If you’ve ever watched a film in a language other than your own, you know how important subtitles are in allowing you to understand what is happening. Subtitles can guide you through a foreign film with ease, conveying the meaning of each scene through text that helps you experience the film effortlessly. In fact, the better the subtitles, the less likely you are to even notice you’re reading them by the time you’re engrossed in the plot!
However, if you have ever come across a film with some questionable subtitles, you know that this can ruin your entire film-watching experience. If subtitles do not correctly convey the humor, drama, or emotion of a scene—how it was originally intended to be experienced—the movie experience is simply not the same.
How do you think a Chinese-speaking filmgoer would appreciate the humor of Guardians of the Galaxy if each time a character meant to insult Rocket by calling him “rodent” or “weasel”, the subtitles translated it as a term of endearment instead, such as “small raccoon”? It doesn’t quite have the same feel, right? You can find several more examples of mistakes within that particular movie here. Even the title went from Guardians of the Galaxy to Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team!
The reasons why subtitles get mistranslated are numerous. Here are just a few:
- The film company could be relying on someone who either isn’t a professional, or who simply isn’t fluent enough in both languages to tackle this sort of work.
- The company may also expect the translator to adhere to a deadline that is too strict for 100% accuracy, or offer less compensation than more qualified translators would be willing to accept for this complex work.
- The translator may not be able to fully understand the humor, slang, or jargon within the original dialogue, since they are translating into their native language, and not from In this case, having a translator who is near native in the source language is a must.
- It’s possible the translator may have simply misheard the original line(s) if they were not provided with a written script, thus resulting in an incorrect translation.
For your amusement, here are a few other subtitle translation mistakes we’ve found:
- Juno: The Spanish translator translated “I’ll have a Maker’s Mark” to “Just sit down next to Mark.”
- Gone with the Wind: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” was translated as a slightly rougher “Straightforwardly, my dear, I would not give you a damn” in Russian.
- Apollo 13: the German translator mistook the word “peg” for “pig” in the quote “You have to learn to put a square peg in a round hole”, making for a humorous translated sentence!
Subtitles can truly make or break a box office experience in a foreign market, and it is important to use qualified translators and proofreaders to handle the task! If you’ve come across some particularly poor translations within subtitles, please let us know in the comments below!
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You Need a Specialized Translator! And Here’s Why…
We’re back with another ATS Client Feature for you! Each month we are sharing about some of our favorite translation and interpreting clients. This month we’re excited to feature one of our most clever clients, Big Ass Solutions. You may have spotted one of their fans at your favorite local eatery, or even on an episode of Fixer Upper. They know how to keep things interesting, and we know you’ll enjoy learning about what they do!
Big Ass Solutions has been in the fan industry since 1999. The company got their start as Big Ass Fans, but the research-driven company has since expanded to include Big Ass Light and Haiku Home divisions. Because of their commitment to continued innovation and improvement, they now have products and customers all over the world. That’s why Big Ass Solutions has been coming to us over the years to translate various installation guides, user manuals, and promotional materials into many different languages!
Special thanks to Big Ass Solutions for being one of our ATS featured clients! Stay tuned to learn about our other translation and interpreting clients. We can’t wait to share them with you! If you would like us to feature you in this series, please contact us and let us know.
Ensuring your project or document is translated correctly is of great importance to us at ATS, and we are always happy to work with you to ensure that the end result is the best fit for your brand and company. Since we know how valuable your time is, we have created a checklist to help speed the process along for you. The more we know about your project from the beginning, the faster and easier it will be to assemble the correct team of translators and editors to make your project a success!
- Which languages are we working with? Determine the source language (the language the document is in before translation), as well as which language(s) you will be translating the document into (the target language(s)).
- Who is the target audience? If the readers will be from a certain area or region, let us know. There are often different dialects of the same language, so knowing who will be reading the text is helpful if it’s intended for a specific audience!
- What type of document are you translating? It’s important to know what type of translation we will be handling for you. We will have different teams handle legal documents as opposed to marketing materials or medical release forms, for example. A brief description of the type of document or file is helpful to ensure we get the right team on board for your project.
- What file formats do you prefer to work in?g. PDF, Word, .mp3, In Design, etc. If you have a copy of the source text ready and available when you request the quote, that’s even better! Please let us know what format(s) you would like to receive back from us once the translated file is ready.
- What is your deadline for the translation? If you are on a tight deadline, be sure to mention this. We’ll gladly begin working with our team of translators and editors to see what their availability is and also determine if any rush fees would be applicable.
- Will you need Desktop Publishing (DTP) or special formatting, or will this be done in-house? ATS is glad to offer assistance with DTP and formatting if required. If you’re unsure if you’ll need to be quoted for this step, just ask. We’re happy to take a look!
No matter where you are in the process, know that we are always glad to assist you along the way. If you have any specific questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us! You can also request a quote directly from our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer.
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