International Translation Day 2021: United in Translation!

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This year’s International Translation Day theme is “United in translation.”

The nature of translation unites people by making it possible for individuals who speak different languages to understand each other. That seems especially important these days as we work to get through this global pandemic. 

To celebrate this year, we have a special message from Justin Cook, Senior Director of Audio Production and the English voice of Yusuke Urameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho, Eijiro Kirishima from My Hero Academia, and many, many more:

Pulling character out of words is a talent that I’m amazed by. Each choice is an important and instinctive decision that builds a world in our minds, creates tension, paints a picture and fills the experience for the audience. I was once told that there is a word in Japanese that roughly translates to “that hurts my heart.” I’ve heard the term “heavy heart”—good alliteration, even a little poetic, but it doesn’t quite invoke the same sincerity, and that seems a good way as any to express the importance of translation.

When we begin dubbing a series, the first materials we have to reference are the finished animation and the translation. Whether it’s on the video as a subtitle track, or on a file on a computer screen, the translation is our first introduction to how characters speak and act. Knowing their precise word choice, their accents or localizations, how social status and situation affect their speech, and their tone when responding to other characters, are vital to adapting the character faithfully. 

A dependable translation is our touchstone, as adaptors and as an audience, as we enjoy any entertainment brought to us from another culture. And our translation team brings us these touchstones consistently, 25 times a week (and more, including titles we don’t dub), and their work stays with us throughout the entire adaptation, recording, and viewing process. The result of this is that the viewer can watch any episode of Funimation content, in any language we provide, and know that they can trust the experience to be true to the original intent, without losing any emotion or nuance.

This united, exciting experience is our most valued goal, and our translation team makes it a reality.

Thank you for the wonderful message, Justin! This year, our in-house translation team also expanded to include our Latin America translators: Gabriela and Tomoko!

Please join me in welcoming them, and check out our translator bios below.

My Neighbor Totoro International Translation Day

Name: Jason Franzman

Year I started translating professionally: 1991

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people?

I believe that at the heart of most anime is a story—sometimes even important messages—that can be understood by almost anyone, anywhere, as long as the more culturally specific parts are translated in a manner that the target audience can intuitively connect with.

This bridging of the cultural divide through translation can bring together people with different backgrounds and experiences.

An anime that can bring people together: Hayao Miyazaki’s Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) takes place in the idyllic Japanese countryside of the 1950s, a very foreign place to most people outside the country. But the translation does an amazing job of getting across themes such as sadness, childhood wonder and the importance of family.

When we see that other cultures have experiences similar to our own, we realize that we are not really all that different.

iroduku the world in colors

Name: Gabriela Haas-Cronk

Year I started translating professionally: 2016

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people?

I grew up in Brazil watching things from different countries, like American movies, Mexican shows, Japanese anime, etc. Now that it is more accessible, I envision more people being able to enjoy them together around the world, sharing the same experience.

If it weren’t for people translating all those things, my friends, family and I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy them! And I would probably be a totally different person today! 

An anime that can bring people together: Iroduku: The World in Colors. It’s a series about a witch teenager girl who is colorblind and sort of depressed. I think a lot of people can relate to the feelings the show approaches. It also has a cute soundtrack!

Name: Nora Stevens Heath

Year I started translating professionally: 1999

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people?

The act of translation is by its very definition uniting, removing (or easing) the verbal boundaries that keep us apart. Every instance of translation brings together no fewer than two people, and often many more.

An anime that can bring people together: Just about anything from Studio Ghibli, especially Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpieces.  Even people who don’t care for any kind of animation may very well be smitten by these beautiful and so often meaningful films—just ask my mom!

Initial D Screenshot

Name: Paul Koehler

Year I started translating professionally: 2009

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people? 

I’ve seen people introduced to Japanese culture thanks to translations of various items over the years, and in fact it is reading about Japan in English is what got me interested in the country in the first place. 

As I’ve become more experienced as a translator I have a lot more respect for people who are able to translate the meaning of passages without necessarily sticking to the words literally, and the more I know, the more my knowledge expands. I think if many people were able to have an understanding of multiple languages, it would help understanding as a whole.

An anime that can bring people together: I am a big fan of Initial D. It came out when I was an undergraduate student, and while I was never that much of a gearhead, it was easy to relate to the struggles of the main characters and their relationships with others in their world. 

It reminded me of what my English teacher in my freshman year of high school taught us about themes: that they are universal and understood by anyone, no matter what culture they come from. That a story about a bunch of guys doing illegal street racing in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture made sense to a non-gearhead growing up in the Midwest of the United States is quite fascinating!


Name: Katrina Leonoudakis

Year I started translating professionally: 2015

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people?

I’ve started using Twitter more to see how people are reacting to different shows, and it always blows me away how fans from so many different countries can all unite over the same scenes and shows!

I may not speak the Brazilian Portuguese that’s subtitled onto the screen-cap, but I know what scene that is AND why it’s so funny! I’m so glad that anime, through translation, can bring people together.

