Since I speak three languages, I have also seen a lot of Miyazaki’s works translated in other languages (namely in Italian), and I can’t help but prefer the Italian translations above what they make the characters say in the united states.
I am talking of subtleties here – and they are more cultural than linguistic.
Take for example this dialogue in the movie ‘Ponyo’ ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0876563/ ).
If you have not seen the movie – you should – keep in mind Sosuke is a 5-years old. Ponyo is a fish who changed into a human to be with him because they love each other.
Goddess of Sea: You know that Ponyo was a fish, don’t you?
Goddess of Sea: and you know her as a human. Your drop of blood did that.
Sosuke: Oh, that’s it! I cut my thumb. Then Ponyo licked it and made it better. So that’s how she changed into a human.
Goddess of Sea: Could you love her if she moved between two worlds?
Sosuke: Mm-hm. I love all the Ponyos. It’s a big responsibility, but I really love her.
Now, I really have an issue with that last sentence. Big responsibility? That’s not how my 5 years old talks!
Since I speak three languages, I have also seen the movie in italian: while I can’t tell if that’s truly closer to the original japanese (but I suspect it is), the italian translation is more child-like and pure, and conveys more unconditional love. It sounds roughly like this:
Sosuke: Mm-hm. I love all the Ponyos: Ponyo the fish, Ponyo the human-fish, and the human Ponyo too. I love all of them.
I think it is much sweeter. Down to basics. The way a 5 years old kid really talks.
By contrast, the english translation is more of a ‘what are you expected to be saying from society’ – which, if you ask me, wouldn’t have been necessary, and it gives it, in my opinion, a disturbing twist: it takes the purity out of that moment and makes it some sort of commercial deal or contract!
That ‘it’s a big responsibility, but I really love her’ makes it immediately some sort of tradeoff… should Ponyo start having a guilt trip because Sosuke accepts the ‘responsibility’?
Sosuke doesn’t even see it as a responsibility! He is just manifesting the unconditional love that kids are capable of giving (and many adults forget how to, when they get later obsessed with money or other ‘responsibilities’).
Moreover, what about Ponyo herself – she already did a big effort herself to become a human – and that ‘responsibility’ and that ‘but’ really don’t seem to acknowledge that anymore, and unbalance the situation.
I know, I am such a snob. But words are important, and carry powerful implications.