Bonus Anniversary Content: The Thama's Edits Guide to Editing MTL
Gather ‘round children and listen well to hear about our tricks of the trade! Since we’ve been doing this for a year that means we’re experts right?... Right?
So obviously this has been quite the process of trial and error for us...
After a year editing this novel, here is our method. Whether it is the most efficient or not, we don’t know, but it works for us so here goes!
First, we obtain the novel raws from the official site Kakaopage (this itself is quite a process and could be a whole other breakdown).
Then we machine translate the text in the two most common English-Korean translators: Google Translate and Papago.
Once that is done, we create an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet where we can layout both translations side by side and have the raw Korean text on hand to reference if we need it.
(A little sneak peak at Chapter 244, which we are currently working on!)
As you can see, there are a lot of variations between the Papago and Google versions. Sometimes there are only minor differences….
And sometimes you get stuff like this 💀:
Which is hilarious but annoying at the same time. That is when we need to start wracking our brains to figure out the real meaning. This is why the process of decoding MTL is probably 80% of the process when we edit our chapters.
For that purpose we also reference other machine translation sites: Flitto, Systran and occasionally Baidu.
And we get this:
Here we are lucky since Flitto’s version (in red) gives us the most logical translation. But if none of the 4 MTL sites did a good job or something still looks off we consult other online sources.
We use most often use the English-Korean online dictionary Naver, but also Google, language learning forums, and other Korean encyclopedias if necessary. Over time we’ve collected a bunch of resources on everything from grammar, to Korean swear words and cultural references.
For example, in chapter 241 that you probably just read:
(Yes, google translate sometimes inexplicably outputs emojis instead of text and it’s very odd and kind of funny. Unfortunately we have no idea what ~uwu~🥺 translates to in English)
Not only did Thamalasca have to figure out the ‘Yellow’ stuff at the end, but she needed to call back on previous chapters of the story to get the most probable interpretation. That is why she left a note (in purple) explaining to the future proofreader what she found out and why she extrapolated the sentence to get the edit.
One of these isn't too bad but when you have to deal with a lot of them it gets exhausting.
Like this tidbit from chapter 23:
This was so not fun to figure out because the translation is only giving random single words that don't resemble actual human speech. This edit was ultimately accomplished by using the dictionary a lot and plenty of contextual extrapolation.
Even though the initial edit is one stage of the process you have to do a lot of different things.
Step 1. Trying to understand what the MTL means in context.
Step 2. Rephrasing the sentence it so that it sounds like something an actual human would write, think or say and making sure the meaning is retained.
Step 3. Making sure your Proofreader understands how you got from point A to B and explaining cultural references and idioms.
MTL tends to dumb meanings down and make them overly literal. They are stripped of context - things like sarcasm, politeness, tone, and word choice get warped or lost so it sometimes feels like interpreting a fragmented children's book.
Learning to edit MTL is a process because there are so many pitfalls, phrases or words that would be intuitive for a native speaker to read can be turned into gibberish by machine translations.
MTL can give you a decent idea of what a sentence says but often has nonsensical sentence structure, no proper verb tenses and the wrong pronouns since Korean often doesn’t specify pronouns like I, she, he, it or they.
Seriously, give it a shot, try to guess what the order of events is here or what each person in this fight is doing - Chapter 216:
Some of the pronouns are correct and some aren’t and you have to do this line by line. It’s easy if you do a few sentences at a time but a single chapter can run up to 200-300 lines on a spreadsheet.
The only upside(?) is that you eventually get used to some of the ways the MTL constantly messes up so you can spot the issues.
And then we get the idioms, which you might be familiar with since we usually put an editor’s note about them. For those we have to google it and pray someone has explained it somewhere on the internet.
Like in chapter 240 that was recently published:
We found this idiom on a helpful site.
(Unfortunately it isn’t always this easy…)
And then you get cultural references like this one from chapter 231, which also has a mistranslation mixed in:
In that case you have to dig deep to find the answer so you can finally interpret the text and make a proper edit. Google is your friend here.
Once we’ve finished our chapter we put it in word or google docs format so the proofreader can go through it. We also often take a second pass in document form to make sure the sentences flow well together, the paragraphs are logical, and the dialogue reads naturally.
(We proofread each other, but Rina is our best English speaker so she often does them…)
A pre-proofread draft looks like this:
We leave our comments in coloured text under the normal text so the proofreader knows which is which. We also leave fun comments for each other on what we think of the chapter or characters as well!
Here is what a proofread chapter with personal comments looks like! Thamalasca has proofread Rina’s chapter:
This is probably one of the most fun parts of the process.
Chapter 200 - Rina proofreading Sam’s chapter. Rina has some questions about Kyle's arm...
Chapter 3 - Thamalasca proofreading Rina’s chapter. The joys of literal translation...
Chapter 234 - Thamalasca proofreading Rina’s chapter. Who's riding who??
Chapter 17 - Sam proofreading Rina’s chapter. RE: Your Master ripping off your clothes.
Proofreaders make suggestions and it’s up to the one who edited the chapter to accept the changes or not.
Then the editor goes through the proofread and makes their corrections to get the final version of the chapter.
And that is the version that we post on the website (with the occasional future correction)!
As you can see, it truly is a labour of blood, sweat and tears but also plenty of love and sheer willpower. It's certainly a lot more fun to do with friends than alone!
Thanks for reading along and reading our edits!
- The Thama's Edits Team