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Post Reply Unequal criticisms on proper pronunciation of foreign words in anime/ video games
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26 / M
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Posted 4/13/17
Hey everyone, hope your week's going well.

So I've been playing Persona 5 and having a blast so far. Personally prefer the dub option, but as I was browsing the net there seems to be quite a stir about how the English voice actors mispronounce the Japanese words in the game. I personally don't mind it, but clearly it bothers quite a number of people who probably wouldn't play the game dubbed anyway.

But then switching to the Japanese audio, we see the voice actors struggling with the same issue of mispronouncing foreign words and phrases.

Heck, if we step out of Persona 5 and into other Japanese games, we see Yakuza 0's voice actors who, while I will praise for being amazing actors, completely butcher Cantonese during relevant dialogue. Plenty of anime filled with Engrish gets a pass because of apparently how "cute" that is... and the list goes on.

So here's my question: Why is there an apparent disparity on how people judge the voice actors' ability to pronounce foreign words in anime/ video games, but the Japanese gets a free pass? I would love to hear your opinion on what you think might be the possible causes of it.

FYI, I'm not looking to start a dub vs. sub argument, so please if you're itching to talk about that, please do that somewhere else. That's a completely separate discussion which tbh is quite silly.
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24 / M / Abyss
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Posted 4/13/17 , edited 4/13/17
No one gets a free pass. Listening to the Japanese try to speak English or German often makes me cry a bit inside. It is the same with people in the USA speaking German/Latin. They fuck those up and it tilts me too.

Then again, I am a native English speaker and I still struggle with English sometimes...
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Posted 4/13/17
i don't really know anything about the persona 5 situation in particular, but i'd imagine people are annoyed with it because it's a japanese game with (i'm assuming) japanese characters. it's not really the same as when those characters in the japanese version mispronounce foreign words, because that's something actual japanese people would also do so it at least makes sense. not to mention japanese tends to convert foreign words, names, etc to its own rules with sounds that japanese people are more used to pronouncing - you're generally not going to hear someone in japan even attempting to say a foreign word "correctly" unless they're actually trying to communicate in that language (or they want to sound sophisticated i guess)

japanese is a pretty different language with a much more limited set of sounds, so its native speakers tend to struggle with other languages, especially something like english. on the other hand, pronouncing japanese words is usually easier for english speakers if they know what they're doing at all (the only thing i've personally struggled with is the fu sound , , , ) so it's not as unreasonable of an expectation. it's one thing to mess up a few sounds like that or generally say things in a way that feels a bit more natural in an otherwise english sentence - but if you're totally butchering the pronunciation to the point that it sounds like you don't have any idea what the words are even SUPPOSED to sound like, people are understandably going to find that kind of irritating at least in the context of voicing a character in a japanese game

characters in japanese media trying to actually speak other languages and butchering them is . . . kind of a different issue though i guess. when it's major characters who are supposed to be native speakers of other languages, in something like in kiniro mosaic for example, i can understand how it happens - they probably want a specific seiyuu to voice a specific character, and that's more important than whether or not that seiyuu can actually speak english or whatever other language at all. they decide having the character sound "right" for the 99% of the time that they'll be talking in japanese is worth that 1% of the time where their english sounds painfully bad. it might not really be REALISTIC to have that character sound like a native japanese speaker in the first place, but i get the logic behind it - anime characters are usually meant to be more appealing than realistic anyway

for minor characters who pretty much only speak in a foreign language, on the other hand . . . i guess it probably just comes down to a lack of people conveniently able to voice them? like, i don't think there are many non-japanese seiyuu in the industry, and finding a native speaker to say a few lines in their language is probably just more effort than it's worth. but that doesn't necessarily make it fine - just not really something worth getting worked up over, i guess. personally i don't tend to care when it's in kind of a silly context anyway, but in a series that tries to be more serious or realistic it can be pretty distracting . . .
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30 / F / New Jersey
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Posted 4/13/17
Persona 5 is amazing! I honestly haven't had a problem with it but, then again I can't English very well and it's my native language.
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Posted 4/13/17

Dark_Alma wrote:

No one gets a free pass. Listening to the Japanese try to speak English or German often makes me cry a bit inside. It is the same with people in the USA speaking German/Latin. They fuck those up and it tilts me too.

Then again, I am a native English speaker and I still struggle with English sometimes...


I got a little miffed myself when watching a guy from england doing a review of some american snacks. He kept calling them tor-til-lahs, it's pronounce tor-tea-yahs
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Posted 4/13/17 , edited 4/13/17
Thanks for the insights. Just to clarify though, I don't care much for the choice of who voices who in anime. That's not what I'm here to discuss and understand better. What I'm primarily concerned with is the apparent disparity with how people react to characters being portrayed speaking a foreign language between English and Japanese voice actors.

