Boost your career as a professional translator!

Boost your career as a professional translator! SDL hosts a virtual conference featuring a selection of free resources to help grow your freelance business, as well as an update on the new features of the world’s most trusted translation software - SDL Trados Studio 2017

Click for Full Participation

Off topic: The Untranslatables!
Thread poster: murat karahan

murat karahan  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 19:49
English to Turkish
+ ...
Jul 12, 2004

Did you ever come across situations where there simply is no way to translate a term, phrase, sentence etc.. Well I do from time to time and since in subtitling I don't have the tool of footnotes, just think of these two examples as food for thought.
These are from Airplane 1 and 2.
Captain's full name is Clarence Oever.

Tower : Flight 2-0-9er, you're cleared for take off.
Clarence : Roger!
Roger : Huh?
Tower : L.A. departure frequency 1-2-3 point 9er.
Clarence : Roger!
Roger : Huh?
: Re-quest Vector, over!
Clarence : What?
Tower : 2-0-9er clear for vector 2-3-4.
Roger : We have clearance Clarence.
Clarence : Roger, Roger. What's our Vector Victor?
Tower : Tower's radio clearance, over!
Clarence : That's Clarence Oever! Oever.
Tower : Roger.
Roger : Huh?
Tower : Roger, over.
Roger: Huh?
Clarence : Huh?

If you prefer listening to it
http://www.tigersweat.com/movies/airplane/air02.wav
http://www.tigersweat.com/movies/airplane/

This is from Airplane 2, the trial sequence. A dialogue among a lawyer and let's say JOHN.

John : I flew with Striker during the war.
I'll never forget the night we bombed Macho Grande. Striker was a squadron leader. He brought us in low, BUT HE couldn't handle it.

LAWYER : BUDDY couldn't handle it.
Was Buddy in your crew?

JOHN : Buddy was the bombardier, but Striker couldn't handle it. AND HE went to pieces.

LAWYER : ANDY went to pieces?

JOHN : Andy was the navigator. Buddy went to pieces. It was awful, HOW HE came unglued.

LAWYER : HOWIE came unglued?

JOHN :No, Howie was the best tail gunner
in the outfit. Buddy came unglued.

LAWYER : AND HE bailed out?

JOHN : No! ANDY hung tough. Buddy bailed. HOW WE survived was a miracle.

LAWYER : Then HOWIE survived?

JOHN : No. Afraid not. We lost Howie the next day.

Any suggestions, anyone Should've called the topic lost in translation instead

Ooops! Just checked and found that this topic was discussed several times (as old as topic 117) Should've checked that earlier.




[Edited at 2004-07-12 23:19]

[Edited at 2004-07-13 04:40]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Selçuk Budak  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:49
English to Turkish
+ ...
Yep! Jul 12, 2004

My favorite is a comment by Marlyn Monroe to a reporter asking "Have you anything on?" on some occasion.
Her answer was: "Yes, I have my radio on!"

Unlike the prevailing image of her(dumb, lovely blondie), this astonishingly clever answer is totally untranslatable (at least to Turkish).
This anectode can now be found in many Quotation dictionaries.

As a rule of thumb, puns are untranslatable, so as many jokes.
A simple example from my Language Learning Class (I may not replicate exact wording):

All people in a train receiving an electrical shock have died, except the Conductor! Why?

I think, literary translators, subtitlers, etc. encounter this difficulty more often than business translator.

Good luck to all!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:19
English to Tamil
+ ...
I built up another joke on the same punchline Jul 13, 2004

The joke went like this. The conductor of a famous orchestra was sentenced to die in the electric chair as capital offence. He had kidnapped and murdered a girl. This fellow was put in the electric chair, voltage was applied but he didn't die. Why? Because he was a bad conductor.

Another joke illustrating the non-translatability involved odd numbers. Three friends took coffee in a cafe and each put an odd number of sugar cubes in his cup. The total comes to 12. What is a possible distribution of sugar cubes among the friends? The answer is: A put 1 cube, B put 1 cube, whereas C put 10 cubes and you should agree that putting 10 cubes in one cup of coffee is quite odd.

What about the other side of the coin? There is one joke with play on words, which is perfectly translatable among German, French, English, Italian, Hindi, Tamil. This came about as a result of some spontaneous conversation, where I was interpreting for a Frenchman. The host wanted me to tell the Frenchman that he (host) would like to take him (Frenchman) to a strip-tease joint in the evening after the day's work was over. The Frenchman politely declined. Host wanted to insist the point and I was asked to repeat the offer and each time the Frenchman declined. Host was put out. In fact he himself wanted to see the show and the Frenchman was only an excuse. Host was telling me that the Frenchman was away from his wife for some days and he might have some problems. Host was coughing as he mentioned the problem. Without further ado I too coughed and told the host that as for the problem, the Frenchman has just to take it in hand and it will go away soon. This was expressed in Hindi and the entire Indian party consisting of the host and his subordinate officers howled with laughter. The Frenchman was perplexed and asked me what it was about. I translated for him into French what I said about the problem and it was a literal transalation. It was the turn of the Frenchman to shriek with laughter and he added: "Comme ca, pas de SIDA."

