International Translation Day 2020: Finding the Words for a World in Crisis

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By Sarah Lindholm, Translation Manager at Funimation

This year’s official International Translation Day theme is COVID-19 inspired: “Finding the words for a world in crisis.”

I’ve only translated one or two things directly related to COVID-19 research, but I feel the pandemic has actually made my anime work more important, too. Around the globe, we are all turning to the arts to get us through this pandemic. That includes the anime medium. I appreciate Colin Decker’s leadership in reminding us of this in each meeting so that we don’t forget!

RELATED: My Experience Researching Ainu for International Translation Day 

My translators are working hard to make sure that simulcasts continue to go up on time, and that dub writers and directors have what they need to operate in this new and strange reality.

We salute all the translators and interpreters out there supporting medical research and public health, and we will do our best to make sure that when frontline workers go home at night, they can kick back and enjoy new episodes of their shows.

It doesn’t always feel like enough, but we take it very seriously, and we know all of you in the anime community take it seriously, too.


A Special Message from Funimation CEO Colin Decker:

At Funimation we have made audio dubbing one of our top priorities for over two decades. Every anime is different, and every one of them is special in their own way. Creating a foreign language dub requires extreme attention to detail, commitment to excellence, and a deep respect for the artists’ visions.

The smart, passionate team of translators at Funimation work tirelessly 24/7 with amazing dedication and critical detail to make sure new series get to the fans as quickly—but also as accurately—as possible. Especially in the last six months, our team has gone to extraordinary lengths to serve fans with great dubs despite the limitations imposed by COVID-19.

I want to thank our translation team for keeping our audience connected to anime across all of our platforms each and every day. Your work behind the scenes should be saluted and spotlighted.


A special thank-you to Colin for those kind and empowering words. I couldn’t be prouder of my team, and I hope you’ll check out their bios below!


Angel Beats Screenshot 1

Name: Kenneth Gray

Year I started translating professionally: 2019

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: One thing I enjoy about anime is that there’s an anime for everything. Sports, gambling, baking bread, cooking, magic, space travel, history, love—you name it, there’s a strong chance there’s a show about it.

So when you translate anime, you’re presented with all these unexpected opportunities to learn about things you might not have encountered otherwise, because you have to do some research to make sure the translation is right. Sometimes it’s a pain, but overall it’s fun.

But also, I’m a sucker for a pun. A pun will almost always get a smirk out of me, even if it’s going to cause a translation headache.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: I’m going to cheat and suggest three shows, since they’re all only one season: Usagi Drop (Bunny Drop), Barakamon and Angel Beats!

They’re all heartwarming shows that feature a protagonist who has to find a new direction in life after finding himself in new and unexpected circumstances.


Kingdom Anime

Name: Nora Stevens Heath

Year I started translating professionally: 1999

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: Hitting upon a really great English rendition of some tricky/punny Japanese text without having to think too hard about it.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: Kingdom. You’ll get blindsided (initially) by all the Chinese names, swept up in the palace/military intrigue, and thoroughly invested in each character’s journey.


Name: David A. Hewitt

Year I started translating professionally: 2001

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: The moments when a character’s “voice” or personality from the original really seems to be coming through in my English translation.

I write fiction as well as translating, and the feeling when the work slips from mechanically piecing words together into kind of falling into the story and “channeling” a character who feels real or alive is, for me, what makes both translation and my own writing so rewarding.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: Let’s be real: you’ve watched them all already. So all I can offer is a “get out of guilt free” card to go back and watch them again. All of them.


Kabukicho Detective's Row Screenshot

Name: Adam Lensenmayer

Year I started translating professionally: 2008

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: Coming up with terrible puns when I translate.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: Case File nº221: Kabukicho. There are plenty of terrible puns!


Name: Katrina Leonoudakis

Year I started translating professionally: 2015

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: Getting into a character’s head and creating their voice in English. There’s something magical about figuring out the small nuances of every character’s voice.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: Ouran High School Host Club. I find myself needing a good pick-me-up every now and then, and rewatching Ouran has brought me tons of laughs and nostalgia. If you’ve never watched it, there’s no better time than now! It still holds up fantastically well, even now.


Name: Jo-Ann Lieu

Year I started translating professionally: 2015

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: Finding a satisfying English equivalent for the unique phrases of Citron from A3! It was challenging but fun!

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.


Yakitate Screenshot Anime Life Skills

Name: Nita Lieu

Year I started translating professionally: 2008

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: Back when I went into the studio for ballet classes, as I was waiting for my class to start one day, one of the moms who goes to my church was telling another mom that I translate anime. The other mom’s daughter is a big anime fan, so when her daughter came out, the mom told her that I translate My Hero Academia.

The daughter got so excited that she asked for my autograph in the lobby of our ballet studio! ^^; It was a little embarrassing at the time, but it’s something that makes all the work we put into MHA worth it.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: Yakitate!! Japan. I actually marathon this every few years, but I have to make sure I have some good bread ready before I start. (It also has some great tips for pandemic bakers!)


Kumamiko Screenshot Animal Anime

Name: Sarah Alys Lindholm

Year I started translating professionally: 2003

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: Judge me if you want, but I get a kick out of character names that are fun to say. These days I love to say the name 上鳴電気 (Kaminari Denki), a character from My Hero Academia. It rolls trippingly off the tongue and makes me smile every time.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: In the 50-episode range, there’s GetBackers (shounen with pretty character designs). In the 26-episode range, Le Chevalier D’Eon (European gender-bending swordplay) or Michiko & Hatchin (powerful female characters in Brazil).

For something shorter and sweeter, Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear. A few of the jokes are risqué, but overall it’s charming.


Name: Anna Cairistiona McDonaugh Maconaughey

Year I started translating professionally: 2018

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: I watched my first anime, Bleach, when I was 12 years old in the summer before high school. I instantly fell in love with the language and ended up binge-watching the total 200 or so episodes at the time.

As someone who was already interested in linguistics and how English and other languages are built and used, translating Japanese quickly became a dream of mine. So whenever I have the privilege to work on one, that alone makes me incredibly happy.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: Cardcaptor Sakura. It’s cute.


Name: Masako Ollivier

Year I started translating professionally: 2003

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: When I translate comedy and feel that I did a good job, it makes me grin thinking that fans can hopefully enjoy the same nuance that the Japanese audience would. I still sometimes think about how I did the SOS episode (Part 5 of Episode 5) in Saiki K. and grin.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: Sorry, I have three. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., Dr. STONE and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.


Name: Michelle Tymon

Year I started translating professionally: 2012

Something about translating anime that makes me smile: That moment I get to see how viewers react to an emotional part of an episode that also moved me while I was working on it, and when I can legitimately include something cute or funny that fits with the original Japanese that people end up enjoying as well.

A good anime to marathon during COVID-19: IDOLiSH7.


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