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Live From Europe

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has been busy, and we’re the better for it. It’s been about a year and a half since he introduced Fleen readers to Maliki, which is typical of French autobioish webcomics — not necessarily true to life, possibly exaggerated to the point of riduculousness in search of the funny. Really, nearly the entire French webcomics community would feel right at home in Jeffrey Rowland’s reality.

And if there’s one thing that FSFCP loves as much as introducing we New World types to French webcomics, it’s digging down into how things are made. With that in mind, he sought Chloé and Sergane, who are contributing the English translations of Maliki. Take ‘er away, FSFCPL!

This interview was conducted in English over Twitter DMs on September 26th 2017; it has been edited for house style.

Fleen: Could you introduce yourselves to Fleen readers?

Chloé: Hello Fleen readers, I’m Chloé, originally from Bordeaux in France, but I’ve been living in Dublin for 9 years now.

Sergane: Hi everyone, I am a digital artist currently working at ILM. I’ve lived in the Pacific Island of Vanuatu for all my childhood and studied in France. I’ve been living in London for three years.

Fleen: Maliki strips were historically translated by Mali herself, then about a year ago a small mention Fan translation started appearing at the bottom of new English strips. Can you tell us how the collaboration came to be?

Sergane: At the time I was listening every day to the Maliki radio and I was often in the chat room speaking with fellow fans, many of which became trusted friends. One day Becky approached us asking if anyone was bilingual in English to help her out with the translations and I said I was. I’ve been doing them alongside Becky ever since.

Chloé: That’s so cool. I was bold and DMed Maliki on Twitter asking if they’d like a hand.

Sergane: Chloé arrived a few months ago to propose her services, as she is a professional translator. Her input proved invaluable, as she managed to get our work truly to the next level. The translations are now much more efficient and punchy than they were when I was on my own. I was doing my best and had no idea it could be so improved.

Fleen: That leads into my next question: how do you split the work between you two?

Chloé: Well, since I joined, Sergane has been quite busy getting married and all, so I do most of the translations and he proofreads, comes up with fancy titles, and so on. Mascot Hell’s Kitten was fully translated by Sergane and I proofread.

Sergane: So now it’s usually Chloé who does most of the heavy lifting, and I correct after her. Sometimes we trade places but she can work on the translation right away on Monday evening [Author’s note: when Maliki has just completed the strip, and it is posted to Tipeee sponsors] while I can only usually work during my breaks on Tuesday. Also, yeah, I got married and also because living in London is so wonderful I get to move house another time, it’s been five times in three years and it’s never a pleasant experience. London is a very expensive and demanding city.

Chloé: Don’t come near Dublin …

Fleen: So in a way, Chloé is bringing her professional translator skills, and Sergane his native English upbringing cred?

Sergane: I don’t know, most of all I think it’s good that we know we can both rely on the other. The most important thing is to get the job done as best as we can and on time. The key online is consistency. And also the idea is to lighten Maliki and Becky’s load so they can focus on their craft.

Chloé: Hem, I probably bring the native fluency and Sergane the pop culture references to be fair. I haven’t worked as a professional translator for about 8 years now, but I did get good methodologies. Yeah, I think we’re getting faster, more consistent and altogether more efficient.

Fleen: That’s interesting, because I wanted to ask, what are your latitudes to replace references, e.g. songs or poetry, as seen as recently as Sensory Combo and That time of year thou mayst in me behold?

Chloé: That depends on what Maliki intended in the strip. If it’s just a song she liked, we can localize it as we like (she gets final say), but if the reference or song has a specific meaning for the strip, then it’s the proper localization work that starts. What does it says, who is the target audience, what would an English speaker recognize, etc.

Sergane: So this is a great question, we have a lot of latitudes, and when we feel we’re going overboard we get approval directly from Maliki. Mascot was the hardest to translate. The language is fairly simple but there are so many injokes and references and puns it sometimes drove me crazy trying to find something that worked. Other than that, first you need to spot the reference in French and sometimes they can be quite subtle, so what we try to do is adapt the jokes to an English-speaking world culture.