An anime that can bring people together: Baccano! has a little bit of something for everyone: action, comedy, romance, and a spectacular sub and dub!

How Can I Get My Significant Other Into Anime?

Name: Nita Lieu

Year I started translating professionally: 2008

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people?

This is more about interpreting than translation, but pre-COVID, I used to interpret at anime conventions a few times a year, and it was always fun to see how the audience came together during a panel, laughing at a joke or just reacting to something that was said, even if the panelist wasn’t speaking in the audience’s native language. 

An anime that can bring people together: Your Name. It’s a movie, so it’s a low time commitment and easy to watch with non-anime fans, plus there’s lots to unpack and talk about afterwards. 

Name: Sarah Alys Lindholm

Year I started translating professionally: 2003

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people?

One of the main things in life that unites people is humor. So it’s beautiful to see a well-translated or well-interpreted joke that gets people from different language backgrounds all laughing together. I think being able to laugh together reminds us that we’re all human.

An anime that can bring people together: The fan communities that spring up around certain anime are just special. Yuri!!! on ICE is a great example. I’ve see people from different ages, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations all get together at events just to share their joy over that show. 

Name: Anna Cairistiona McDonaugh Maconaughey

Year I started translating professionally: 2018

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people? 

I grew up playing the English versions of JRPGs with my older brother. Things like Final Fantasy and Persona. Had they not been translated, my brother and I might not have gotten as close as we are now.

An anime that can bring people together: Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children). It’s a wholesome anime movie about a mum raising her half-wolf, half-human children. It’s incredibly cute and the mum in it is so inspiring. My mum loved it and she normally doesn’t have much interest in anime.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Name: Masako Ollivier

Year I started translating professionally: 2003

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people?

I’m not sure if you’d call this “uniting,” but growing up in Japan, I read a lot of foreign books and watched many U.S. movies and TV shows with the help of translation. It helped me become open-minded towards other cultures. I think translation can help people in different cultures understand each other better.

An anime that can bring people together: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind—I suspect that a lot of us share the same kind of feeling after watching it.

Your Name. Wallpaper

Name: Tomoko Ono

Year I started translating professionally: 2017

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people?

I can say that I am here today thanks to translators/interpreters and bilingual dictionaries! When my dad, who is Japanese, first arrived in Colombia, he didn’t know a word of Spanish. And to my mom, he was the first foreigner she had ever seen in her life, so she didn’t know any other language besides Spanish.

So, to this day, it’s still a mystery how they could communicate, but it definitely wouldn’t have been possible without help!

After that, they stayed in touch by mail, so my dad tells us that he would receive a letter from my mom, take it to a translator who would translate it into Japanese, then he would respond in Japanese, bring it back to the translator so he would translate it into Spanish, then transcribe it and send it back to my mom. 

An anime that can bring people together: I will go with Your Name. too! In a certain way, this movie seemed to portray the story of me and my husband. We met at school in Yotsuya Station, so all the scenes in the area were familiar to us! Then, when we parted ways, it very much felt like destiny and a leap of faith brought us back together!

In fact, the song that we chose for our first dance as newlyweds was “Nandemonaiya,” and we made sure everybody watched the movie too! Localization made it possible for our friends and family to understand a bit about the background history behind our marriage :).


Name: Michelle Tymon

Year I started translating professionally: 2012

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people? 

This might be a simple concept, but I believe our work as anime translators unites people together all the time. I believe that our job as anime (or any kind of media) translators is to let viewers watching the anime, or whatever it may be, experience the same emotions that viewers who understand the original language are experiencing.

Being able to experience that and find love and enjoyment in something that so many people around the world also enjoy is a great way to bring people together. Keeping the character voices is very important to me when I translate, so I always try my best to make sure that the characters still sound the same in English, while also making sure all of the dialogue sounds natural.

I think doing that helps people enjoy the series the same way the viewers did in the original language.

An anime that can bring people together: IDOLiSH7 (I realize people just expect this from me by now lol). I know I sound crazy every time I bring this up, but all seasons of IDOLiSH7 are absolutely beautiful and well-written.

This anime and franchise has brought together so many people around the world who enjoy this series and it created one of the nicest, most welcoming fandoms I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone just wants to share their love and excitement for this series and the series is filled with so many relatable characters and situations.

This was a series that unexpectedly helped me through some hard times in my own life. So it’s been wonderful meeting so many others who went through similar situations, but now we can all share our love and excitement for something that makes us happy.

Robot Carnival

Name: William Varteresian

Year I started translating professionally: 2014

How have you seen translation unite people, or how do you envision it uniting people?

My background is in literature, and it always impresses me to see the way people in different cultures and areas of the world form their own communities around shared interest in a text or group of texts once the language barrier is even partially removed. The font of creativity that can spring from cross-cultural infusions of concepts and stylistic elements is an endless source of fascination.

An anime that can bring people together: Robot Carnival—this eclectic anthology of shorts covers a wide range of genres and styles in a 90-minute runtime, offering something for people of various tastes. Comparing favorite segments after viewing can also be a great way to learn more about the people you watch it with.