Preliminary Study on Tactics of Translating Film’s Subtitles

Preliminary Study on Tactics of Translating Film’s Subtitles

Preliminary Study on Tactics of Translating Film’s Subtitles Abstract This essay firstly gives a brief introduction of the status quo of subtitling practice.

By elaborating the characteristics and functions of subtitling translation, analyzing the time and space constraints by using concrete examples exerted from Forrest Gump, Waterloo Bridges, Friends, Rain Man, Shrek, You’ve Got Mail, Liar Liar, Mind of Beauty, Schidle’s List, Pride and Prejudice, American Beauty, Out of Africa, After the Sunset for illustration, the author puts forward six workable strategies for subtitling translation, namely, the avoidance of mistakes on common sense, the application of condensation, due attention of cultural factors, the adoption of colloquial words with natural and fluent tone,the achievement of harmony between speed and visual pictures, good consideration of context. Finally, the importance of improving translation skills and work ethic of subtitle translators is high lightened with the hope for perfecting the subtitle translator’s practice in an efficient way. Key words: subtitling; characteristics; constraints; strategies; subtitle translators Preliminary Study on Tactics of Translating Film’s Subtitles Outline

Thesis Statement: Translation of film’s subtitles, which plays a very important role in cross-cultural communication, is noteworthy of due attention in order to convey the accurate meaning of the original films to its audience. ?. Introduction: The Status Quo, Characteristics, and Functions of Subtitling Translation ?. Two Limiting Factors of Subtitling Translation A. Time Constraint in Subtitling Translation B. Space Constraint in Subtitling Translation ?. Tactics Drew From the Analysis of Some Movies A. The Avoidance of Mistakes on Common Sense B. The Application of Condensation C. Due Attention of Cultural Factors D. The Adoption of Colloquial Words with Natural and Fluent Speed E. The Achievement of Harmony between Speed and Visual Pictures F. Good Consideration of Context ?. Conclusion

Preliminary Study on Tactics of Translating Film’s Subtitles ?. Introduction A. The Status Quo of Subtitling Translation With the widening opening-up and deepening reformation as well as the increasing contact with other countries, English original films become more and more popular in our entertainment industry. When Americans are crazy with The Lord of the Rings, laughing with Shrek, arguing about Fahrenheit 9/11, and holding their breath at appreciating Spider-man, Chinese people also want to have a comprehensive understanding of them. However, not all Chinese people could understand English, so they have to turn to subtitles to gain a sense of satisfaction.

Therefore, subtitling translation, which plays a very important role in cross-cultural communication, is noteworthy of due attention in order to convey the accurate meaning of the original films to its audience. B. Characteristics of Subtitling Translation Subtitles are the words that printed at the bottom part of the screen in the form of target language, following the sound of source language. Nedegaard-Larsen, Birgit once put subtitling translation as a type of special language conversion: the condensed written translation of the original oral speech. 1 Shuttleworth and Cowie also put it in this way—subtitling translation was a process which provides simultaneous instruction to the verbal activities happened in films and television programs. Gottieb once concluded the features of subtitling translation into five aspects: 1) written 2) addible 3) instantaneous 4) simultaneous 5) multimedia. 3 And personally speaking, there are at least three apparent features: 1. Proper condensation of original context: When a film is going, its viewers need to have heed of the subtitles while listening the original sound and appreciating the animated pictures. So subtitling translation not only needs accuracy, but also has to attach equal importance to the density of words in each line and the actor’s speaking speed, of which the complexity can be adjusted in accordance with the viewer acceptance. Therefore, proper condensation becomes the key point of subtitling translation.

Let’s take a short conversation in Friends as an example, Rachel said: “Chandler, I gotta tell you, I love your mom’s books! I love her books! I cannot get on a plane without one”. The original subtitle translation goes like this: “ ??? ,????????!?????!????? ,??????? ,????????! ” Although we can sense the literary beauty in it, we also can condense it into a better express way like “ ???????? ,???!?????????! ” 2. Conversion from written speech to colloquial form: Usually, the subtitles only stay on the screen for only a very little while. To make sure that the viewer can grasp the main idea easily, the style of the translated version should avoid unreadibility. So the control of oralization and readability outshine other factors.

