atmosphere.
- The Viz translation of the manga hates translating certain things. It refers to the leaders of the five major villages as "the Gokage", when they could just call them "the Five Kage" and make it clearer. It also leaves Tsuki no Me Keikaku ("Moon's Eye Plan") completely untranslated, leaving no indication that it's a plan of any kind. Perhaps the most strangely, Chapter 15 leaves 43 characters of Japanese text completely untranslated (referring to Zabuza and Kakashi's hand signs), but it would have been largely impossible to fit a proper English translation into that little speech bubble.
- While the dub will usually translate attack names, the word jutsu, meaning "technique", is often left untranslated. It shows, given how often characters call their attacks. It's so pervasive that "jutsu" is sometimes used in the dub even for attacks whose Japanese names didn't contain the word "jutsu". "Rasengan" ("Spiraling Sphere") and "Chidori" ("One Thousand Birds") are also untranslated, partly because of length, but largely because they're the signature attacks of The Hero and The Rival. But most weirdly, Might Guy's "Asa Kujaku" ("Morning Peacock") is also left in Japanese, even though its meaning isn't obvious and Guy is the least "Japanese" character in the shinobi world. The Viz translation of the manga, on the other hand, hates translating attack names — it'll do it, but only after naming the attack in romaji first.
- The Danish dub refuses to translate Naruto's catchphrase "datte ba yo", which even the biggest Japanophile fansubber would ignore, and gives no explanation as to why he would say that after every sentence.
- The official German dubs of the Inuyasha films had their scripts largely fan-translated. This led to a lot of Gratuitous Japanese, to the point that they were largely unwatchable compared to the better-translated TV series.
- The Finnish dub of The Cat Returns left perfectly translatable words like "arigato", "hai", and "domo" in Japanese for some inexplicable reason.
- The fansub group TV-Nihon is infamous not just for doing this, but also for defending it. They vastly overstate the number of Japanese terms that don't have good English translations, but they also have a habit of growing this Japanese lexicon the more they do. They also have a habit of abusing "translator's notes" to leave even more things in Japanese. They seem to have created a strange fanspeak vocabulary, a barrier to entry to be part of the anime fan-viewing community. It doesn't help that they think of everything they do as a favor to that community and respond to criticism accordingly. They also do toku translations (as shown below), which if anything are even worse.
- Some things they don't translate but totally could include kisama and yatsu. The former is a very rude version of you, while the latter literally means "guy" or "fellow" but is used in Japanese as an insult. Normal translators easily translate these to "asshole", You Bastard, or the like. TV-Nihon renders this with bizarre constructions like "You little yatsu!", seen in the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam compilation movies.
- They rendered the title of an episode of Transformers Energon as "Kuuzenzetsugo! Super Emperor of Destruction". They explained in a footnote that "kuuzenzetsugo" referred to something so rare and great that it had never happened before and probably won't happen again. Any normal translator would have found an equivalent in English. Like Transformers Wiki, who translates it as "Terrifyingly Unprecedented".
- The now-defunct Tomodachi Anime prefixed their fansubs of Kodomo no Omocha with cultural notes that sometimes included explanations of more obscure Japanese terms that they felt they had to leave untouched.
- Several translations of CLAMP works, such as Cardcaptor Sakura, Xxx HO Li C, and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle choose not to translate the term hitsuzen. It roughly means "fate", "destiny", or even "inevitability" (used in one Spanish sub), but the concept is rather complicated and doesn't have a real English equivalent.
- Dragon Ball fans have a bizarre tendency to spell the names of certain characters by their literal Japanese-to-English romanization instead of Toriyama's refreshingly straightfoward English that appears on most quality-controlled merchandise, just so they can claim they're being true to the original Japanese work. Thus Vegeta's name is spelled as "Bejiita", "Frieza" becomes "Furiiza", "Trunks" becomes "Torankusu", and "Baby" as "Bebii". Some even take it a step further and call the manga "Doragon Booru."
- Particularly rabid Mobile Suit Gundam Wing fans insist on using names like "Hiiro" and "Dyuo" over the real names..."Heero" and "Duo". Amusingly, they still manage to get it wrong, referring to Quatre as "Kyatora", when his name is written in Katakana as "Katoru".
- Tokyo Pop's translation of the Fruits Basket manga keeps the honorifics, but the Singaporean English translation doesn't, resulting in some odd equivalent nicknames being given to some characters. The anime loses them too (though the subs keep them); the reasonably significant (although the anime doesn't cover it) fact that Yuki doesn't call Tohru by her first name but calls her Honda-san is changed to "Miss Honda".
