Post Reply How to write Japanese dialog
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Posted 7/9/17 , edited 9/7/17
I've been meaning to ask this for a while, but does anyone have an idea how to write Japanese dialog and tone? The dialog and tone between the subs and dubs can very different or maybe even close or even both.

An interesting example here is Pocket Monster/Pokemon which seems to retain both, sort of. Let's start with the English version first and if it's wrong in anyway, apologies, but there were no captions and had to be typed by ear.


Serena: Ash!

Ash: I'm sorry. (Pause) I shouldn't have just left you like that.

Serena: Ash, if something is bothering you, you can talk to me. I'll listen (slight pause) anytime you want. (Here it seems Serena stutters on the I'll part) Seriously, anytime, anywhere. I know how you feel, I've been there. Remember when I really goofed at the show.

(Ash interrupts her here)

Ash: You don't have a clue how I feel!

Serena: Then tell me about it!

Ash: It's none of your business! Leave me alone!

(A snowball hits him on the back of the head)

Serena: The Ash I know is full of energy. He's a leader, always tries his best. He's always positive and he never gives up. He hangs in there until the very end. YOU’RE NOT ACTING LIKE THE ASH I KNOW! (Keep in mind that she's throwing snowballs at Ash at this point) Stop! Give me back the real Ash, because you sure aren't him!

(Runs away)


Surprisingly, it sort of retains its tone from the original dialog, but there are time where it does falls back into its dubbing habit. So now here's the Japanese version, which was subbed.

(For those who don't know, Satoshi is Ash's name in Pocket Monsters; it's being used here for continuity)


Serena: Satoshi!

Satoshi: Sorry (Pause here) for running away like this...

Serena: You know, if there's something making you feel sad try talking to me I'll listen to anything you have to say. If I could be even a little bit of help to you... I understand how you feel Satoshi. When I failed at the Tripokalon I...

Satoshi: What could you possibly understand Serena!

Serena: Well, then tell me!

Satoshi: This is my problem! Leave me alone!

(Snowball hit him in the back of the head)

Serena: The Satoshi I know... he's always cheerful and leads everyone. He tries very hard and is always positive. He would not give up until the end. (throws more snowballs at Satoshi) That's why, I... I... Acting like you are right now, you aren't Satoshi at all!

(Runs away)


Here Serena is more straight forward with her feelings with Satoshi then with her and Ash. She does say I twice, but it's important to the dialog as it's leading to her frustration and outbust to Satoshi, something that's common in dialog like this.

So that's just a sample, I was wondering, how can you imitate this style of dialog and tone in writing, making it sound closer to it's source? Should anyone even try? Hopefully this question makes sense.

Thanks alot!

EDIT: Here's the scene in question, Japanese first, then English.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOI8gFiD3AA
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Posted 7/9/17

Tandoku wrote:

I've been meaning to ask this for a while, but does anyone have an idea how to write Japanese dialog and tone? The dialog and tone between the subs and dubs can very different or maybe even close or even both.

An interesting example here is Pocket Monster/Pokemon which seems to retain both, sort of. Let's start with the English version first and if it's wrong in anyway, apologies, but there were no captions and had to be typed by ear.


Serena: Ash!

Ash: I'm sorry. (Pause) I shouldn't have just left you like that.

Serena: Ash, if something is bothering you, you can talk to me. I'll listen (slight pause) anytime you want. (Here it seems Serena stutters on the I'll part) Seriously, anytime, anywhere. I know how you feel, I've been there. Remember when I really goofed at the show.

(Ash interrupts her here)

Ash: You don't have a clue how I feel!

Serena: Then tell me about it!

Ash: It's none of your business! Leave me alone!

(A snowball hits him on the back of the head)

Serena: The Ash I know is full of energy. He's a leader, always tries his best. He's always positive and he never gives up. He hangs in there until the very end. YOU’RE NOT ACTING LIKE THE ASH I KNOW! (Keep in mind that she's throwing snowballs at Ash at this point) Stop! Give me back the real Ash, because you sure aren't him!

(Runs away)


Surprisingly, it sort of retains its tone from the original dialog, but there are time where it does falls back into its dubbing habit. So now here's the Japanese version, which was subbed.

(For those who don't know, Satoshi is Ash's name in Pocket Monsters; it's being used here for continuity)


Serena: Satoshi!

Satoshi: Sorry (Pause here) for running away like this...

Serena: You know, if there's something making you feel sad try talking to me I'll listen to anything you have to say. If I could be even a little bit of help to you... I understand how you feel Satoshi. When I failed at the Tripokalon I...

Satoshi: What could you possibly understand Serena!

Serena: Well, then tell me!

Satoshi: This is my problem! Leave me alone!

(Snowball hit him in the back of the head)

Serena: The Satoshi I know... he's always cheerful and leads everyone. He tries very hard and is always positive. He would not give up until the end. (throws more snowballs at Satoshi) That's why, I... I... Acting like you are right now, you aren't Satoshi at all!

(Runs away)


Here Serena is more straight forward with her feelings with Satoshi then with her and Ash. She does say I twice, but it's important to the dialog as it's leading to her frustration and outbust to Satoshi, something that's common in dialog like this.