The translation of subtitles should to most extent choose oral and easy-understanding words and phrases, avoiding redundant words, repetitive expressions much foreignized set phrases and idioms as well as foreign allusions that Chinese people cannot understand. The sentence should not be tedious and lengthy, but be simple and easy-understanding, also the translation should avoid parenthesis, gerunds and clauses. 3. Being compatible with multimedia: For ordinary written works, information can be conveyed only through the form of characters, while for subtitles, it can convey the message altogether with visual information (movie pictures) and sound information (original sound, music and other stage sounds). Therefore, when the subtitles fail to convey the exact meaning, its viewers can get information from extra-linguistic message.

Let’s take “Shrek” for example, Shrek’s anger can be shown by contorted face; Princess Fiona’s tenderness and kindness can be shown through her gentle smile; the subtle effect can be sensed through its beautiful or soft or exciting music. All of these important extra-linguistic messages can be expressed by mere written characters, and these messages can aid subtitles to bring its functions into full play. C. Functions of Subtitling Translation When mentioning the functions of subtitling translation, usually I would like to conclude them into the following points: 1) Subtitling translation can facilitate its viewers to maximize their understanding to the original films.

Because many Chinese viewers cannot understand English, they need some facilitating tools to help them to comprehend and appreciate them. After trying many methods, researchers find that subtitle is a very effective way to achieve this. It can convey the maximum message to the audience. 2) Subtitling translation serves as an aid to visual pictures and sound effect. Subtitle is a type of special conversion between translation and consecutive interpretation. Because in simultaneous interpretation and translation, readers and listeners receive the message in a constant way, while in consecutive interpretation, a time difference exists in the process, which is like the subtitle translation’s function in movies.

And for subtitle, it must work with pictures and sounds when conveying its information, and in this process, viewers need to scan one line and then another to grasp the main idea, also a time difference happens, but this difference is much shorter than that in consecutive interpretation. 3) Subtitling translation can help its movie viewers to appreciate the original impact brought by the genuine effect. Viewers need just have a glimpse of the subtitles appearing at the bottom part of the screen while listening the original sound. 4) Good subtitling translation can be a good way for people to learn English. When people listen to English, they can see the Chinese.

In the process, they may not only improve their English listening proficiency, but also enhance their English translation skills. ?. Limiting Factors of Subtitling Translation A. Time Constraint in Subtitling Translation Time constraint means that the picture movement and sound effect should be mutually accordant. Although film subtitle is not so strict as film dubbing, it should also convey the exact meaning by using the similar amount of time as it is used in source language. Furthermore, subtitle should stay on the screen long enough for viewers to scan. Usually, the time is not less than two seconds and not more than seven seconds (except for song lyrics).

If translators ignore the time constraint in subtitling translation, some troubles might be caused for viewers to gain a total understanding. So specifically, sometimes translators need to use condensation and colloquial words to achieve the time harmony with other factors, such as the background music, characters’ facial expressions and so forth. B. Space Constraint in Subtitling Translation Space constraint means that the words and punctuations of subtitle appeared on the screen at one time should not be too many. According to Gottlieb’s study, the words appeared in each line of the subtitle are not more than thirty-five, and at most, two lines can be on at the same time.

Therefore, if the subtitles in original movies are very long, the translators should adopt the condensation of words in order to present the viewers the proper and complete meaning within a limited space on the screen. For these part, the detailed the expatiation will be unfolded in the following strategies. ?. Workable Strategies Dealing With the Above Constraints A. The Avoidance of Mistakes on Common Sense Example1: — Is there a Mr. Gump, Mrs. Gump? — He is on vocation. (Chosen from Forrest Gump) The second sentence is Forrest Gump’s mother’s euphemistic response to the school’s principal’s question. In this sentence, “on vocation” dose not mean Forrest Gump’s father was really having a vocation or holiday, but means Forrest Gump’s father was dead.