- In Toei's official subs for the Fist of the North Star TV series, every martial art style and technique is given an English name, including the ones that don't exactly translate well into English (the Hokuto Ryu-Ken style is given the rather awkward sounding English name of "North Star Lapis Lazuli Fist"), but honorifics like "san" and "sama" are kept. Oddly, the Heart of Madness fansub did the opposite.
- The Zatch Bell! dub calls the resident Mons mamodo, which is slightly more on-point than the typical translation, "demon".
- Scanlations of Ichinensei Ni Nacchattara don't translate the title ("When I Became a First Grader") and, more egregiously, usually leave the word "ichinensei" intact. "Ichinensei" means "first grader". No more, no less.
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn! subs have varying degrees of this, but one of the most frustrating would probably be in a certain French fansub, where the term "aneki" (Japanese Sibling Terminology for older sister, with a nuance of roughness; it's how Gokudera refers to Bianchi) is left the same... with "Note: Aneki = Grand Souer" (Note: Aneki = big sister).
- Pokémon fansubs tend to be better with this, but Pokémon Adventures has a couple of examples:
- The online translation calls the Elite Four the "Shitenou", which is problematic for several reasons. First, it changes the meaning to "Four Heavenly Kings" (which they freely admit and think is better). Second, they started doing this halfway through the Elite Four arc, so if you didn't read the margin notes, you'd probably be confused. Third, they didn't even spell it right; proper romanization is "shitennou".
- The English dub of the Pokémon anime leaves Candice's use of the word "kiai" untranslated, possibly because there was no good two-syllable English word that meant the same to match the Mouth Flaps. Amusingly, the fansubs used "fighting spirit".
- Normally averted in AnimEigo's releases of the Urusei Yatsura TV series. The translators tried to deal with the constant barrage of wordplay and cultural references with carefully-chosen translations for the subtitles, only rarely resorting to on-screen notes, and it usually works without drifting too heavily into Woolseyism, but they also included notes inside the video and DVD cases (covering up to four whole sides of an inlay-sized booklet in fairly small text) that go into comprehensive detail about the jokes and references, even explaining what the characters really said and why they translated it a particular way.
- The sub of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit's anime leaves all instances of "Mikado", a word that means 'Emperor' and has exactly as many syllables. It was likely retained to underline that Yogo is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Japan ("Mikado" specifically refers to the Japanese emperor), but confused viewers were likely not aware of this. Especially odd since no other Japanese honorifics or titles were left in, and no translation notes explained the word's meaning. This carried over to the English dub as well.
- The dub of Rurouni Kenshin leaves all the fighting techniques untranslated. But direct translation here would have been silly, and the Japanese names fit very well with the setting of Meiji Era Japan. And it was also pretty hard for the English-speaking voice actors to actually pronounce them (as seen in the DVD outtakes), so you can't pin this on the dubbers being lazy.
- Spanish-language dubs will render almost every mention of the United States in Japanese media as "America". Fair enough; the Japanese refer to the country as "America" as well (well, アメリカ合衆国). Except in Latin America, the U.S. is commonly referred to as "los Estados Unidos" ("the United States"), largely because Latin Americans consider "America" to include them as well. But they're stuck with "America", like the Japanese, to match the Mouth Flaps.
- The Mexican Spanish dub of the second Detective Conan film keeps the Japanese honorifics and naming orders untranslated, which is unusual, considering Mexican translators' distaste for this trope. This is because they got the script from a fansub rather than from official sources. Needless to say, viewers who were not hardcore fans didn't like this. This is one of the reasons why Tokyo Movie Shinsha decided to change voice acting studios from Mexico to Chile in the dub of the film The Last Wizard of the Century. Ironically, it happens again in the Chilean version, except this time it only happens in the subbed track.
- The Spanish dub of Crayon Shin-chan leaves the -chan of the eponymous main character (understandable), the one for Boo-chan's name (also understandable), and in some episodes they refer to Ai and Nene as Ai-chan and Nene-chan (bizarre and inconsistent, as it's only for a handful of episodes). There was also that time they called a riceball an onion.
- The vast majority of English translations, fansubs and official translations alike, of Japanese works based on classic Chinese works like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Ikki Tousen, Koihime†Musou, Water Margin (Akaboshi - Ibun Suikoden, etc) and Journey to the West (Saiyuki, Dragon Ball, etc.); will leave names of characters, places and terminology in their Japanese equivalents rather than the Chinese names the entire rest of the world uses. This is presumably some combination of bad research, laziness and "it's-what-they're-saying-so-it's-what-the-subs-should-say"-ism, but it'll still lead to the vast majority of watchers having no clue the series is based on a Chinese work and the characters actually have Chinese names.note Even if they are familiar with the original works (video games like Dynasty Warriors definitely means a lot of anime watchers are familiar with Romance of the Three Kingdoms on a basic level), it's still hard to figure out the connection between these "Japanese" names and the original Chinese.