Regards,
N.Raghavan

Selçuk Budak wrote:
All people in a train receiving an electrical shock have died, except the Conductor! Why?


[Edited at 2004-07-13 14:42]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 11:49
English to Russian
+ ...
Both are perfectly normal slang exchanges for the given situations and trades. Jul 13, 2004

Where is the problem? I see none in finding Russian equivalents. Maybe because I work with similar subjects. Why accept translations otherwise? - a totally impersonal remark, nothing but a generic question.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

murat karahan  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 19:49
English to Turkish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
try listening Jul 13, 2004

The problems in brief
Roger says "Huh?" each time the pilot finishes a talk with the tower, saying roger.
Pilot's name is Clarence Oever (pronounced "over"). When the
tower says You have clearance (pronounced the same as Clarence) he goes "Huh?"

I will write the problem part in the second part in capital. This way you can see the play on "and he - Andy",
"but he - Buddy"


IreneN wrote:

Where is the problem? I see none in finding Russian equivalents. Maybe because I work with similar subjects. Why accept translations otherwise? - a totally impersonal remark, nothing but a generic question.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:49
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Not so much of a problem Jul 13, 2004

Experienced translators can substitute the original puns by others in the target language. Often the result is more funny than the original.
But as we see foreign pictures always with subtitles we can at the same time get the original pun and the one written by the translator. That's one reason why its more fun to view movies with subtitles than synchronised.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

murat karahan  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 19:49
English to Turkish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The second one is actually more fun to translate Jul 13, 2004

I used these 2 sequences in a subtitling class mainly to teach students the extent they can shift from the original text to create the effect of the original dialogue on the audience. 3 years in a row we failed to come up with a good replacement for the puns in the cockpit scene of Airplane 1. And I still think
it's impossible to provide a sollution in 12 seconds and 4 subtitles.
But as far as the second movie is concerned, the students let their imagination run wild and came up with sollutions which surpassed the original.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

nothing
Local time: 17:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
I cannot see the problem for Airplane 1 Jul 13, 2004

As far as I know, there some words that are used by pilots to communicate with the control tower, no matter what country they are from, even in internal flights. Roger and over are some of those words.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:49
Member
English to Turkish
I wonder Jul 13, 2004

I remember a similar situation in the movie A Fish Called Wanda. When Wanda enters the courtroom in an unexpected moment, the solicitor suddenly shouts out "Wanda!" and then tries to save the situation with "I wonder, wonder... Your Honour, if... " I'm not sure, but as far as I remember the translator didn't even try to find a solution in the subtitles, and just translated everything as it was, so for the audience who didn't understand any English the pun was completely lost. And I admit that a solution hardly seems possible when it is subtitling (same applies to "clearence, over! -> Clarence Oever." And the second part of your text seems even tougher (Andy / And he... etc). In dubbing, though, the only solution seems to create entirely different puns, but then again the original creation is lost, and in a way, the purpose of translation is not served. Murat, maybe you should seek ways to introduce translator's notes in subtitling

Direct link Reply with quote
 

murat karahan  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 19:49
English to Turkish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes you're right Jul 14, 2004

The pun is on the fact that their names and the words of the pilot jargon are either pronounced or spelled the same.
So how would you translate "You have clearance, Clarence?"


nothing wrote:

As far as I know, there some words that are used by pilots to communicate with the control tower, no matter what country they are from, even in internal flights. Roger and over are some of those words.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

nothing
Local time: 17:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
An idea Jul 14, 2004

It depends on the language. I cannot remember how "clearance, Clarence" was translated when the film was dubbed to Spanish. For clearance pilots use "pista libre", which would not do at all, so I would say "Todo claro, Clarence" instead. It means all clear, Clarence. I don't know how you can do it in Turkish, but I am sure you would find something to keep the joke even if it is not exactly the same

Direct link Reply with quote
 

murat karahan  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 19:49
English to Turkish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
How about Jul 14, 2004

applying an unconventional approach and changing the pilot's name as Claro? Then it would be "Todo claro, Claro" (of course if there is such a name) That's what I did with the subtitle translation of it.



nothing wrote:

It depends on the language. I cannot remember how "clearance, Clarence" was translated when the film was dubbed to Spanish. For clearance pilots use "pista libre", which would not do at all, so I would say "Todo claro, Clarence" instead. It means all clear, Clarence. I don't know how you can do it in Turkish, but I am sure you would find something to keep the joke even if it is not exactly the same


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

The Untranslatables!

Advanced search






LSP.expert
You’re a freelance translator? LSP.expert helps you manage your daily translation jobs. It’s easy, fast and secure.

How about you start tracking translation jobs and sending invoices in minutes? You can also manage your clients and generate reports about your business activities. So you always keep a clear view on your planning, AND you get a free 30 day trial period!

More info »
PDF Translation - the Easy Way
TransPDF converts your PDFs to XLIFF ready for professional translation.

TransPDF converts your PDFs to XLIFF ready for professional translation. It also puts your translations back into the PDF to make new PDFs. Quicker and more accurate than hand-editing PDF. Includes free use of Infix PDF Editor with your translated PDFs.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums