I’m not sure I agree with or even 100% understand the heuristic put forward of “If a member of the general public in the original target language understands this without looking at the internet then the audience of the translated work should as well.” Mostly because it seems impossible in practice.
A work in translation will almost never be able to exactly replicate the “intended” experience of the original audience. This is very obvious if the story is written in a language spoken mostly in one country like Japanese, Danish or German and set in one of those countries. At that point the target audience is expected to have basic familiarity with the history, culture and famous locations in the country (but of course the actual experience still varies widely from individual to individual as not everyone has the same degree of knowledge of these things).
Any such reference will be understood differently by an international audience whom, with some exceptions (certainly lots of anime fans believe they are an exception), will not understand these references at all, or if they do, will understand them differently from a person who grew up in the country.
So you can try to alter the story and change references to things people in the intended target audience would understand, but for any story which is set in a real-world location this can quickly become an impossible task without completely changing basic characteristics of the setting. To be clear, I am not advocating that therefore no attempt at all should be made to make a translation more familiar to the intended target audience, just that I don’t think one can judge a translated work using a work originally published in the target language as the baseline. The people who read the translation can not and will not have the same experience as someone in the original target language, so it seems like a bit of a fool’s errand to pretend that one can make a translation that will be entirely natural and similar to picking up a book that was originally intended for you as a target group.
I do, however, agree that one should be very careful about the language in the sense that sentence structures/sentences that works in one language can be unnatural or even bad in others. Every once in a while I don’t mind having a slightly weird turn of phrase in a translation though, it can even add a bit of flavor and fun in my opinion. For anything other than names for people, places (and in a few cases objects – potentially a kotatsu to take it back to the podcast), leaving in foreign words tends to be bad and unnatural (lots of famous examples from anime fansubs of this, of course. No you don’t need the word nakama. Nor do you need honorifics).
I guess one difficult situation which can be used as a case-study is what to do when a character makes an allusion to a well-known local myth that the vast majority of the original audience would be expected to be familiar with. Obviously one could change it to one which is familiar to the target audience of the translation, but if it is set in Japan it would be jarring and break the verisimilitude of the story if a Japanese character is suddenly referencing a Danish myth. So in the end the best way to translate it is probably keeping the reference, which means the vast majority of the audience will just not get it.
If it is a fantasy setting, changing some minor allusions in the world-building to be more familiar to the target audience makes a lot more sense I think, although there are still a few potential issues.
Learning the original language will also not give you the same experience as the original target audience because it will not give you the shared cultural experience of growing up in that country. Like I can read a novel in Japanese now, but I am definitely not having the same experience as someone who grew up here. Just to be clear, that is absolutely fine! There is nothing special or pure about having the “authentic” experience, we all experience things differently depending on our background and having the experience of the “target” audiences isn’t somehow magically better.
I think my main point is just that I don’t understand what anyone means when they say that a translation should give the target audience the same experience as the original audience was “intended” to have, as this is impossible. So in the end it’s all just a series of choices and compromises which will fall on a sliding scale between “literal” and “localised”, and different people have different preferences for what they like. Lately I feel like there has been a lot of push for a “maximum localization is always good and anyone who feels otherwise is silly” sentiment on the English-speaking internet, which is probably what prompted this whole post, but it may just be selection bias in terms of the places where I have read discussions on this issue. In the end, it’s always a complicated process of weighing pros and cons and I don’t think you can say that more localization is always better as one can clearly go to absurd extremes in this case as well, in the same way one can for “literal” translations.
I wonder how much one’s view on this is affected by how widespread one’s first language is. For someone whose first language is English or Spanish, i.e. a language spoken across the world as a first language in multiple countries the issue of language and country-specific understanding in translation might seem like two much less related subjects than they do to someone whose first language is mostly spoken in one country.
Similarly if your first language is spoken by a lot of people even in just one country (like Japan or Germany to some extent) where it is (relatively, American stuff is hard to avoid) easier to never have to deal with foreign media at all, it does seem to me like this leads to more of a preference for localizing and bringing it into the fold of just another piece of media than there is in smaller countries where the idea that “it should be written as if you were the intended target audience” just doesn’t seem to be treasured to the same degree (at least in my experience as someone from a smaller country).