- In the same way, the Spanish translations of Thermae Romae (both the anime and the manga, and possibly the live-action film) keep the main character's name, Lucius, untranslated from Latin, despite traditional conventions between Latin and Spanish which would render his name "Lucio". The same goes for the Emperor Hadrian, whose name should be "Adriano" in Spanish, and whom you can argue that was "Spanish" (kinda), since he was born in the city of Italica, in what is now southern Spain.
- Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea: Sousuke still calls his preschool teacher "sensei". Makes sense, though, as the film is explicitly set in Japan.
- The translator for the first couple of chapters of Yandere Kanojo decided to have some fun with this trope and put in little notes explaining things like "lunch means bentou" and "friend means nakama".
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The English dub keeps Sayaka's use of the word "moe" in the first episode ("It's so moe it makes me sick!") when "cute" or some variation would have worked just as well. The manga also leaves in Japanese Honorifics and other words (Madoka refers to Mami as "Senpai" in Chapter Two), and the practice of calling acquaintances by their last name is kept as well (Mami refers to Kyoko as "Sakura-san" when they first meet in The Different Story).
- Many translations of the Kagerou Project franchise (including the official anime translation) tend to leave the name of the main characters' group as the "Mekakushi Dan", though it can be easily translated into English as the "Blindfold Gang" or the "Blindfolds". What's stranger is that when listing members, they will typically be listed as "Dan group member # [X]", which can be translated into "Group Group member # [X]".
- Some translations of Nichijou do not translate the Professor's title, instead opting to leave it as "Hakase". This may have to do with the fact that there are those that believe that her title may or may not be her actual name.
- The English translations of all adaptations of Ninja Slayer keep all the honorifics untranslated. This is a deliberate stylistic choice, even in the original Japanese version, since both the translation and the whole story are Japanese parodies of this trope.
- When Tokyo Pop translated Marmalade Boy into English, they left a few Japanese words like "baka" here and there. Their explanation was that since the original dialogue included some English words, the Japanese words would give a similar feeling of foreign words. The thing is that using lots of English words is a thing that real Japanese teens do, so that gives a feeling of verisimilitude. An English sentence with Japanese words just makes the speaker sound like an otaku.
- The Mexican and Latin American version of Netflix suffer of this with all the subtitles from all anime series who are licensed for Latin America, but not for the U.S. (like Kotoura-san, Samurai Flamenco, etc.), while the series sporting both Latin American and U.S. licensing (like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Dragon Ball, etc) does not, because the Spanish subtitles were translated from the English versions of them.
- The same happens with Crunchyroll, albeit it happens with some languages: Sailor Moon Crystal does have honorifics in the English subs, but not in the Spanish ones (until the third season, when it suddenly does), while the opposite happens with the anime adaptation of Samurai Warriors and Aldnoah.Zero. On the other hand, other series like Kantai Collection suffers from this in all Western languages.
- Yo-Kai Watch (game and anime) has a major character named Jibanyan, who is a cat yokai. The name is a pun on the Japanese "nyan", which would be "meow" in English. The Disney dub and the games leave his name as is rather than giving it a "meow"-related pun, and he frequently says "nya" in the English dub. Part of this might be brand recognition, as Jibanyan is the Series Mascot and is easily recognizable for this sort of thing. The Toonami dub, by contrast, averts this; "meow" is now his Verbal Tic.
- In Shokugeki no Soma, the Japanese chef Shinomiya keeps using the French word "recette", even though he could just call a recipe a recipe. Even when he's in France (and supposedly speaking French), he says things like "Who's changed my recette for that sauce?!"
- The Sandy Frank dub for Gamera Vs Guiron inexplicably maintained "Kon-chan" as the children's nickname for the police officer, Kondo. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 release of the episode got a running gag out of Joel and the Bots mishearing this as "Cornjob".
- The European Spanish dub of the Despicable Me movies leaves the word "minion" in English, with the result that the term is thought to be a species name, rather than a generic word meaning "henchman". This worked out surprisingly well in hindsight, since the spinoff revealed it really is their species name.
- The Mexican Spanish dub of Dragon Blade, just like the case with Thermae Romae above, keeps the Roman names untranslated from Latin, despite having valid translations, since most of them are from historical figures from Roman story. On the other hand, the subbed version does translated the names, oddly enough.
- Many English translations of French literature, such as Les Misérables and the works of Alexandre Dumas leave in the monsieur/messieurs, mademoiselle/mesdemoiselles, and madame/mesdames (or at least their abbreviations), instead of translating them into Mr, Mrs., etc.
