Translating Japanese SFX in manga might seem really difficult at first as a beginner but it’s actually a lot easier than you’d think!
Many people want to translate manga but there is not much information on how to start translating manga. This series looks at different aspects of translating manga for beginners, with the aim of helping you be a great manga translation and improve the overall quality of manga translation online.
This post looks at translating sound effects in Japanese manga. For those that don’t know what SFX are, they’re sound effects used in manga to give the reader information through “sound”. (Such as the image on the right.)
But translating Japanese sound effects is not as simple as you might think. This post will discuss some of the challenges that come from translating Japanese sound effects and different ways you can tackle them.
First of all, the best resource for SFX is the Jaded Network’s SFX Dictionary. Bookmark this page if you haven’t already!
Japanese Has More Sound Words Than English
This might be obvious but we do not have as many sounds word in English compared to Japanese. As a result SFX might appear in a manga that don’t have a direct translation in English. This is what causes instances like this in translations (yes that’s an official translation):
The Best Ways Translating Japanese SFX
So what’s the best way to translate SFX? First I would suggest not directly translating the sound. This is because sounds which are natural in Japanese (and which might sound natural to someone who’s learnt Japanese) might not work in English.
For example, the image of the left “すー” can mean “sigh”, “breath”, “slide”, “snore”, depending on the situation. But saying “suu” in English reads strange for people who don’t know Japanese. As you can see, you can judge the best translation based on the image shown and your preferred translation style.
Your own style will depend on, as mentioned the images, but also your preferences. Would you rather a sound or a word that just describes the sound? Both can work depending on the situation.
Here are a few from chapter 1 of After School Dice Club, each translation was made based on the images shown and what would sound most natural in English:
SFX: Bing bong bang bong~ きー！こー！かー！こー！
SFX: screech シャー
SFX: su-click su-click スカスカ
SFX: SPLASH ガッミャー
SFX: bloop プヤー
SFX: splutter ザバー
SFX: jump ビクッ
SFX: jolt ビクッ
SFX: tap tap ポンポン
SFX: Squeak hisss プミュー
SFX: bu~ ブー
SFX: point ビシッ
SFX: jump ビクッ
SFX: za~~ ザァー
SFX: caw カァ カァ
SFX: la la la~ ランランラン