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Analysis / "Blind Idiot" Translation

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Causes of "Blind Idiot" Translation in fan-made translations

Poor translations are, unfortunately, pretty common in Fan Translations, Fan Subs and Scanlations. There are several reasons for this:

  • Inexperience: The translators are, more often than not, amateurs who don't have a lot of experience or training. For obvious reasons, this increases the chance of mistakes. Untrained translators are also more likely to think it's fine to e.g. use a machine translator, and then edit the machine-generated sentences into something seemingly correct.
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  • Insufficient language knowledge: The translators are often not native speakers of either the original or subtitled language. This doesn't necessarily doom the translation to be terrible, but it does increase the chance of wrong or awkward translations. In some cases, the translators don't even master both languages. Chinese bootlegs, for example, are especially prone to "Blind Idiot" Translation and Translation Train Wreck for this reason.
  • Strict deadlines: Particularly for popular weekly series, groups often have strict deadlines (both to keep up with the series itself and for the satisfaction of getting that series up before other groups). This means that proofreading may be rushed or nonexistent. The translation itself may also be rushed. Of course, professional translators also have to deal with deadlines, but they're (hopefully) better at handling them. Note that this disadvantage can be inverted for certain works: sometimes, fans may be fine with letting fan translators take their time to make their translation perfect. Hopefully they don't "take their time" forever, though.
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  • Fan translation culture: The culture of fansubbers/scanslators and their followers is, overwhelmingly, one that heavily emphasizes the idea that foreign works must be kept as "pure" as possible, thus must be "translated" as little as possible; thus what is deemed fit to translate at all is usually translated literally with next to no regard for voice or flow (or sometimes even grammar).
  • Second-hand translating: In other words, translating a translation. Even if the original translation is good, it'll most likely contain minor mistakes, not fully convey the feelings behind the original work, and be coloured by the translator's personal interpretations. When that translation is translated, these problems will be made worse. Additionally, the original translation may be a "Blind Idiot" Translation that the second-hand translator blindly trusted — if they chose to translate a translation of the work instead of the work itself, they probably lack the knowledge required to tell if the first translation is any good anyway. And if the translation is a "Blind Idiot" Translation of a "Blind Idiot" Translation... well, a Translation Train Wreck is probably inevitable at that point.
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  • Translator apathy: For whatever reason, the translator just doesn't care too much about making a good, faithful translation. Maybe they did care about the franchise at one point, but lost interest and kept going to avoid having the Fan Dumb harass them for quitting. Maybe they're more interested in the attention their translation will get — especially if it's the first one, which is likely to become the most popular one. The resulting translation may be shoddy, but most of the fans who don't know the original language probably won't know. If better translators speak up against it, it will likely go ignored, and casual fans may claim that the shoddy translation is fine.
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