- The French science fiction novel Malevil leaves French honorifics untranslated, including religious titles like "Abbé" and "Curé".
- Many English translations of Russian literature (for example, War and Peace) will also leave large chunks of French untranslated. For quite some time, Russian nobility preferred to speak French rather than Russian, and leaving the French text untranslated (with a translation in the footnotes) gives the reader an idea of what was French and what was Russian in the original.
- Papillon leaves a handful of French terms left untranslated, mostly the ones related to Penal Colony life and denizens. Of greatest import: bagne (the penal colony), cavale (escape attempt), mec (man or pal), and plan (a metal tube for storing money hidden in the rectum).
- TV-Nihon, already infamous for its anime subbing, is arguably worse when translating Toku shows. Their bad habits are at the forefront here. They vastly expanded their definition of "untranslatable", and sometimes they wouldn't even provide a good translation in their "translator's notes". Sometimes, they would only put translator's notes up for the first couple of times a term appears, expecting you to learn it — even between shows. If there was a term they thought every toku fan should know, they would never translate it. They seemed to think of translation not as a way of getting Japanese media to English speakers, but rather weeding out the English speakers worthy of watching it. Their toku subbing has been so reviled that it's led to the formation of "scrubbers", who would correct the translation (a "translation of a translation"), and even rival fansub groups.
- Samurai Sentai Shinkenger exemplified this when Takeru is revealed to be a decoy for the real head of the Shiba house and child of the previous Shinken Red, who was off perfecting the sealing technique. They refuse to describe it this way, instead insisting on the word kagemusha. They define it by giving the literal translation of the two halves of the word — which explains absolutely nothing — along with a note that they made a movie by that name in The '70s and telling you to watch it to get the translation. You shouldn't have to do homework to get the sense of this reveal. Eventually, other dialogue gives you a better sense of what's going on, but this isn't how a dramatic reveal is supposed to work.
- From Shinkenger onwards, TV-Nihon would also refuse to translate the phrase, "Ah mou!", which could easily be rendered "Aw, man!" in English.
- Gekiranger becomes very hard to follow because of this trope, and what is and isn't translated is pretty much random.
- It has the same problem as Shinkenger, but rather than failing to translate attack names, here they fail to translate the morph phrases, apparently because they rhyme. They value this fact over actually being able to understand what they're talking about.
- Gekiranger is a Chinese-influenced Sentai, so there are a lot of obviously Japanified Chinese terms. Despite how strange they sound, TV-Nihon refuses to translate them, which leads to episode titles like Gowagowan no Daindain: JyuKen KyoJin, kenzan!◊.
- Raised by Wolves hero Jan's Japanese onomatopoeia (along the lines of Hulk Speak or Buffy Speak) was left untranslated, without any indication as to what it was. Viewers were left to believe he was just making up words.
- TV-Nihon has a very bad habit of not translating Japanese Sibling Terminology. It's very tricky because Japanese speakers don't use the word as consistently as you'd think; a Japanese speaker might refer to a non-family member with one of those terms. Unfortunately, many anime fans think they know the terms but don't get this nuance. So when they brave the TV-Nihon jungle, they get the wrong idea (or just confused) when some random kid the Monster of the Week targets calls the hero "big brother" or a teenage girl is very obviously crushing on "onii-san".
- The word "-tachi" is also abused; it simply makes a noun plural. The very first episode of Tensou Sentai Goseiger had a boy calling the girls "Oneechan-tachi". Not even so much as a translator note for what that meant. It simply means he's referring to the two girls. That's it. Nothing special. The worst, though, is from Magiranger, where one of the villians calling the Rangers idiots was rendered as "O-baka-chan-tachi".
- At times, they delve into "Blind Idiot" Translation. For instance, in Kamen Rider Double, every sign in Futo City reads "Futo", but the subtitlers apparently can't read and always read "Fuuto". While this is accepted current romanization of Japanese (which can be complicated sometimes), when it's written down on screen, you don't get that excuse. A similar problem in Engine Sentai Go-onger led to the character Hant being called "Hanto", in spite of "Hant" being written on the jacket he wears in every episode.
- In Kamen Rider Den-O, when protagonist Ryotaro unlocks his Super Mode, his allies press him to name his finishing move — while he's in the middle of performing it. Confused and pressed for time, he blurts out "Train Slash!" which everybody dismisses as terrible and spends the rest of the episode (and part of the next one) making fun of him for it. Except TV-Nihon rendered the name as "Densha Giri!", with no translation — or indication as to why it's so funny.
- Also from Den-O, Ryotaro's sister (who runs a cafe) very cutely refers to the coffee beans as "coffee-tachi". This was also left untranslated and has become the butt of many a joke. "The coffee-tachi are doing their work!"
