Open Forum: Translated (More Specificlly, Tagalized) Books

So I watched this video by Faye the Social Potato sometime this week and she unearthed a happy little memory of mine that went something like this:

“Oh, they tagalized *insert popular YA Novel here*, I wonder how they translated the synopsis at the back *reads the synopsis* *nose bleeds* I can read it in English anyway and they probably ruined the story so…”

And so I realized that I was (still am) very whitewashed in this aspect of the reading community. What this blog post is going to be, I’m not sure, but it’s running along the lines of a written reaction – because I can’t do video responses as much as I want to because I don’t have a camera (yet), and sort of an open forum, because I’d like (what little) readers I have to engage this topic.

On the surface, I still can’t communicate well in Filipino – I’m working on that; but I can understand the written text (most of the time). And when I do find tagalized novels in my local bookstore I cringe – but not for the reasons you think.

Here are the reasons why I “get a reaction” every time I see the tagalized books:

  1. I know I SUCK at speaking in Filipino -so my habit of putting myself in the characters shoes becomes harder when they start narrating their life in Filipino while I read becomes very difficult.
  2. AND BECAUSE I SUCK AT SPEAKING, my reading speed infinitesimally decreases. For your average YA contemporary novel, it takes about 4-6 hours for me to finish – provided I have the luxury of time to sit down/lie down/fall down just to read. Make me read a translated novel? It’ll take about 7-10 hours because I have to pause, wipe the blood of my nose, and start questioning my identity as a Filipino.

And so when Faye opens the fact that translated books reach out to those who can’t read because of the language barrier, I’m hit with an epiphany:

The Philippines is very rich, and I don’t mean just the natural resources but in culture. The thing is, the rising trend with recent generations is always something out of a page of another country’s book. K-Pop culture is very apparent, so is the Japanese anime/manga influence and the trend of most of the soaps you see on local television is inspired by the stereotypical Mexican line of story-tell. Additionally, there’s a running theme of American-inspired government on the works but for them – it works; down here – it becomes a gateway for corruption. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but because of the fact that the Philippines is by all historical accounts a melting pot of culture, you could almost forget what is very truly Filipino. Almost.

I have long thought of the idea that Filipinos should take a little more pride on what we can offer to the world, just as every other strong, independent country celebrates a translated and generally well-received novel enter their shelves. This is where the gravity of the reach of the book hits. As Faye says, “[Yaaay!]… more people to fangirl with… or fanboy with!” And because Filipinos (in general) can understand both English and Filipino, we all can discuss in a language we’re most comfortable with – or you can use the English-Filipino love-child dialect called “conyo” if you’re into that.

And then another point rose that never occurred to me – reading the translated books becomes a leeway to learn the language. My friend Ada even raised a point about Kat from Katytastic reading all her favorite books in a different language – I think she said Kat’s reading the Indian release of Harry Potter but I’m not sure. As Faye phrases it as a win-win scenario – you’re reading something you love all the while feeding your need (or want) to improve your skills in the language.

On the topic of translating issues, we have the classic problem of some phrases being translated too literally or a variation of that complication. That can’t be helped because language is alive and constantly evolving – except Latin and Sanskrit and other dead languages. There are words in another language that don’t have an English equivalent and vice versa, so when you try to translate from English to Filipino, there’s bound to be some compromises to make sense of the words and just to make it flow.

Another issue – introduced by Faye, is the fact that the translating industry in the Philippines is tiny, and like most tiny or just-starting-out organizations, there will be instances where the translators themselves are not pros at what they do and make mistakes – or they procrastinate like every one else. Which is why they need our support to help promote the translated book culture. The increase of the demand will of course help cultivate the increase of the quality (in this scenario for that matter) and pretty soon, we’ll be living in a culture where everyone – the English-speaking and the Filipino-speaking, will unite with a mutual love for books.

That’s pretty much the end, I hope you learned something – because I did, and I hope you’ll join me (or support me) in my journey of burying my old English-Elitist self and embrace translated books. Join Faye by subscribing to all her links from the channel I linked above as the Social Potato. Or here it is again because scrolling back up is a struggle.

Until I have anything more to say on anything,



2 thoughts on “Open Forum: Translated (More Specificlly, Tagalized) Books

  1. Faye (@kawaiileena) says:

    I am really glad that you decided to write a written reaction, Enya! I’m always happy when someone out there wants to continue discussing with me about issues like this. Indeed, I think it’s high time we need to change our colonial mentality that English = better. That is not necessarily true, and we need to give enough credit to our own language. It is beautiful, complex, layered and definitely not something to mock or make fun of. How can there even be any comparisons at all, when an English or Tagalog translation are basically the same things, just said in another tongue? Here’s the thing, I know how to read and speak French, too, and I oftentimes read books and comics in the French language to boost my language skills, and I never ever once felt, “Oh, this is in French, I’m sure that they fucked it up because the Japanese did it better.” When the point is given, when the message is given, when the essence is still there, I do not see where is the problem. Filipinos really, in general, should be more open-minded and accepting of the things that are ours. If we are truly proud to be pinoy (as we often post on videos or articles highlighting any Filipino or Filipino culture), then why do we do this to our own mother tongue?

    • Enya says:

      True! I am kind of jealous about the knowing French part – am hoping I’ll be able to get that as an elective on my senior year, but I totally agree with the method and the initiative to improve on language skills by reading the translations. The crab mentality is (sadly) still apparent but I hope with the promotion of the reading and learning culture of the Philippines, we can change that. Someday, Philippine Editions of our favorite novels will be celebrated. Someday.

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