I'm working on the official translation of Peerless Sword by Qin Hong, and I would like everyone's input on how to translate certain things. My goal with this novel translation is to bring in new fans to wuxia, so people who don't know what it is already, unlike everyone here. So keep that in mind when responding.
1. jianghu or rivers and lakes -- Do you prefer to have this translated or kept as "jianghu"?
2. wulin or the martial grove/martial fraternity -- wulin and jianghu are both major decisions because they are important concepts for wuxia, but leave it as it is or translate it? Right now I translate them because they are 1-to-1 translations, that is, they are direction translations and therefore are perfect for rendering in English. But they are also important concepts that a new fan of wuxia will see again and again when discussing it or reading other translations. By translating these terms they become part of the familiar as they are now English terms, and they also give the reader some cultural flavor which the reader would not get with "jianghu" or "wulin" because these are still foreign words. But they are also staples of the genre, like samurai, terms that could easily become part of the English lexicon. So which do you prefer?
3. Terms of address -- Dage/Da Ge or Big Brother or Brother? -- Biaomei or cousin? -- shimei or martiial sister?
This is a heavy question to because it would be nice to retain as much of the Chinese flavor as you can, but English doesn't differentiate much between hierarchy. You can say maternal grandfather, or paternal older uncle, but it starts to get wordy. Just not translating and leaving it as shimei, for example, instead of martial sister (or more accurately, little martial sister) is an option, but then you are just leaving it as a foreign word. Too many foreign words can be confusing, and well, you're not translating. Keeping foreign words breaks the "dream" that this is all in the original language. That is, the characters are speaking Chinese, it's just rendered in English for the reader's benefit. So then if you break that by retaining a foreign word, it's inconsistent.
But on the other hand, saying Martial Sister every time is a mouthful. And it can get much more complicated than that depending on the title being used. Currently I tend to use, for example, martial sister the first time it occurs so that the reader knows the characters are not really sisters, and then just Sister every time afterward, or maybe Big Sister of Little Sister.
4. Is Big Sister better or worse than just Sister? Since we don't emphasize hierarchy in English, it seems fine to just say Sister, but retaining the Big or Little retains the Chineseness of it, because after all, Chinese place a lot of importance on one's place in a family unit, and it's good whenever you can retain as much of the feeling of the original as possible,, especially with languages as different as English and Chinese where compromises have to be made constantly.
So what do you all think about these issues? I don't just want translators' perspectives, but all readers' perspectives.