- Fans will usually let TV-Nihon get away with not translating Momotaros'
- In Kamen Rider OOO, some of the Core Medal animal names are in English, and some are in Japanese. That was good enough for TV-N, who would leave any subsequent mention of an animal in Japanese unless it's got a Core Medal named for it in English. Translator's notes are few and far between. At least the form names are mashups of the medals they consist of.
- In one scene, Eiji mistakes the Candroids for snakes, only for Goto to correct him by pointing out that they're actually "unagi". If you don't know what that means, good luck; they didn't put this in a note either. It means eel. The strange thing is that it's not even something you'd be familiar with by watching a lot of anime or toku (although you might if you like Japanese food).
- Wizard! has a particularly aggressively Japanese translation. The Transformation Trinket chatter is left in Japanese, with the kanji for the word written in the middle and the color filling in from right to left.
- In Kamen Rider Fourze, they refuse to translate Gentaro's Catch Phrase, "Space kitaaaaaa!" It's hard to translate because it's very flexible; depending on context, it can mean "Space time!", "Space is here!", or "Space is awesome!" But while different fansubbers have different translations, they at least try to translate it. TV-Nihon not only refused to, they would also refuse to translate any subsequent appearance of the word "kita", no matter where it is, even when they're not homaging Fourze. It's like a "secret club" mentality, only using Japanese words instead of in-jokes.
- There is one example of this in toku that is generally accepted: nobody translates the words "Super Sentai" or "Kamen Rider", even though they could easily be called "Super Squad" and "Masked Rider". This is partly for brand name recognition, and partly (in the case of Kamen Rider) to avoid connotations of Masked Rider, the much-hated first American attempt at an adaption. Indeed, the tendency to call it "Kamen Rider" is strong enough that the next American attempt at an adaption was called Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight. There are a few other words which are often, although not always, left untranslated on account of being either iconic, such as the Kamen Rider's transformation cry of "henshin", or completely unique, such as "yokai", but these are starting to go out of fashion.
- The Food Network dub of Iron Chef leaves the honorifics untranslated.
- A European Spanish fansub of the Korean TV series Poseidon has a strange one, where they leave the phrase "plea bargaining" untranslated from English with a translator's note. Plea bargaining has a perfectly serviceable Spanish translation ("negociar los cargos").
- This is common in translations of philosophy works. The subtleties of a word in one language might be lost if the closest equivalent in another language is used. In this case, it may be better just not to translate it and define it a footnote. This practice is well-executed, though, and it's led to a number of loanwords being adopted by another language. This is how English got the word "angst", for instance — or, for that matter, "philosophy".
- Much of this translation comes from Greek or Latin. Sometimes this has to do with technical terms to ensure a strict definition. Other times, there is no equivalent English word for the term. For instance, a common decision in translating Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics is to not translate the Greek word eudaimonia; it literally means "the state of having a beautiful soul", and English words like "happiness" or "flourishing" would fail to communicate its exact nature.
- Steve Hagen encountered this problem in his early writings on Buddhist philosophy. He chose to capitalize the word "Mind" and use it as a technical term for his books. His editors didn't get it and kept removing the capitalization.
- Friedrich Nietzsche did this with the French word "ressentiment", for which he couldn't find a German word that adequately expressed the concept as he understood it. The English use the word "resentment" (having derived it from the French), but English translations of Nietzsche's work still use the word "ressentiment".
- It's also common in scientific works. In some instances, one language has a much better term than another. In others, scientists will prefer to leave terms in English — even if it's not their native language and there's a perfectly serviceable translation — to ensure that any reader around the world will get the same idea. Many researchers just give up and write the whole thing in English anyway.
- Quite a few European languages use the English term "Big Bang" to refer to the event, even though it can be easily translated. This is possibly because the term was originally meant to sound kind of ridiculous, having been coined by Fred Hoyle, who opposed the theory (but denies meaning to sound pejorative). Languages that don't do this usually translate the term to something along the lines of "initial explosion", such as the German "Urknall", which nicely mirrors "Ursuppe" (primordial soup) and "Urmensch" (ancient human). But German has the advantage of the "Ur-" prefix, which is itself untranslatable into English, hence why This Very Wiki uses the phrase "Ur-Example".
- Werner Heisenberg also preferred the English term "Uncertainty Principle", finding the original German lacking.
- This is particularly common in fields like geology and geography, where certain phenomena only have words in certain languages because only the people who spoke those languages were ever able to experience them. Terms are borrowed from a wide variety of languages. For instance,
- A polynya (Russian) is an ice-free area in an otherwise ice-covered body of water.