So when translating this phrase, translators should do a careful consideration, avoiding mistranslation in order to convey the exact meaning to its appreciators. Therefore, I personally think this sentence can be translated into “ ???? ” instead of “ ????? ”. Example 2: Myra: Nice of you to come and see me. Roy: Not at all. (Chosen from Waterloo Bridge) This concise dialogue shows that the two major characters are very excited at meeting each other, while the subtitles in aversion are “ ??????? ” “ ???? ”, which obviously are very confusing. However, in another version, the translation is “ ????? ,???! ” “ ??? ”. I think the latter translation is much better. Example 3: Myra: … What the time is it? Kitty: It’s… er… almost eleven. Chosen from Waterloo Bridge) Kitty’s answer is very simple, but the subtitle is “ ????? ”, and I think this trivial mistranslation is caused by translator’s carelessness, which seems to be a little bit irresponsible. Example 4: Joey: I gotta tell you. You’re the best in the business. Girl: Get out. (Chosen from Friends) The translation of “ Get out” in the subtitle is “?? ”, which is really absurd. Suppose we put it in this way, that means when the girl heard Joey’s praise to her, she did not say “thanks” to show her politeness, contrarily she asked Joey to leave, which is not proper in that context. Also, this scene happened on the platform, where there was no door, how a person could get out.

So I think “ Get out” should be translated into “??? ” rather than “ ?? ”. Example 5: I’m ready to pop. (Chosen from Liar Liar) The subtitle of this actor’s lines in a version is “ ????? ”, which is really weird and makes the audience puzzled. In fact, this sentence is the person’s response to the waiter, and it is a kind of euphemistic refusal. So it should be translated into “ ???? ” or “ ???????? ”. So to conclude, Chinese is a parataxis language while English is a hypo-taxis language, so the rooting solution of mistranslation is that the subtitle translators should have a good command of English and Chinese. B. The Application of Condensation

Because of the space constraint, sometimes subtitles should be condensed and translators may eliminate some parts which can be easily sensed through the movie’s context. But this elimination should be proper and correct. Example 1: Momma always says there’s an awful lot you could tell about a person by their shoes. (Chosen from Forrest Gump) Subtitle: “ ???? ,??????? ,???????? ”. Personally speaking, this Chinese translation seems a little bit long, and we might have a try to condense it into “ ???? ,?????? ”. I think “ ???? ,?????? ” is better than “ ???? ,??????? ,???????? ”. Also the modified translation could achieve the beautiful effect which is similar to a movie’s name Scent of Women ( ????? ).

Example 2: I turn on my computer, I wait impatiently as it connects, I go on line and my breath catches in my chest until I hear the three little words: “You’ve got mail! ” I hear nothing, not even a sound on the streets of New York, just the beat of my own heart. I have mail! From you! ” (Chosen from You’ve Got Mail) Subtitle: “ ????? ,???????? ,??? ,??? ‘??? ’????? ,????????? ,??????? ,?????????????? ,????????? ,????!???! ” In this translation, two places applied condensation. 1) “You’ve got mail”. If we translate this sentence according to its literal meaning of each word, then the translation could be “ ???? ”, but apparently, compared with the first translation “ ??? , the second one is inferior, because in the original speech, there is a clue “ three little words”. So eliminating “ ? ” and translating it into “ ??? ” is quite splendid. 2) “I have mail! From you! ” Translating it into “ ????!???? ” is much better than translating it into “ ??????!???????? ”, following the original order of each word. Furthermore, the original translation can give a vivid description of the major female character’s eager and excitement. Example 3: Shrek: It’s on my to do list now, come on! Fiona: But this isn’t right. You’re meant to charge in, sword drop, banner flying, that’s what all other knights did. (Chosen from Shrek)

Subtitle: “ ?????????????????? ,??! ” “ ???? ,??????? ,???? ,???? ,?????????. ” Suppose we modified the former part into “ ?????????? ,?? ” or “ ?????? ,?? ”, it would be concise and natural to Chinese viewers. Then we might adjust the latter part’s order into “ ????????????? ,??? ,??? ”. Put them together and we get the translation “ ?????????? ,?? ” “????????????? ,??? ,??? ”. I think the modified translation would express its meaning in a concise way. And also it can keep the original animated sense. Therefore, in order to employ the tactic of condensation freely, the subtitle translators should comprehend the English and Chinese completely.

