This is the first post of the translation practise series. Lets dive right in. The scan we are using is the opening page of a Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya page from an issue of Shonen Ace.

Working into the first frame of the scan, (Japanese is read from right to left and vertically from the top to bottom) The first line is all Hiragana text and in romanji is read as shikashi maa. The second line is mixed with a kanji and hiragana. In manga aimed at younger people there are often little hiragana symbols printed next to or above to help with the exact pronunciation of the kanji. Taking advantage of this the kanji -hiragana is nan to iu.

The first line – shikashi is an interjection roughly equivalent to however or but and the maa is a feminine injection. So this translates as, running shikashi maa through Google Translate (free webtools FTW!), “but well” with an emphasis on the softer pronunciation since its a girl (Mikuru?) speaking.

The second line is Nan to iu. Looking up Nan in a Kanji Dictionary (or running it through Google Translate) we get “what” with to iu being modifiers. This is where being new to the language hurts a little, Running nan to iu through Google comes out as ‘sake’ (not the rice alcohol). Generally to iu is a modifier that sets up what follows (or previous stated) as ‘what happened’. It does not have a direct translation. Mikuru is setting up the rest of the dialogue in the boxes on the page.

This is why translating is an art, not a science. Japanese with all its use of modifiers and particles does not always translate in a word-for-word manner.

As always comments and clarifications are welcome. Please help us all by giving your input.