- A lagerstätten (German) is a deposit with highly detailed preserved fossils.
- 'A'a and pahoeho (Hawaiian) are, respectively, sharp, jagged lava and smooth lava. It's called "'a'a" because that's what you say when you step on it.
- Jökulhlaups (Icelandic) are the sudden outbursts of water that can emerge from underneath glaciers, usually associated with a volcano.
- Most religion and mythology will use this trope. When discussing concepts and terms that have no real analogue in mortal existence, sometimes things are left untranslated as technical terms. Other times, adherents are trying to get as close to the original work as possible.
- The Bible provides some interesting examples:
- Hebrew scripts (like many Semitic scripts including Arabic) only contain consonants, leaving the vowels out. God's name is spelled as "YHWH", and its vowels and pronunciation were deliberately withheld from post-exilic Jews, since speaking it came to be considered blasphemy. Only a select few priests knew how it was pronounced, and this knowledge is now lost to us. Common transliterations are "Yahweh" and "Jehovah"; the latter is itself a mistranslation, because it borrows from the Latinization of "Yahowah". Ancient Jews themselves said the word "adonai" (meaning "Lord") instead of the name, and later versions of the Bible which included symbols above the words to indicate vowels used the vowels for "adonai" above "YHWH". Early translators didn't get this convention. Most English translations, working from the King James version, render "YHWH" as "the Lord".
- Ever wonder why the wood in the ark (the boat one) was named after gophers? It wasn't; "gopher" (or gofer) is a transliteration of the word for that kind of wood.
- "Log" as a measure of capacity has nothing to do with fallen trees.
- The Psalms have notes for words (e.g. "Selah") which are left in the original language because that word appears only in the Psalms and its meaning is unclear.
- The Sacred Scriptures Bethel Edition translation of The Bible does this deliberately, refusing to translate a number of words from the original and even rendering God's name as "Yahweh".
- In Judaism, the term "yeshivish" is a neologism (deriving from yeshivah, for Jewish religious high school) referring to this kind of language. When studying Jewish law, Torah scholars will often use Hebrew or Yiddish words for terms that have a specific technical meaning, even if there's a serviceable translation. This leads to things like, "Talking in shul is assur because it deprives you of proper kavanah for davening." (Translation: "Talking in synagogue is forbidden because it deprives you of proper concentration for praying.") It can be pervasive enough to be a language of its own.
- Catholicism treated Latin this way for a long time, and it was used as a liturgical language worldwide until the 1960s. Even then, certain translations into English tended to use Latinized terminology; for instance, the use of the word depositum as demostrated here. Even the latest translation of the Nicene Creed translates consubstantialem Patri into the barely-English "consubstantial with the Father", instead of the more accurate (but vaguer) "one in being with the Father".
- In Islam, there is technically no such thing as a translated Quran. The belief is that the text of the Quran was directly transcribed from the word of God, and any translation from the original Arabic would necessarily alter the text and thus be inauthentic.
- D&D 3.0-3.5 has dozens of books; only the 3.0 Player's Handbook was translated into Turkish. The only half-decent parts of it used Arabic and Persian words to emulate Latin's "mystic" feel in English. This only succeeded in replacing a bunch of words the readers didn't know with another bunch of words the readers didn't know. In other sources, things as simple as weapon names are translated very inconsistently. As a result, most Game Masters in Turkey pepper their games generously with English words. As most gamers pick up a lot of those words from computer games, it's not much of a problem.
- Done deliberately for atmosphere in Genius: The Transgression, a fan-made gameline for the New World of Darkness. Branches of special abilities have Greek names, Latin pops up in all sorts of places, and characters' motive-types are given German names. There's a section in the book detailing why each language is used where it is and how each came to be the convention. Greek was a "neutral" language during the Enlightenment when a French group and English group wanted to exchange notes, the Romans made the first records of a number of phenomena, and the catalysts for becoming a Genius were categorized by a supercomputer imitating Sigmund Freud. Really it's all just the Rule of Cool at work, because it's more fun to say "Grimm Skafoi mane" than "A really angry car".
- Pops up repeatedly in-universe in Warhammer 40K, mostly when dealing with things in High Gothic, the "formal" language of the Imperium which is written in quasi-Latin, while Low Gothic is the common one written in English. Thus, your mission is not to guard the factory from aliens to save the world from being condemned by the Church and burnt by Space Marines; you are protecting the manufactorum from xenos, so the Ecclesiarchy does not declare your world excommunicate traitoris and thus send an exterminatus fleet guarded by the Adeptus Astartes.