English is a kind of hypo- taxis language while Chinese is a parataxis one. So when translating English into Chinese, translators should omit such unnecessary parts as some conjunctions. C. Due Attention of Cultural Factors In the source language, unavoidably there are many culture-loaded words containing special cultural meaning which cannot be easily sensed by its readers. These culture-loaded words, coming from religious books, historical stories or literature works and so forth, which are not familiar to its target language readers, sometimes may cause cultural clash and cultural vacuum. Considering the space constraint, adding notes is not feasible.

So at this time, subtitle translators should adopt “ liberal translation” on the basis of comprehending the cultural factors. Example1: Don’t you take the Lord’s name in vain with me, you understand? (Chosen from Ghost) This sentence is the conjurator Oda Mae’s dissatisfactory response to Sam’s words. And “ in vain” in this sentence was translated into “ ?? ”. But this idiom, if we put it into Chinese, means “ ?? ”, “ ?? ” in this context. This meaning can be dated back to Bible, in which there is a sentence goes “ Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. ”( ??????????? ). Therefore, the translation there should be modified into “ ????????? ,???? Example2: Shall we say swords, gentlemen? Pistols at dawn? (Chosen from Mind of Beauty) This sentence was said by a person who was drinking with his friends and Nash, when a beautiful blond came in, then they began to talk about who had advantage to talk with this girl first. If this sentence is literally translated, it should be “ ?????????????????????? ”, and this sentence is definitely meaningless and will confuse its audience. Actually, this line contains the cultural content that in the middle century in western countries, the upper-class nobles usually gain their lovers by fighting, in which the tools are swords or pistols. We can see obviously this sentence is wisecrack.

To make Chinese viewers understand and avoid additional explanation, subtitle translators had better omit the meanings of “ swords” and “ pistols” and translate it into “ ??? ,??????? ,?????????? ”. There “ ???? ” is quite appropriate, for it can not only express these gentlemen’s meaning, but also keep the original meaning of gaining lovers through swords and pistols. In addition, this translation showcases the theory of functional equivalence proposed by Neda. Example 3: Shrek: What should we do with him? Donkey: Take the sword and neuter him right here. Give him the Bob Barker treatment (Chosen from Shrek) Subtitle: “ ??????????? ” “???????? , ??????? ” Bob Barker treatment has something to do with the cultural background.

In a famous American entertainment program The Price is Right ( ? ???? ), the host Bob Barker always says “ Help control the population, have your pets sprayed or neutered”( ????????? ,???????? ) at the end of the program. “Spray” is used to describe the female one, and “ neuter” the male one. We can see the translation of this dialogue has expressed its cultural content fully. D. Adoption of Colloquial Words Subtitling translation of films is quite different from literature translation. Because when appreciating literature works, readers can adjust their reading speed according to their liking, capability of understanding as well as the works’ degree of complexity.

When readers meet uncommon-used words or particular interesting chapters, they could slow down or read them repetitively; when they meet easy or tedious parts, they also could choose to speed up or just omit them. However, when people see movies, they are in the position of being passive, for they are the information receivers. In the process of appreciating a movie, time for digesting subtitles is short, and each scene is closely related, so the translation of subtitles is not allowed to have vague points. To achieve this, subtitle translators should adopt colloquial expressions. Example 1: My house is in the hills above Trujillo. A very simple place… pink stones that warm in the sun… kitchen arden that smells of herbs in the day… jasmine in the evening. Through the gate is giant popular. Figs, apples, pears. The soil, Marcus, black…black like my wife’s hair. Grapes on the south slopes, olives on the north. Wild ponies play near my house, they tease my son. He wants to be one of them. (Chosen from Scrapper) Subtitles: “ ???? TRUJILLO??????????????????????????? ,??????????????? ,???????????????????????????????????? ,???? ,?????????????????? ,???????????????????????????????? ,????????????? ” There are three pronouns at the end of this passage— “they”, “he” and “them”. The literal translation of the last sentence is “ ????????? ,??????????? ”.