Regardless of whether the cast of Persona 5 are supposed to be Japanese speaking in Japanese, it's hard to deny the fact that English voice actors do tend to be more heavily criticized for mispronouncing Japanese words in anime/ games. Compare that to Japanese voice actors, who may portray characters who aren't even supposed to be speaking Japanese (ex: most of Gundam), yet are seemingly free of criticism when the actors make similar mispronunciations.

That is where I would like to hear your opinions on, so please keep them coming.
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25 / F / Philippines
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Posted 4/14/17 , edited 4/14/17
I've encountered something like this a few days ago. Both the Japanese and English voice actors of Attack on Titan were asked to sing the theme song in two different situations (the seiyuus at a radio show and the VA's at a convention). Of course, the Japanese voice actors can sing it well due to it being a Japanese song but they couldn't sing the German part well (except for the word Jaeger) and the English Voice Actors couldn't sing the song properly at all because it's Japanese (and could only properly sing the parts 'Jaeger' and 'Guren no Yumiya'). The comments on youtube are as expected: people insulting the English voice actors for not being able to sing the song and praising the Japanese voice actors saying 'Another reason to hate dub' and 'The Japanese voice actors really are the best'. I've seen only a few sensible comments of people pointing out that 'Of course the Engligh VAs can't sing it properly like the Japanese because it's not their native language'.

Thing is, no one said anything bad when the Japanese voice actors 'butchered' the German lines at the beginning of the song and at best, someone only pointed out that it was funny but didn't get as hostile as those commenting on the English voice actors attempts. It's stupid honestly and unfair. I do think the English voice actor's attempt was cringy but there was no need to insult them as it's not their native language and couldn't sing it well. If the fans were being technical about it, they should be saying the same of the Japanese VAs but they aren't. I like sub over dubs but clearly many fans have a more biased view on all this. Automatically: Japanese > English no matter what.
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34 / M / People's Republic...
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Posted 4/14/17

Dark_Alma wrote:

No one gets a free pass. Listening to the Japanese try to speak English or German often makes me cry a bit inside.


Indeed! Even Americans speaking English don't get a pass, as seen in this documentary about a native Japanese teaching English to Americans:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ic53hhFllPM



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23 / M
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Posted 4/14/17 , edited 4/14/17
I honestly don't really care no one is going to speak perfectly even in their native language there will be words that give people trouble. Unless it is terrible and no effort as been put in it's fine. Especially in when languages have a habit of having dialects and accents so it doesn't really bother me when it's done with a little effort.
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21 / M / Bundaberg, Queens...
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Posted 4/14/17 , edited 5/18/17

Dark_Alma wrote:

No one gets a free pass. Listening to the Japanese try to speak English or German often makes me cry a bit inside. It is the same with people in the USA speaking German/Latin. They fuck those up and it tilts me too.

Then again, I am a native English speaker and I still struggle with English sometimes...


Ah I love hearing Japanese try to speak English especially Japanese singers who sing English with a Japanese accent most people hate it but for me it's music to my ears not sure why but just the broken japaneseified English sounds amazing imo but most people would hate it for sure
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21 / M / Bundaberg, Queens...
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Posted 4/14/17 , edited 4/14/17
Personally I love when people pronounce things in another language with their own dialect/accent especially when singing I love it but to the question people generally play. Jp>Eng. because yknow weaboos
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21 / M / Oppai Hell
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Posted 4/14/17
Uh, yeah, some do. That is the point of shows like Gochiusa. To be cute.
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42 / M / Louisville, Ky
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Posted 4/14/17
Yeah, the English dub of Persona 5 does butcher the crap of Japanese names. And what's worse, they aren't even names that should be difficult to pronounce correctly. I cringe every time they say them. But I also cringe every time an English name is butchered by a Japanese VA, like Graham being pronounced 'Gra-ham'. Unless there really are people who pronounce their names that way, though I've never heard it.

But I admit I'm also very sensitive to it. Growing up there was a certain actress whose first name was spelled the same as my last but was pronounced very differently, so everyone used her way in saying my name. During the graduation ceremony for elementary school, the principal mispronounced my name and nearly broke down and cried.
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25 / M / Ohio, USA
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Posted 4/14/17 , edited 4/14/17
I find it funny and enjoyable when non-native speakers make mistakes. I speak English and I still suck at some English.
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22 / M / U.S.A.
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Posted 4/14/17
I tend to agree. But Atlus typically has what I call the "passable dubs".

That being said, I prefer the Japanese voice pack.
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