- Video games have a number of unique tropes and concepts, and as such, there's a unique vocabulary to describe them. Most of those terms are in English. Interestingly, foreign players will often use English terms for these concepts (e.g. "to heal", "to ambush", "HP", "to gank") even when speaking in their native language. With the advent of worldwide MMO games, many of these players found these terms useful in communicating with someone halfway around the world who speaks a different language.
- The fourth Katamari Damacy game has a lot of bizarre dialogue, including the failure to translate the word "kokoro" (roughly "heart" or "soul"). This might be Intentional Engrish for Funny, considering that the collection list for rolled up items mentions a building involved in the localization of video games and describes it as being "not too important".
- The original Metroid had the "Maru Mari", whose literal translation was approximately "to make round". This made no sense, so they left it untranslated originally. Later versions called it the "Round Ball". Later Metroid games would give it its current commonly accepted name, the Morph Ball. The remake Metroid: Zero Mission also calls it the Morph Ball, but ports of the original don't change it.
- In the Japanese version of Castlevania, the whip-wielding skeletons were called "Shimon", a play on Simon Belmont's name which literally translates to "gates of death", which was what the enemy was called in the English manual of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. In Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Shimon was called "Simon Wraith". It would eventually be translated to the equivalent pun in English: "Hellmont".
- Siren does this with the word shibito — normally "corpse", but in the context it's used in the game, closer to "zombie" or "ghoul" — for stylistic reasons.
- Volgin's "Kuwabara, kuwabara" Catch Phrase in Metal Gear Solid 3 was an obscure mythology reference which Japanese gamers would have picked up on immediately, but which went straight over the heads of Western gamers. Annoyingly, the game retained conversations where Snake would radio back to base to ask about the significance of the names "ADAM" and "EVA", which Western gamers picked up on immediately but Japanese gamers would require an explanation for. Metal Gear Solid 3 did suffer from a comparatively poor localisation, afraid to take many liberties with the original Japanese, so there was no attempt in the English version to rewrite the Adam and Eve translation to explain what the hell Volgin was on about.
- Kaijin No Soki, in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, although previous promotional videos for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes had shown his name as Souki. Probably to avoid confusion with Saki Omokane from Quiz Nanairo Dreams, who is listed as just "Saki."
- From the Final Fantasy series:
- The series as a whole has the Odin summon's attack, Zantetsuken ("iron-cutting sword"). Only FFVI and FFVII ever bothered to translate it ("Atom Edge" and "Steel Bladed Sword", respectively); it's been left alone in every other incarnation.
- Final Fantasy VIII: Squall's Renzokuken (which roughly translates to "Continual Sword") is left in Japanese, which is kind of odd considering the amount of trouble the localizers went through to rename everything else in the game, and the world has no Wutai to Hand Wave the change in language. Stranger still, the playable demo of Final Fantasy VIII actually did translate the name as "C. Sword".
- Final Fantasy IX has Guest Star Party Member Beatrix's special skill menu named "Seiken" ("Holy Sword"), despite her being a knight from pseudo-medieval Europe.
- Final Fantasy X features the summon Yojimbo and his attacks Kozuka, Wakizashi, and Zanmato, all left untranslated for purely stylistic reasons. And also because these aren't the names of the attacks, but the class of weapon he's using.
- Final Fantasy V had a Fan Translation that left the flying dragons as hiryuu for no apparent reason. Final Fantasy V Advance cleverly translated them as "wind drakes" and called King Tycoon's drake "Hiryuu". The official version also left all Samurai job class skills untranslated, making it hard to decipher what they were supposed to do.
- Dot Hack GU has two untranslated attack names: Rengeki ("chain attack") and Hangeki ("counter-attack"). Even stranger, in Vol. 1's localized version, Haseo will yell out "Rengeki!" even when performing Hangeki, causing further confusion.
- Persona 3 and its sequel Persona 4 leave a number of Japanese Pronouns and other specific cultural references untranslated. The main reason is that it gives the games a distinctly Japanese cultural flavor, particularly with its use of Sempai/Kohai to illustrate the relationships between students. Conveniently, calling the player character "sempai" also allows the voice actors to avoid having to use his name.
- The World Ends with You takes place in the Shibuya district of Tokyo and leaves a lot of things untranslated to hammer the point home; indie-rock singer 777 says "Domo arigato" a few times, and Ken Doi will welcome you into his ramen shop with "Irasshaimase!" Perhaps most strangely, the ramen varieties are described in Japanese as well with a subsequent translation, such as "Shio Ramen (salty)".
- Mega Man:
- All of Zero's (or Layer's) moves were left untranslated starting in Mega Man X4. The only exceptions were the English localizations of Mega Man X5 and Command Mission. This was probably because of Rule of Cool.
- In the Mega Man Zero games, the bosses call out all their moves and catchphrases in Japanese. Capcom of America wasn't particularly interested in recording English voices for the series.