Sergane: So the title of this week’s strip is a good example. First we wanted to simply use the translation from Verlaine but I did some digging and found this famous sonnet by Shakespeare and thought it would speak better to our English readers than a translation of Verlaine.

Chloé: Mascot was soo tough … the double-entendres in particular.

Fleen: I feel your pain … What kind of technical constraints do you have, for space in particular?

Sergane: Space was an issue at first, especially for me, as you may have seen I like my long and drawn out sentences, so I would sometime make a sentence longer than needed just to make sure the meaning got through. Now with Chloé it’s much easier and normally, English uses less space than French so it’s not that complicated. And when we go overboard, Becky tells us and we correct on the spot.

Chloé: Not that much to be honest. Becky is able to adjust the size of the speech bubbles a little so that helps. It can be a bit hard to have the same meaning in the same amount of characters in both languages.

Sergane: See, she sums it all up nice and tight, Chloé is a godsend!

Fleen: Yes, I did the converse for both comics and computer user interfaces, and it’s impossible not to be longer at times when going from English to French, it’s easier when going to English.

Fleen: Have you felt some pressure for particularly significant strips, such as Over the Rainbow?

Sergane: Nope, never felt pressure of any kind. Becky is really kind and when a big strip is coming our ways she tries to warn us and gives us an early access to the draft so we can prepare. It’s always been quite smooth.

Chloé: The first Mascot strip though, I was quite worried of how it would be received by the public. But true, Becky is amazing! I keep plaguing her for Word docs because it’s quicker than going back and forth on the strip.

Sergane: I wasn’t really. The Maliki fans are usually the kindest people you’ll ever meet.

Chloé: Also, we’re building a translation memory on a computer assisted translation tool, so that should we get hit by a bus, something remains.

Fleen: What is the turnaround time when it’s not a “big strip”?

Chloé: Fairly quick if I have a Word doc.

Sergane: The deadline is Tuesday evening [Author’s note: at the same time the French strip publishes to the public]. The deadline deadline of all deadline would be before midnight.

Chloé: Howler was about 1800 words so that took a good 4 hours.

Sergane: I spend usually up to two hours on a big strip, much much less on the smaller ones. Proofreading is quite quick though I have to compare with the strip to make sure nothing was omitted. It’s really easy to miss a bubble.

Chloé: That and me forgetting words randomly …

Fleen: What are the terms of your arrangement with the Maliki Corp?

Chloé: They keep us in the basement alongside Souillon [Author’s note: Maliki’s representative for signings and other public events]. When we’re nice we get a few fish-heads.

Sergane: I get to chit chat a lot and I quite love to chit chat. Also the basement is quite nice and snug and cozy if you like dark damp underground caves.

Chloé: The basement is much nicer now that they’ve moved. 5 stars basement, running water and hammocks. And the cats visit a lot. Fëanor has a soft spot for my hammock.

Fleen: Have you been implied in Maliki activities other than the strip proper (that you can share with us, of course)?

Chloé: A few things that in translation we would call metadata. Bits and pieces around the website, and announcements.

Sergane: There is a huge open world video game and a movie but I can’t speak about those, there is also a Netflix live action show in 7 seasons but it’s still in preproduction. I can’t say anything about those either and I may be totally lying.

Sergane: But on a more serious note, nothing right now. There was Mascot and it’s been going on for a while but right now it’s pretty quiet.

Fleen: And one last question for the road: do you have any personal projects you would like to share?

Chloé: Sergane’s the artistic one. I just write blogs about recruitment.

Sergane: I’m currently working on Ready Player One and it’s a lot of fun and work. I hope people enjoy the movie. Other than that I do write but it’s mostly in French. The only thing I have is a DeviantArt account. But with my job I don’t have much time to work on my projects, but sometimes I had a thing or two, mostly for fun.

Fleen thanks FSFCPL, Chloé, and Sergane. If you haven’t been reading Maliki, check it out.

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