Translating Manga in Liu of English tutoring

After a day of virtual classes, senior Kevin Liu is not done learning — instead, he opens a fresh document alongside a digital comic and gets to work.

Liu joined an online scanlation group, ReadManhua, in the summer of 2020. Manhua, comics and graphic novels that originate from China, often undergo scanlation — the fan-made translating and editing of comics into another language — to accommodate non-Chinese speaking audiences.

“[Manhua] is just fascinating to watch and read. It’s basically fantasy that gives you another aspect of the world,” Liu said. “When I’m translating, I like that I get a taste of the Manhua as well. I get pretty attached to the stories.”

Born in the United States, Liu moved to China at age 5 before returning in the midst of middle school. During his time studying in China, he became fluent in Chinese.

“Being fluent in Chinese allows me to read through [the Manhua] faster. When compared to my friends, their Chinese reading speed isn’t as fast as I am; I work almost double to triple the speed. That’s one of the advantages I have with scanlation.”

Although reading the Manhua comes easily, Liu occasionally struggles with translating the content into English. Even so, the prospect of improvement inspires him.

“There’re idioms in Chinese that I don’t know how to match [in] English, like how to express them in English, so that’s definitely one of the challenges,” Liu said. “Translating helps with my English, and [I hope to get] better vocabulary and grammar — that may be my ultimate goal.”

To publish a translated Manhua on the website, several stages are accounted for: translating, proofreading, quality checking, typesetting and clearing out the speech bubbles in the comics.

“This kind of is like a job — but without getting paid — so it can help me to prepare for my future because it teaches me to get more responsible,” Liu said.

Recently, Liu and his friend, senior Jerry Fang, began their own scanlation service, Paean scans, using their experience as members of ReadManhua to guide them.

When asked about how he balances this hobby with school, Liu’s answer was simple: “I love it.”

“I love how whenever I see someone reading it — on these websites, I can see how many people have clicked on it, watched it or read my translated Manhua — I feel really accomplished.”

By Emily Cao, Feature editor
Photo by Sherlene Su