Again On Wikipedia: Book Girl

This is a case study on how a horrible translation can cause annoyance and distort the knowledge to be passed to the next generations. This also shows how a flexible approach should be taken, since the officially ‘reliable’ sources don’t always reflect the generally accepted view among the community.

Search in English Wikipedia for Bungaku Shoujo, you’ll be redirected to a page titled Book Girl. I’m sure you’ll feel the title a bit comical, perhaps smile at it, only if you haven’t watched the anime or read the novel yet.

Book Girl is the title for the English translation of Bungaku Shoujo, a Japanese novel series. I don’t know if what the translator had in his mind, or whether he felt awesome for ‘not translating literally’, when he chose that title. The English title has drops of truth in it – the heroine literally feeds on books. However, digging a bit deeper into the story will reveal a grave blunder the translator had done.

The title Book Girl seriously undervalues the heroine’s character and personality. It gives an impression that the heroine is simply a girl who eats books, while in the story, she’s much more than that. She feeds on literature: the plot, the characters, all the nuances it brings, and gets her fulfillment from them. She could vividly imagine what’s going on in a story, while at the same time keenly analyze the quality of the work and literally taste it, much more than simply eating books. That’s why Literature Girl or Literary Girl is a more appropriate translation. All fan-translations and even ANN use this title translation.

This is why a translation job should only be handled out to a competent translator who also loves the piece he’s working on. The said translator can see what’s not seen by an ordinary professional translator without any emotional attachment to it. A famous adage, “Without love it can’t be seen” holds true in this field.

As for Wikipedia, they need to be a bit more flexible. ‘Verifiable sources’ are not always the most correct.

PS: I really want to smack Yen Press’ translator for ruining a good novel. He deserves something worse than Chuck’s roundhouse kick.

Again On Wikipedia: Book Girl