Although this sentence is right, the translating accent is very English, and it is not quite acceptable by Chinese people. So the translator changed it into “ ?????????? ,???????????? ” which sounds natural, colloquial and easy-understanding. E. The Achievement of Harmony between Sounds and Visual Pictures Film is kind of comprehensive art combine with listening and watching. Visual pictures and sounds are mutual complemented to each other. So to achieve the harmony between them is quite essential. Example 1: Lester: So, Janie. How was school? Janie: It’s ok! Lester: Just okay? (dissatisfied) Janie: No, Dad. It was spectacular! (impatient) (Chosen from American Beauty)

There “ spectacular” is a relatively longer word, and the Chinese translation is “ ??? ” or “ ??? ”, but “ ??? ” or “ ??? ” is a little bit short. When the subtitle has completed displayed to the viewers, the actor could probably not stop moving her lips. So to achieve the agreement, the translation had better be “ ?????? ”. In addition, “ ?? ” also could express Janie’s impatient feeling. Example 2: Ah, there it is. (Chosen from Mind of Beauty) When Nash was playing checks with his rival, several students were watching, and in the end, one of them said that sentence. If we translate it literally, the translation should be “ ????? ” which is very vague. And in he movie, we can see, following this sentence, Nash smiled. So this sentence contains the hidden meaning that Nash would win the competition. So, if we translate it into “ ? ,???? ”, then it will be more accordant with the picture ( Nash’s smile). F. Good Consideration of Context Each exciting moment in film is established through dialogues, and their meanings should be coherent, so the context of film stands in an important position. Subtitle translators should know the actors’ purpose very well through the context. Only thus could the translated subtitles be understood by the viewers. Example 1: Go to the mattress. (Chosen from You’ve Got Mail)

This sentence is originated from the actor’s line in movie The Godfather, and it means that it is the time for fighting, because this scene happened in the context that the sinister gang would sleep together temporarily on several beds before fighting in the next day. Therefore, the translation of this should be “ ???? ”. But if the subtitle translators don not know its origination, they are likely to put it into the way of “????? ”, which is really ridiculous and probably cause misunderstanding to its viewers about the two major characters’ relationship. Example 2: Karen: And you? How is it with the fighting? Denys: Were taking a beating. It’s likely to last for a while. (Chosen from Out of Africa) A translation version for this dialogue is “ ????????? ” “ ???????? ,???????? ”.

In this version, the translation “ ???????? ” for “ taking a beating” is not proper, though from the literal meaning, it is accordant with the later part “ It’s likely to last for a while”. However, if we do a careful analysis, we will find Denys’ answer is not acceptable to Karen’s question. Because Karen asked Denys how the fighting was going on, and she needs a description, while Denys just answered Karen there was a beating. In our daily life, we don not answer others’ questions in this way. In fact, “ taking a beating” is an English idiom, and it means “ difficult to surpass”, so why don’t we translate it in this way “ ???? ,???????? ”. I think it will be much better.

There are many such kind of examples. Now let me compare a word’s meaning in different context. 1) Schidle: Well, I’m a German. All right, you’ve done it. A good company, you think? Stern: Modestly successful! (Chosen from Schindle’s List) There “ good company” can be translated it into “ ??? ”, but “ ? ” can be divided into many aspects. According to Schidle’s reply and his identity as a businessman, it is not hard to sense his purpose that he wanted to know whether this company was profitable or not. So I think the translation had better be “ ? ,???????? ,????????????????? ” “ ?????? ”. 2) Stern: You stand in the line or there, but there is no good. Chosen from Schindle’s List) “ no good” in Chinese means “ ???? ”, but according to the situation then— Jews wanted to find a job in Schidle’s factory, but without blue cards, they cannot get any job there, so Stern said to one of the Jews that sentence. Considering all these, I think we can change “ ???? ” into another expression like “ ?????????? ,????? ”. 3) Goeth: You want to say where you are. You’ve got things going on the side, things are good, you don’t want anybody telling you what to do— I can understand all that, didn’t I? (Chosen from Schindle’s List) This scene happened in this context: Goeth was a bad guy who always kills people.

