In recent years, people have been watching more foreign films. With the increasing interest in foreign-made films/videos, there is also a greater market demand for English Chinese translation of foreign video content. However, the lack of proper standards for translating English video subtitles could affect film quality. This article is all about how to translate English subtitles.
Retain the style of the original film: It is important to keep the translation style as faithful as possible to that of the English film subtitles, so that viewers could understand the cultural connotation and aesthetics of these English films. Since people nowadays have higher English proficiency, it is crucial to have the translation accurately reflect the context. How can a translator retain the style of the original text in a film?
1. To fully understand the original English text and convey its meaning accurately, the translators of English Chinese translation services should have high English proficiency. When faced with some problems in translating text, the translator should consult reference books instead of interpreting text based on lexical clues, which may result in mistranslation. For example, the word “sweet meat” refers to “candied fruit,” but it was incorrectly translated in a film as “甜肉 (meat that is sweet)”. Some similar expressions such as “red meat” could be translated as “牛羊肉 (beef and mutton),” and “white meat” as “雞肉 (chicken meat).”In the film <The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,> the name of a British biologist David Attenborough, which was mentioned by the protagonist while talking about insects, was mistranslated as “Holmes.” In the film <Steel Magnolias>, one of the characters (Shelby) was upset with her mother for inviting nine bridesmaids to the wedding and reacted by quoting her father: “An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure.” However, the sentence was translated into “一份自命不凡能夠換得一份收穫 (Arrogance could be exchanged for a reward).” The sarcasm behind the original text was lost, and the meaning became different from that of the original text. The original meaning was “一盎司虛榮能換得一磅大糞 (An ounce of vanity can be exchanged with a pound of manure).” Although the language appears vulgar, a direct translation would be better in conveying the meaning of the original text (i.e. how a person despises hypocrites).
2. To reflect the culture of the source language and produce correct
3. translations, the translators of English Chinese translation services should consider lexical items based on cultural background. If words are incorrectly translated, viewers would be left confused. For example, Chinese viewers may find the film subtitle “他犯了第七誡 (He violated the seventh commandment)” difficult to understand because they are not familiar with the doctrines of Christianity; e.g., The Ten Commandments, which was in this case, the seventh commandment “Thou shalt not kill”. Therefore, translating the sentence “He committed the seventh commandment” into “他犯了殺人罪 (He is guilty of murder)” makes the subtitle easier to understand. There are other similar translations like the idiom “pulling my leg” is translated as “拖我的後腿” (when it should be translated as “同我開玩笑” or play a joke on me.) In the film <The Mummy Returns>, the line “He went out west” seemed straightforward, but the sentence could be mistranslated into “他去了美國的大西部 (He went to the American West).” The sentence seems OK, but viewers would eventually find out that the character referred to in the film is actually dead based on the context. By knowing that this is a euphemism for “Someone has passed away,” such mistake can be avoided. In general, dialogues in films could have connotations based on the historical background of the source language. Translators need to be knowledgeable to make accurate translations. The translator should learn and be consistent about translating proper nouns. Translation of names should be consistent and must follow the standard convention. The names of people and places should be translated. Commonly used acronyms such as WTO, CIA, and FBI should be adopted or translated. The conventional translation of names should be used. For example, the Chinese translation for US President Kennedy should be “甘迺迪” since everybody is familiar with it. People would get confused if it is translated as “克妮帝.” The translator could check the dictionary for translated names or use Google to search for names that are not included in the dictionary found in relevant webpages. Translation is an option when reference materials are not available, but the translator should note the difference between male and female names. When the translation of a film or TV drama involves multiple translators, it is necessary to set the criteria to ensure translation quality.
English Chinese translation services aims to facilitate viewers’ understanding of foreign films. To create straightforward subtitles that are easy to read, we need to edit and translate the original text. This is the only way to express the aesthetics behind the original work, enabling the audience to enjoy the story while watching the film.