In 2014 I became a member of the Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love translation project. The project is about localizing a game called いろづきチンクルの恋のバルーントリップ, Ripening Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love (tentative English title) into English. It’s the successor to Freshly Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupee Land, an adventure game starring Tingle from the The Legend of Zelda games.

There’s lots of text to translate for that game, and lots of characters speaking in many different styles and dialects. This means there’s always something I’m not familiar with that I have to look up, ask people about, and search the internet for. Today I’d like to talk about an interesting sentence construction that appears in the game’s dialogue.

Don’t spoil this for me!

There is this old man who sits around waiting to hand out hints to people who are stuck in the game. I call him the Spoiler Hermit. It’s a really neat system, you just go to a save point anywhere in the game, and there he’ll sit and give you a hint if you talk to him.

Spoiler Hermit

Sweet ride, huh?

In one scene of the game, Tingle and his friends are trying to get inside a log cabin. The door seems to be locked from the inside. The Spoiler Hermit gives Tingle this hint:

ログハウスの ドア ・・・ おぬしが あけなければ だれが あけるのじゃ ! いくら カカシくんが こやのなかに はいれるからといって ・・・ なんでも たにんの ちからに たよるのは かんしんせんぞ。

“The door of the log cabin… If you won’t open it, who will? ???

The first attempt to analyze

The bold sentence didn’t make any sense to me at all. Read my first naive analysis (this will be super wrong, don’t be mad!):

Kana English
いくら how much
カカシくん Kakashi (a name)
こや hut; cabin
なか inside
はいれる to be able to enter
から because
…といって quotation mark
なんでも by all means; anything; everything
たにん another person; other people
ちから strength
たよる to rely on
かんしんせんぞ I have no idea

How does “Because how much Kakashi can enter the cabin you say… By all means relying on other people’s strength かんしんせんぞ” sound? No. That doesn’t make sense in any language.

Inspiration strikes

After reading and re-reading this sentence over and over, at some point my idiom sense started to tingle! Yes, there is such a thing. And I think I’m finally beginning to develop one for Japanese. It’s the feeling you get when you read a string of seemingly non-related words that don’t make sense in combination. In this case, I got the impression that 「いくら…からといって」might be a Japanese idiom, not to be taken literally but as a set phrase with a fixed meaning.

When I suspect an idiom at play, the first thing I do is rush over to weblio to try my luck. As it turns out, …からといって is the actual idiom here, and it means “while it may be true that…” or “just because…”

With this knowledge, a new translation attempt for the first half of the sentence might be, “Just because how much Kakashi can enter the cabin…” Still a bit iffy, and at the time I didn’t have any idea how this sentence might fit in with the others surrounding it, or how its meaning might make sense within the context of the game.

Unwieldy words

Another thing that had me stumped was the meaning of かんしんせんぞ. If you put that into jisho, it throws up its arms and goes IDKLOL. One of the problems language learners have with games that are completely in kana, no kanji, is that it can be incredibly hard to parse sentences, break them down into words. My best guess was that かんしん was one word; one of 感心, 関心, or a few other homonyms. The ぞ is probably the sentence ending particle ぞ used by males to express emphasis. This leaves us with the せん. No idea what this could mean here or how it connects to the surrounding kana.

Putting it in the hand of fate

After struggling with this by myself for quite some time, asking fellow language learners for help, and struggling by myself some more, I followed the advice of a fellow learner and posted the entire block of text on hinative.com, asking for a translation by native speakers of Japanese. I didn’t have high hopes, because there wasn’t a lot of context, and no kanji, and much desolation all around. Imagine my surprise when just a few minutes later, a kind Japanese person provided me with a translation and a bit of explanation.

Who will open the door of the log house, if you won’t do it !
I don’t think it’s not good that you depend everything on someone, even though Kakashi-kun can enter in it !
だと思います…^^;

My thanks go out to this kind person, and also to hinative, which I assumed couldn’t help me, but did!