He thought Schindle wanted to build a small camp by employing Jews, so he thought Schindle would turn to him for help. Then he said the sentence above. According to the movie’s content, we know “thing” means “establishing a small camp” there, so “good” means “profitable”. Then the subtitle could be translated as “ ????????? ,???????????? ,??????? ,???????????? ,???????????? ” 4) Darcy: But that was what she liked. People flatter her so much she enjoys an occasional change. Lizzy: I’m afraid I gave her a good change this afternoon. (Chosen from Pride and Prejudice) According to the movie’s content, we know that Darcy’s aunt is a person who likes other’s flattery.

Lizzy’s reply is an irony. I once saw a kind of translation in a version was “ ?????????????? ”, in which the translation of “ good” is liberal. This translation did not keep the original speaking tone of the speaker, and could not show Lizzy’s smartness and character. So I suggest this translation be changed into “ ????????????????? ”. All in all, subtitling translation should be connected with the film’s different context. Then only do so, can it convey the genuine meaning to its viewers. ?. Conclusion In consideration of the time and space constraints as well as the analysis of those examples, I have concluded the subtitling translation tactics into six aspects.

Right now, I also would like to provide a piece of advice to the subtitle translators—to be a subtitle translator with intelligence and work ethic. For intelligence, subtitle translators may do their efforts by enhancing the following three aspects. Firstly, subtitles translators should do efforts on dealing with untranslatability. Secondly, subtitle translators should improve their proficiency of language, including the proficiency of both source language and target language. The more proficient about language the subtitle translators are, the more freely and skillfully could they accomplish their task. Last but equally important, subtitle translators should strengthen their listening ability.

Correct translation can only be achieved through correct comprehension, and listening accurately is the first necessary step for correct comprehension. Cultural vacuum is unavoidable in subtitling translation. Under the condition of being impossible to find an equivalent word in the target language, subtitle translators might “create” a new word reasonably. For work ethic, the author thinks subtitle translators may perfect themselves from the following three aspects. First, subtitle translators should be passionate. Because passion can make subtitle translators be interested in their translating work. Second, subtitle translators should be careful and responsible for their work,because their attitudes play a great part in the subtitle translators’ work.

Third, subtitle translators should be perseverant. Because subtitling translation needs a great devotion of time and energy, which is rather harsh to many subtitle translators. The author wants to contribute her study and effort to the subtitling translation by writing this essay, and firmly believes by applying correct tactics, we will make a prosperous future in the field of subtitling translation. Notes 1 Nedergaard-Larsen, Bright, “Culture-bound Problems in Subtitling”in. Perspectives (Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 1993), 27. 2 Shuttleworth M. and Cowie, ed. , Dictionary of Translation Studies. (Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 1997), 264. 3 Gottlieb, H. Subtitling— A New University Discipline,” in Teaching Translation And Interpreting: Training, Talent And Experience C Dollerup & A Lodegaard (Eds) Amsterdam, ed. John Benjamins Company (Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 1992), 47. Bibliography Xu, Lisheng , ed. Intercultural Communication In English. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2004. ??????? ?????? (??? ), ?? :????? ,1999? ????? ???????? , ???????? :????????? ,2007? ????? ?????????? ,???????? :??????? ?? ,1994? ????? ???????? ,?? :?????????? ,2001? ????? ?????? ?? :?????????? ,2001? ????? ????????? (??? ), ???????? : ????????? , 2004? ????? ????????? (??? ), ???????? : ????????? ,2007? ????? ?????????????? ,??. ?? :????????? , 2007? ???? ???????????? , ?? :??????? ,2001?