We all think of the movie-making process as of something magical and cryptic. It takes a long time for a film to transform from a messy script with director’s comments into a massive blockbuster recognized around the globe. Moreover, it takes even longer for the viewers overseas to see the long-awaited premiere at the cinemas. Professionals translate a film into the target language for the public to understand and enjoy it. Sometimes the public will get confused by the wrong movie title interpretations but it will be entertaining. So, let’s dive in into the magic world of cinematography.
Short History of Dubbing
The origins of dubbing go back to the beginning of the 20th century. It first appeared in the U.S. but was mainly used in Europe. For the most part, the common practice was for one person to dub all the characters of a film. The process overcame a few stages – live dubbing, loop dubbing, unilinear dubbing. The end of the 20th century brought a new possibility of watching movies on video and new TV channels. That was the reason for the rising demand of dubbing which still remains to be the same.
In some of the countries, dubbing is not that popular and adding subtitles to the original movie solves the problem, though. For instance, in the U.S. it is common to go and see a European movie with subtitles. As a matter of fact, there is a huge benefit of hearing the actual voice of the actors and experience the film’s cultural peculiarities. It adds greatly to the film’s atmosphere. It can be tiresome as reading the subtitles requires more concentration and attention not to mention the problems of perception. As to the movie title interpretations, there is no need in translating the original title when the process of dubbing is absent. The audience will still be able to see and read it on the screen.
Meantime in Europe…
As to Europe, there is no universal trend. Some countries use subtitling and dubbing – Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary. Others mostly use subtitles – Netherlands, Portugal, Scandinavian countries, and the third group prefers dubbing – Germany, France, Italy. In Russia and Ukraine, almost every movie that premiers is dubbed. The same applies to the TV shows and series. When it comes to the popular TV series, it’s often the fans and not professional translators who do all the work. Anyone can download the series illegally but they are in their original language. The fans who want their non-English speaking friends to enjoy the new episodes translate a film or episode. The quality of such translations can be pretty disappointing, though.
Everything Gets Transformed When You Translate a Film
From a translator’s point of view, subtitles are much easier to translate. There is no need to worry if the translated text is short or long enough to match the length of the original phrase. Usually, translators receive the copy of a movie along with the text version of all the conversations and monologs. Their task is to communicate the idea and make sure pronouncing the translated phrase takes nearly as much time as the original one. It can be rather challenging as all the languages have different grammatic rules and average words’ length can differ a lot. The issue of synchronizing the translated text with the movement of the character’s lips is one of the most important ones.
Another challenge of translating a film into a foreign language is humor. A joke might be hilarious in English and lose all its charm in German or French. When you translate a film, you have to keep in mind that the local audience might not be familiar with a particular person that is a part of that joke who is widely famous abroad. As a professional translator, you should make a critical decision of whether to replace that person with someone of the local stars or assume that the audience will understand the joke anyway. Puns can turn into a big problem as well. It’s difficult for a translator to find the appropriate equivalents in his/her native language to fit in the dialog smoothly. Sometimes a good pun used in a movie can become a big part of the movie title interpretations process and turn into a new title.
Big Challenges with Movie Title Interpretations
What good movie can be without swear-words, right? Very often translators remove and replace them by an innocent phrase. Especially if we are talking about dubbing for television. We can’t say that it’s bad but sometimes those swear-words add up to the atmosphere of a film and set up the right mood. Unfortunately, there is no charm left in a movie after the translation. It seems like the translators working on the movie could use some tips on improving their techniques.
One more issue a translator has to come across is changing titles of the movies. It is quite often that the local agencies completely transform them to sound more appealing to the local audience. Often enough it’s the marketing team that is in charge of this process. As the result, we have such marvelous title translations as “The Hole Of Malkovich” (“Being John Malkovich”) and “Urban Neurotic” (“Annie Hall”).
It’s interesting that one movie can be translated to a specific language more than once. The reason for doing so is the fact that, for example, the French language in France and in Canada is different. When a studio decides to translate a film, it has the goal of making its characters sound natural in the local language. In fact, here are some of the interesting examples of misinterpretations for you to relax and have fun.
CHINESE Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: American Hustle
Chinese translation: United States Cheat Bureau
Original Title: Knocked Up
Chinese Translation: One Night, Big Belly
Original Title: The Full Monty
Chinese Translation: Six Naked Pigs
Original Title: G.I. Jane
Chinese Translation: Satan Female Soldier
Original Title: Boogie Nights
Chinese Translation: His Great Device Makes Him Famous
Original Title: Leon: The Professional Killer
Chinese Translation: This Hit Man Is Not As Cold As He Thought
Original Title: Pretty Woman
Chinese Translation: I Will Marry A Prostitute To Save Money
Original Title: The Shawshank Redemption
Chinese Translation: Excitement 1995
ITALIAN Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Italian Translation: If You Leave Me, I Delete You
Original Title: The Producers
Italian Translation: Please, Do Not Touch The Old Women
JAPANESE Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: Leaving Las Vegas
Japanese Translation: I’m Drunk And You’re a Prostitute
Original Title: Being John Malkovich
Japanese Translation: The Hole Of Malkovich
Original Title: Girl, Interrupted
Japanese Translation: 17-Year Old Girl’s Medical Chart
Original Title: You Only Live Twice
Japanese Translation: 007 Dies Twice
SPANISH Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: The Dark Knight
Spanish Translation: Knight Of The Night
Original Title: The Pacifier
Spanish Translation: The Super-tough Kangaroo
Original Title: Grown Ups
Spanish Translation: They Are Like Children
Original Title: Superbad
Spanish Translation: Supercool
SWEDISH Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: Swingers
Swedish Translation: Hey, Where Are The Babies?
FRENCH Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: Home Alone
French Translation: Mom, I Missed The Plane
Original Title: The Matrix
French Translation: The Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses
GERMAN Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: The Parent Trap
German Translation: A Twin Seldom Comes Alone
Original Title: Dodgeball
German Translation: Full Of The Nuts
Original Title: Annie Hall
German Translation: Urban Neurotic
Original Title: K-9
Chinese Translation: My Partner With The Cold Snout
MEXICAN Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: Snatch
Spanish Translation: Pigs And Diamonds
Original Title: Juno
Spanish Translation: Juno: Grow, Run And Stumble
THAI Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: Due Date
Thai Translation: Odd Couple, Wacky Trip, Go Together In Time For Birth
Original Title: Drive Angry
Thai Translation: Super Speeding Cleaning Evil Accounts
PORTUGUESE Movie Title Interpretations:
Original Title: Lost In Translation
Portuguese Translation: Meetings And Failures In Meetings
Do You Recognize My Voice?
If you’ve seen a dubbed movie, you must have noticed that they try to choose native speakers with a similar tone of voice to dub the movie characters. As a matter of fact, famous film studios often ask the same voice talent to dub a particular actor in his movies to ensure the continuity. If you watch Johnny Depp flirting with Keira Knightly in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and then drinking tea with Mia Wasikowska in “Alice in Wonderland”, the chances are you’ll hear the same person dubbing him.
The dubbing process is a hard work and not as magical as shooting a movie, for sure. It’s always a challenge for a translator to find the right words to be accurate. The goal is to fit the target language text into the required timing and come up with relevant movie title interpretations from time to time. Just imagine what it feels like to come to a cinema and hear actors speak the lines you’ve written for them. It must feel pleasant. If you are a professional translator and ever decide to translate a film, it will be an exciting experience. You can contact a local agency and give a try someday.