Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lost in translation

I was watching this music video of Barbara Lewis singing "Hello Stranger."  The bottom of the screen had English and below the Spanish translation.   But you never know how accurate the translation is.   In this line however, I think they captured the essence. 


Peter said...


You sometimes get similar gems when foreign movies are subtitled. "OK" is a fairly international term used and understood by most nationalities, but the number of times I've watched a foreign film and a character will say OK and right there the subtitle will say "OK".

I'm still waiting for someone to create subtitles for that legendary American Idol performance of Ken Lee.

D. McEwan said...

I directed & created a semi-improvised show called FAKESPEARE some 26 years ago, in which we each night improvised our way through MacBeth, doing each scene in randomly chosen styles. One style which I invented for the show was called "English Translation," and was "Shakespeare translated into another language and then back into English."

I'd based it on something I'd seen in a film of Verdi's opera OTELLO. The libretto of OTELLO is just Shakespeare's words translated into Italian. (Well, it is set in Italy.) But whoever did the subtitles had not simply returned to the Shakespeare text, but rather supplied clunky literal translations which often ignored the metaphors it was stomping on. The moment that sparked "English Translation" for me was when, as Othello contemplates smothering Desdemona's sleeping form, says, of the tableside candle and then of his wife, "Put out the light, and then put out the light. If I quench thee, thou flaming minister, I can again thy former light restore Should I repent me. But once put out thy light, Thou cunning’st pattern of excelling nature, I know not where is that Promethean heat That can thy light relume."

The translation of the first line was "Turn off the light and then turn off the light." I was on the floor laughing.

Andy K said...

Lately I've been using closed captions on TV. A lot of times they will spell one name multiple ways, condense the dialog, and the 20-somethings that add the captions are unaware of cultural references and names from the past. Sometimes it is simply humorous and other times I shake my head in disbelief. When I was in Italy I saw Friends on TV, in Italian with English subtitles, and I knew the subtitles were poorly translated.

tavm said...

I recently rediscovered this tune when I heard it in the Oscar-winning Best Picture winner Moonlight (thanks, Academy, for that!). I read on IMDB that the director had it played as the scene was being filmed. That got me looking it up on YouTube for the video you uploaded and then on Wikipedia for info on the song's origins. Isn't the internet wonderful?

Betty said...

Like the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" translated into Chinese then back into English comes back "invisible idiot."