So that's just a sample, I was wondering, how can you imitate this style of dialog and tone in writing, making it sound closer to it's source? Should anyone even try? Hopefully this question makes sense.

Thanks alot!


Listen bro i'm not schooled in Japanese so this may not be relevant, but I do speak two languages and a bit of a third. And what that has taught me is that when translating words/sentences the original integrity of the sentence (dialogue) and how it was spoken(tone) is not always maintained. There are words in languages that do not translate over to other languages. As well as when translating something it does not always retain it's original order thus making it extremely hard to translate something in order to get the same message across and simultaneously maintain the tone in which it was spoken.
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Posted 9/7/17 , edited 9/7/17

amejia0 wrote:

Listen bro i'm not schooled in Japanese so this may not be relevant, but I do speak two languages and a bit of a third. And what that has taught me is that when translating words/sentences the original integrity of the sentence (dialogue) and how it was spoken(tone) is not always maintained. There are words in languages that do not translate over to other languages. As well as when translating something it does not always retain it's original order thus making it extremely hard to translate something in order to get the same message across and simultaneously maintain the tone in which it was spoken.


I know that, but still look at someone like Funimation, even if they have change the dialog, they can still keep the tone of the scene, thus imitating the style.

Just wondering how you can imitate that "tone" of dialog and style when you write. If you are saying it's not possible, I'd like to really know. :)

EDIT: Sorry I'm bumping up an old thread.

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Posted 9/7/17
I'm rather confused by your questions. Are you just asking how people translate Japanese text? Some of your points feel like you are talking about the creative writing of a new scene in the tone of a Japanese conversation with no translation required.

Translation and creative writing are two completely separate art forms with different considerations.
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Posted 9/7/17

MidoriNoTora wrote:

I'm rather confused by your questions. Are you just asking how people translate Japanese text? Some of your points feel like you are talking about the creative writing of a new scene in the tone of a Japanese conversation with no translation required.

Translation and creative writing are two completely separate art forms with different considerations.


Ah, there's the confusion!

I'm talking about writing a story (not translating) in the tone of Japanese dialog or at least close enough anyway. (Creative writing). Hope that's more accurate with my question.

The reason why the scenes from Pokemon were put up was the comparison of the scene with both versions. It's interesting, since the english CAN come close to the original tone and yet retains something of an english translation, making it sort of lose it's effect if that makes any sense. (It probably doesn't.)

Again sorry about not being specific.
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Posted 9/8/17
Okay, that's fine.

If it isn't a translation then you don't have to worry too much about finding similar words that will come reasonably close to lip synching with the Japanese animation.

Some key aspects of Japanese dialogue you should consider:

Real life Japanese sounds very different to anime Japanese. Anime characters are almost always louder, more abrupt and more informal than real life conversation. Watch a Japanese drama here or even the anime Peeping Life to hear the differences in tone and conversation speed (though note that even they are performances). Decide whether you are trying to emulate anime dialogue or real life dialogue (either choice is fine but gives different considerations).

Japanese dialogue in anime often relies on the abilities of the actor to convey the message over actual words. For example, one anime I watched had a character call out a name and the tone carried enough nuances that the English translators replaced that 1 name with two sentences of text (though that may be more of a comment on the perceived intelligence of their audience). A written work will lack the skills of an actor to add nuance.

Japanese often uses implied pronouns. For example someone may say "reading a book" meaning "I'm reading a book." You may struggle to replicate the tone of dialogue precisely with the need to add specific pronouns.
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Posted 21 days ago , edited 21 days ago
Um, I think this is getting over my head a bit. I sort of get it, but there are parts which still are confusing.
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Posted 20 days ago
Without speaking or at least making a study of Japanese then it’s hard to understand what MidoriNoTora is saying in terms of formality and implied pronouns. But everything he says is very accurate.

Japanese is an extremely different language from English in terms of structure, but in many ways is a much simpler language. If your trying to imitate a Japanese aesthetic in English creative writing it would be useful to at least understand some basics of Japanese sentence structure and the culture behind the language. That just boils down to studying and really diving into the subject.

As far as Pokémon goes as an example of maintaining style and tone, it as a series is fairly notorious for making sweeping changes to translation because it’s targeted to kids who may not grasp the original intent of the Japanese story or text. As Midori pointed out, that is a “comment on the perceived intelligence of their audience”.

As with any creative writing, the more you know about your subject matter the easier it is to write about. So as I said before, study, study, study, and it’ll get easier.
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Posted 20 days ago

Tandoku wrote:

Um, I think this is getting over my head a bit. I sort of get it, but there are parts which still are confusing.


Sorry for confusing you.

Rather than focus on replicating Japanese dialogue, it may help if you can define what aspects of the dialogue you like. For example, is it the general politeness, the emotions portrayed, the pacing or the vocabulary? If you are able to focus on a particular issue there will be online resources in English to help creative writers develop those aspects, like the blog below about adding emotion.

http://avajae.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/how-to-write-emotion-effectively.html

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