pragueBlog

2003-08-04  

PRICELESS: Thanks to Czechout for posting that link on things that get lost in translating foreign movies in to Czech.
THREE TO TANGO: The original VHS jacket of this movie (about a guy who pretends to be gay) says: "Oscar Novak will finally come out of the closet and declare that he is, well, straight." The Czech jacket (when translated back to English) says: "Oscar Novak will finally leave the toilet and declare that he is good and straightforward."

The discussion on the high crime of dubbing that Doug started has morphed a bit into that always reliable source of entertainment, errors in translation. English menus, product info, company brochures and advertisements have all given me many happy chortles over the years, and not a few times made me ask myself why, oh why, couldn't they have bothered to just check that with a native speaker first.

For a final word on dubbing, let me just say to Petr that whereas I appreciate that the translation side can be a nice little earner, Doug's point (and mine too in the comments to that post) is not against Czech dubbing per se. I'm sure that as far as it goes, Czech dubbing is good compared to others. But there are two general, insurmountable objections to all dubbing efforts: 1. too much damage is done to background and environmental sounds in the process, and 2. robbing an actor of his or her own voice removes a very important element in the original film, reducing the whole exercise to a reading or simple recitation of a storyline.

Enough of all that. I do sympathize with translators dealing with slangy American films. An acquaintance of mine writes subtitles for some of the movies coming on to the market here and once or twice has sought my insight into the meaning of some particularly mysterious phrases. He was working on the Jim Carrey movie Me, Myself and Irene and wondered what "watch out, or I'm gonna have to bust a cap in yo' ass" might mean. That was relatively easy to explain. It was a little harder to shed light on "those low-rate Stanford Slingblade motherfuckers." There were some other choice phrases which escape my memory, but let it not be said that the translator's life is an easy one.

Steve | 12:26 |
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