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Movie translations gone (seriously) wrong :)

Martin Vajsar
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 22, 2010
Posts: 3610
    
  60

Some time ago I watched The Rock that was dubbed in Czech and noticed a really strange dialogue among the characters. Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) inquired Mason (Sean Connery) about his training, and Mason replied something along the lines "I studied British intellect". It somehow didn't make much sense. It lurked in my head until I realized that the English term "intelligence" has several meanings in English and the translator probably didn't realize it means not only "intellect", but "information gathering" or "secret service" as well. I did a small research to confirm this and I found this hilarious page, which explains (in English) many translation errors in Czech films. It's well worth reading; you don't even need to know the movies in question, the context is given there:

http://www.fuxoft.cz/preklady/

By the way, I spotted the "General Attorney" translation mishap in The Rock too, but didn't catch the "Aye Aye, Sir!".

This is also noteworthy here on Javaranch because the owner of that page, who now translates movies himself, was pretty popular in former Czechoslovakia in his youth as a programmer and author of several Sinclair Spectrum games, which were widely distributed on audiotapes at that time.
Darryl Burke
Bartender

Joined: May 03, 2008
Posts: 4540
    
    5

Many years ago, when Star Plus was still an English entertainment channel, the 9 pm movie would be shown with Hindi subtitles. I remember the dialogue "Oh, sh!t" being subtitled as "Hay bhagwan" -- which translates to "Oh my God"

The moral of the story? Never try to learn a language by reading subtitles.


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Frank Silbermann
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1387
Martin Vajsar wrote:Some time ago I watched The Rock that was dubbed in Czech and noticed a really strange dialogue among the characters.... I did a small research to confirm this and I found this hilarious page, which explains (in English) many translation errors in Czech films. It's well worth reading; you don't even need to know the movies in question, the context is given there:

http://www.fuxoft.cz/preklady/
...
Sounds like the translators studied at the same school as the Polish translator of former President Jimmy Carter. (Intent: "I have great love for the Polish people." Translated into Polish as "Polish people make me feel passionate.")

In Mel Brook's "Silent Movie" he had the hero speaking angrily at his co-star. Reading lips you could tell it was a string of the worst obscenities, but the subtitle said, "You're a naughty boy!"

Of course, this deliberate discrepancy was the joke.
Martin Vajsar
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 22, 2010
Posts: 3610
    
  60

Frank Silbermann wrote:Sounds like the translators studied at the same school as the Polish translator of former President Jimmy Carter. (Intent: "I have great love for the Polish people." Translated into Polish as "Polish people make me feel passionate.")

Your conclusion is quite plausible - the author of the page I linked states somewhere he didn't study English at all - he learned it reading and watching movies.

I've already stirred one language-related discussion here on Javaranch with a story (which I was unable to find the source for) some time ago. It centered around the idiom "eleventh hour", which is in some languages expressed as "five to twelve" (including Czech, but this time it was a different language). A translator was not familiar with the English phrase, so the urgency of the situation was not conveyed when the two delegations met

Paul Clapham
Bartender

Joined: Oct 14, 2005
Posts: 18564
    
    8

Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's serious. It was about three years ago that I was looking at this sign, which is not far from where you live and written in a language not much different than yours.

I could clearly see it said, as Parks Canada would put it, "You are in Bear Country". And I could see it was telling me ("nebivakujte") not to do something. But what? My bilingual dictionary didn't have the word. Well, we decided, we know how to deal with bears, we'll just deal with them if we meet any. Which of course we didn't.

But the question must have stuck in my mind, because all of a sudden, just a couple of months ago, for no apparent reason it suddenly struck me that it must mean "Do not camp overnight"... does that seem right?
Martin Vajsar
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 22, 2010
Posts: 3610
    
  60

Yes, you got it right. It is actually Slovak, a language very similar to Czech, and as I grew up before former Czechoslovakia broke up, I don't have problems understanding it. (Unfortunately, nowadays there is virtually no Slovak on TV or radio today - not to mention books and magazines - in the Czech Republic, and kids are completely baffled by Slovak.)

The word is derived from "bivak", essentially an emergency overnight camp (without tent), and I believe it is taken from yet another language, though I'm not sure. Below that word it also tells you to keep on "official" paths only. In any case, I'm not sure that a tent would give any protection against a bear.
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24184
    
  34

The English word "bivouac" means an improvised military camp. It apparenrtly comes from French by way of German.


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Paul Clapham
Bartender

Joined: Oct 14, 2005
Posts: 18564
    
    8

Yes, it was the similarity between "bivak" and "bivouac" which it took me three years to work out. (Google Translate still doesn't know the word.)

And actually a tent does give you protection against bears... in the same way that locking your door protects you against thieves. If the thief wants to break in, then the lock is just a temporary inconvenience, but that's better than no inconvenience at all.
 
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