Thanks! Idioms are rarely directly translatable, and are often confusing for young native speakers learning the language because of cultural assumptions and older language; from the translation you have given of the Japanese idiom, I would say that the gist of the idea is there.
Translations are often not word for word, but more a translation of the concept.
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, means, don’t assume all your eggs will hatch. So the translation makes the leap to the concept of the kotowaza, which is, don’t make assumptions about the fruits of your labor.
You are right, I just changed the title to better convey what I wanted to say:
Deconstructing the text made me wonder if I was reading correctly what was translated by Wanikani, I often try to grasp what it is said and then confirm with the translated sentence; this one made me think I wasn’t understanding what was written literally.
Uh… I think my opinion is going to clash with what a lot of people have said on this thread, but my first reaction was like yours: what’s the translation saying? How does that match what the Japanese is saying?
To me, the WaniKani translation is wrong. Sure, we can argue that both translations are part of a series of interconnected actions: you can’t count tanuki pelts without catching one first. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the translation given fails to facilitate full understanding of the Japanese idiom. More importantly, the translation is incongruous: the Japanese sentence translates the English idiom while staying very close to the original: ‘Don’t count the chicks before the eggs have hatched.’ I don’t see why the English translation of the Japanese idiom should stray so far from the original – it completely ignores 「の皮算用」– when both are provided by WaniKani. Granted, it’s almost impossible to preserve the original grammatical structure of the idiom: saying ‘Don’t do pelt counting for uncaught tanuki’ is rather strange in English, especially because ‘pelt counting’ isn’t a common phrase. However, it’s fully possible to say ‘don’t count the pelts of tanuki you haven’t caught’. That’s a completely natural sentence.
This isn’t one of those cases where a translation that’s too literal would be impossible to understand or extremely unnatural (e.g. in Volume 1 of the Konosuba light novel, there’s a sentence on one of the first few pages that translates literally as ‘In the middle of a pure white room, such a thing was announced to me.’ That is unnatural in English, and has to be changed in order to be palatable.) As such, particularly since presenting a similar Japanese idiom should be an opportunity for students to understand that idiom’s actual meaning in order to appreciate the logic behind using it in Japanese, the translation provided ought to be as close to the original as possible, and not simply a ‘soft’ version that completely short-circuits the way the original idiom comes together.
At the end of the day though, I think that we just have to accept that translations aren’t always as close to the original as we’d like them to be, even when such near-literal translations are possible and natural in English. Every translator works with certain deadlines, objectives and constraints. Anime subtitles don’t always match the Japanese either, because a non-literal translation might be easier to understand directly, whereas the original might require context and isn’t as clear. (Never mind dubs, which tend to try to match the animation on screen.) Translations are ultimately nothing more than an aid. We’ll eventually have to break down the Japanese on our own.
I was talking about translations in general. I don’t use WaniKani beyond the forums though, so I’m really just here to defend a certain point of view (namely the reasoning for saying that it’s a ‘mistranslation’, even if we can argue that it’s not totally incorrect). I’ll leave it to someone who actually uses the kanji learning SRS to raise the issue if it bothers them.
I see your point, and the translation given doesn’t ‘conflict’ with what the Japanese says. The gist is similar. In that sense, it’s not completely wrong. However, I think it’s ‘wrong’ in the sense that it’s inaccurate: the word ‘assume’ isn’t anywhere in the Japanese, and even ‘grab’ is a little questionable (if I nitpick) because it can mean both ‘grasp’ (physical, relatively literal) and ‘catch’ (which can be a whole process and implies that the tanuki is captured and loses its freedom). Ultimately, as you said, perhaps we just draw the line differently: I have a preference for near-literal translations, especially for explaining idiomatic expressions like these, and if ‘literal meaning’ is the yardstick, then the translation is ‘wrong’ in the sense that it doesn’t capture all the elements mentioned in the idiom. I guess we’re just using different standards. That’s all.
The fact that this is a sentence that is explaining a piece of Japanese within it does mean that there are more things to consider than just what expresses the meaning the best. For that reason, yes, there is an argument for making it more literal than if you were otherwise just translating the line in isolation. If you were just translating the line in isolation, you would choose the chicken idiom and not mention tanuki at all.
I think we are in agreement on what to do. We mostly disagree on what to call the sentence as it is now… and to me, just because it can be better doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
“Making assumptions” is one of the things that these idioms are warning you about doing, so it seems strange to me to say that “assume” is not in the Japanese. The word isn’t there, but the concept is.
Anyway, since we basically “violently agree” there’s not much reason to continue.
I feel you usually should translate idioms either 1) with an idiom of the target language, so the meaning comes across, or 2) with a literal translation, so that the reader realizes this must be some kind of idiom and can investigate further. What WK has done is just a weird mixture of these two, which in my opinion is just confusing. Doing a literal translation and then morphing that to resemble a similar idiom in English? What?