- In Mega Man X, one of the bosses is named Boomer Kuwanger — kuwagata means "stag beetle" in Japanese, befitting the boss's appearance and movements. But it sounds better this way.
- Mega Man X6 barely translated any of their boss names, which leaves amusing names such as Infinity Mijinion (from mijinko, or water flea) and Commander Yammark (from yanma, a type of Japanese dragonfly). They were, however, able to come up with Blaze Heatnix and Blizzard Wolfang.
- Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth left the term hinomaru, referencing the Japanese flag. Given the franchise's love of Woolseyisms, it's strange that they left this alone specifically.
- In the Monster Rancher series, the name of the Suzurin monster species is a Japanese pun regarding the monster's appearance and Japanese history. The dubbers probably couldn't think up a good alternative name that kept the same feeling, so they left it as it was for the English version.
- A curious example: in the old Captain America and the Avengers arcade beat-em-up, one of the bosses the Avengers fight is a giant robot octopus called the Mecha Tako. Players were a bit confused, not realizing that tako is Japanese for "octopus".
- The Shenmue series is an interesting case. The first game suffered from a notoriously problematic dub, one that directly translated a lot of conversational mannerisms that are typical in Japanese but awkward in English ("I see," "Is that so?") as well as honorifics. The honorifics can be excused, considering it takes place in Japan, but the rest is just a bit awkward. This can't be so easily excused in the sequel, where characters use honorifics despite the game being set in China and Hong Kong rather than Japan.
- Representative dialogue from Aoi Shiro: "Momo-chan sure is genki..."
- Whole games in South Korea would be released entirely in English during the country's ban on Japanese products. Many games distributed there were just repackaged American versions, and Korean distributors wouldn't bother translating anything other than the box blurbs and the manual. This would also occasionally happen with Japanese versions, too, such as with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. Nintendo games wouldn't be fully translated into Korean until Nintendo of Korea was formed in 2007.
- This trope is frequent in many English Fan Translations of visual novels; not many are professionally translated, and those that aren't tend to not want to do a lot of work. The most notorious is Policenauts; most of the characters there are Westerners, but fans insisted on translating it as if it were Japan-centric.
- Interestingly, technical limitations meant that Fan Translations of older RPGs tend not to do this. This trope tends to expand the amount of text in the work, and where space is at a premium (especially with late-SNES era games such as Seiken Densetsu 3), it would be very inefficient to be adding honorifics and such everywhere. One of the most notorious exceptions was Chrono Compendium's translation of Chrono Trigger, and it was actually quickly derided in the fan translation community for that.
- Atomic Robo-Kid identifies the rapid-fire power-up by the Japanese term rensha, even in the Western-developed computer versions.
- Monokuma remains Monokuma in both the Fan Translation and NIS America's official translation of Dangan Ronpa, instead of becoming something like "Monobear" ("kuma" translating literally to "bear"). This was due to Executive Meddling in the case of the latter, though.
- Soul Blazer leaves its "Zantetsu Sword" alone, but thankfully it reminds you in the Flavor Text that it's effective on metallic mooks.
- Referenced in-universe example in Adventure Time when Lady Rainicorn tells Jake a joke, but not in English.
Rainicorn (in Korean): Hmm, I can't think of one... But remember that time when we ran naked through that farmer's cabbage patch?! (Giggle) He was so offended.
Jake (in Korean): Heh... Let's not talk about that. (both laugh)
Finn: What's the joke?
Jake: Oh, uh... The joke doesn't... translate very well. It'd probably be boring if I told it.
- Japanese dubs of shows like South Park and The Boondocks tend to leave American slang and slurs untranslated. Not only do such shows reference American culture all the time, but they also use words whose Japanese equivalents can't be used in media. In the latter show, this includes the word "nigger", whose cultural implications can be fiendishly complicated.
- The Roman virtue of pietas cannot be accurately translated into English. Although it's etymologically related to the word "piety", students are told that the most accurate translation of this concept is at least a paragraph long.
- Inverted in parts of the free software community. "Free software" is software that you are free to use, modify, and redistribute as you like — in other words, software that grants you substantial freedom. Free software licenses allow people to sell free software for money. However, since the term free tends to mean free of charge in English, it is commonly mistaken for software that you don't have to pay for; even Richard Stallman, who coined the term, is aware of this ambiguity, but maintains that there isn't really a good English word to express this kind of freedom. For this reason, developers have proposed adopting the Latin terms gratis — already a loanword commonly used in English — to mean software you don't have to pay for, and libre to mean software you are free to mess around with. (People who want to stay in English but still be clever sometimes distinguish "free as in speech" from "free as in beer".)