TFH #2: Words, Words, Words
You've been working on a fun series with killer artwork for a number of volumes, and the publisher comes to you with a request to translate a companion book. (An art book, or the guide book to the anime, or the trivia book, or some such). They offer you a fee that's better than you would usually get paid for translating a normal graphic novel and ask you for an estimate on how long it will take you. You look at it (assuming it's an art book) and see big pages with nothing but pictures (and perhaps a little descriptive paragraph). Sure, there's that section in back where they go into detailed description of the characters and have an extended interview with the author, but just think of all those pages with those very big pictures! And after a cursory reading of the text -- it doesn't look all that hard! So you give them an estimate that allows a little more time than a normal graphic novel. They accept. And you get to work.
The huge picture-only pages go breezing by. You spend a little extra time on the descriptive text because they're supposed to sound poetic, so you overwork your Thesaurus to be sure you get it right. Life is going swimmingly.
Then you hit that back section, and you're in a translation from hell. Your entire world bogs down in the quagmire of words. Yes, WWII fans, you have just plowed through Poland, and you're suddenly confronted with Russia. The words aren't that difficult, it's just like there's so many of them. Whereas you went through dozens of "big picture" pages in a day, your first "lotsa text" page takes the entire day, and you still aren't finished with it.
Suddenly the descriptions use words you didn't notice in the cursory reading. Words that are of some odd dialect of which you are unfamiliar. You ask the Japanese friend who sometimes helps you out on your worst translation problems. "Oh, that's a dialect they use up near Sendai," your friend informs you. The research university library should have a dictionary of that dialect, but it's nowhere to be found (it's in the card catalog, dammit!). You turn the page, and there, waiting for you, are more words.
The deadline comes and goes, and you've only made it through five pages of the 20-page section. And facing you are even more words! The words have surrounded you like brain-hungry zombies, and they want to eat you alive! (Or at least, eat up your time.)
The weird thing is, these TFHs are usually very helpful when you go back to translating the series. You often learn great things in the interview section, or pick up details you might have overlooked in the descriptions that the Japanese editors write. When I translated the Patlabor movies (for the initial Manga Entertainment release), every line of dialog was either very informative and made the story better, or very funny, but there were so many lines! It took me a full day to get through only 5 running minutes of dialog. (I could do an entire Dancougar episode in less than 3 hours.)
But you have to accept the assignment. You're the translator on the series, and nobody (but some of the fans) knows the series better than you do. Fortunately, they don't come along too often, but they'll come along, and you just have to put in some long nights to get it done as quickly as you can. Slog through it, and you'll have a story to tell to other translators later on.