Second attempt, armed with knowledge

So let’s tear into it! Apparently, my latest attempt at the first half of the Japanese sentence (which has become the second half of the English sentence) was already pretty close to the mark, although here we see no mention of “how much”. Well, it makes more sense without it anyway, so let’s not worry about that now. The  からといって has been translated as “even though”. Also, there is “depend everything on someone”, aka, “relying on other people’s strength”, so far, so good. But where on earth does “I don’t think it’s not good…” (I’m assuming an accidental double negation here) come from? By process of elimination, this should be the translation of かんしんせんぞ. To get some more insight, I asked the same person a follow-up question:

Me:I have a question: what does かんしんせん mean in this context?

Kind stranger:かんしんせん=かんしんしない(感心しない)
It means like “I think it’s not good of? you” in this case.
(あなたが〜するのは)いいことだと思わない。

So, first of all, かんしんせん is 感心せん, which in turn is 感心しない, which means, “I think it’s not good (that you do that)”, or I guess, “I don’t appreciate (that you do that)”. Wow. Now I’m really glad I asked a native speaker, because I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that on my own. Even now, looking up 感心, 感心する, or 感心しない, just gives me the result of 感心する: to admire. That the negation to not admire/don’t admire could mean to think it’s not good is not immediately obvious to me, so that’s where the advantage of a native speaker comes into play. Of course, this may be easier for native speakers of English, or some other language; maybe it’s just my German mind that can’t make the connection.

Loose ends

Finally, re-reading the sentences while writing this article today, the how much (いくら) still bothered me, so I looked it up on jisho. Turns out the word also means even; even if, which is precisely what it means in this sentence. Had I looked it up earlier, maybe understanding would’ve hit sooner. The lesson here is: Don’t be a snob! If you have trouble with a piece of text, look up each and every word of it, even if you’re certain you know their meaning. Often there are secondary meanings and sneaky usages that you don’t know yet.

Conclusion

Taking all this into consideration, I’ll settle on this translation:

Who will open the door, if not you? Just because Kakashi can get in there, doesn’t mean you should rely on him for everything.

This doesn’t correspond completely to the original for a number of reasons, including fitting the sentences into the surrounding context, character limitations, and trying to make it sound more English. I think this fits well into the speech the Spoiler Hermit gives at this point of the game. If you should ever play it, you’ll find these exact words if you get stumped while trying to get into the log cabin and ask the Spoiler Hermit for guidance, and you’ll remember this day and the story of how those words were found.

いろづきチンクルの恋のバルーントリップ and もぎたてチンクルのばら色ルッピーランド are trademarks of Vanpool, inc. Tingle and チンクル are trademarks of Nintendo Co., Ltd.

Categories: Japanese

4 Comments

のぞみ · January 3, 2016 at 5:27 pm

うあ!先輩は賢いです。この記事が好きて、面白かったですわよ。新しい記事楽しみに。頑張ってください。

Emin · January 5, 2016 at 10:49 pm

This was a tough one. I’m really happy for you that it worked out.

Actually you make me want to do more indepth reading myself. Reading something and letting the context speak to oneself is one thing, but I wonder if this would be enough for grammar. 😀

Reading a lot but without extensive grammar analysis VS Reading slowly but disect the sentence completely. Any thoughts on that?

waldrumpus · January 6, 2016 at 6:13 pm

Actually, I have a hard time reading whenever I try to analyze and understand every single sentence. The slowdown really destroys my enthusiasm, and frustrations builds. So usually, I do my best to understand things while still reading at a comfortable pace.
Actually, the reason I started this blog was to try and force myself to analyze some sentences in more depth. Writing about it really forces me to analyze thorougly. I do the dissecting for a few choice sentences, while going for a speedier pace in day-to-day reading, sacrificing some comprehension.

    emin · January 12, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    That is a very nice way of doing it. I shall see which suits me best. Thank you.

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