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Examples of confusing mistranslations
Thread poster: Ula_pol
Local time: 22:57
Jan 6, 2007

Hi everyone!I'm looking for examples badly translated book or film titles (or fragments of films/books ) that cause embarrassment or misunderstanding etc. I found one example of mistranslated title of "The last action hero" was translated into Polish "Bohater ostatniej akcji" while the right translation should be "Ostatni bohater (kina) akcji".

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Andrea Pinto  Identity Verified

Local time: 22:57
Subtitling pitfalls and bloopers Jan 6, 2007

Hi Ula_pol,

You could take a look at this site:
The English version shows pitfalls and bloopers, some are quite hilarious.
Although I must say, they're based on English-Dutch translations, nevertheless maybe you find them interesting and useful.




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Tony M  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
French to English
+ ...
Two old chestnuts Jan 6, 2007

One of the commonest ones I've encountered, merely as a viewer, is the blatant mis-translation from DE > EN of times like ,,halb sieben" as "seven thirty", when it should of course be "six thirty" — surprising that they should make such elementary mistakes.

And "The X-files" tagline "The truth is out there" has been famously offically mistranslated into FR as « La vérité est (or possibly se trouve ?) ailleurs » — in any event, not at all the original intended meaning!

If you want a laugh, look at the EN subtitles on the FR language version of « La Cage aux Folles 1 », where the colourful language has been cleaned up to the point of becoming ridiculous.

A famous subtitled version of "Hamlet" (the classic B&W one with Larry Olivier, I believe") once rendered virtually the entire battlemenst soliloquy scene as simply « Il y a du brouillard ce soir ! » (or words very much to that effect!)

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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
English to Polish
+ ...
Bottomless pit Jan 6, 2007


I hear at least 1-2 translation blunders or inaccuracies in each movie I watch, so the topic is vast. That's vast with a capital V...

Just recently, when my wife was watching "Dirty Dancing" (I just dropped in for a few minutes, I swear!), I heard this (in English):

"I am going to the golf course."

The Polish translation was: "I am going to {implied: take} a golf course {as in: lessons}."

The original Polish translation of the title of the movie itself was "Whirling Sex", which is also pretty lame, IMO.

Pawel Skalinski

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Tanks/Danke Jan 6, 2007

In a very old version of "All Quiet on the Western Front" someone yelled "Tanks" and the subtitle read "Danke".

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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
All of them are ridiculous Jan 6, 2007

Look at any English movie dubbed or subtitled into Hindi or vice-versa and you'd be able to write a book about such blunders... if u know both languages.

At times all you can do is just laugh... especially the songs!!!

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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:57
English to Russian
+ ...
not films, but... Jan 6, 2007

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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:57
Flemish to English
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La ferme Jan 6, 2007

In a movie with louis de funes "la ferme", meaning "shut up" has been translate as "the farm"

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Tori Young  Identity Verified
United States
Spanish to English
Plot giveaway Jan 6, 2007

I understand that translating titles can often be quite challenging, but is it really necessary to give away the plot in the title? I was amazed to discover that "Rosemary's Baby" is translated as "La semilla del diablo" (the devil's seed), while Hitchcock's "Marnie" is translated as "Marnie, la ladrona" (Marnie, the thief). I guess some audiences just want a little more information.

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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:57
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Company/Business Jan 7, 2007

Linda Bolzern wrote:

In a very old version of "All Quiet on the Western Front" someone yelled "Tanks" and the subtitle read "Danke".

Hi Linda,

I guess your sample mistranslation is the funniest case of all. This is really a refreshing and amusing joke when I checked out this forum in the morning.:):):)

In an English war action film, the subtitler translates 'Charlie's company' to 'Charlie's business' (perusahaan Charlie) when it should be 'Charlie's company' (military term, not economic term) (kompi Charlie).

All these sample mistranslations are really amusing, natural jokes:) (remember, the translator/subtitler did not intend to make a joke, but in fact he/she did).

[Edited at 2007-01-07 01:38]

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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 17:57
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's a toff's game. Jan 7, 2007

In "The Crying Game," hostage Jody (Forest Whitaker) is telling the IRA militant guarding him, Fergus (Stephen Rea), about cricket in his native Antigua.

Jody tells Fergus that it's different. "It's a toff's game here," while in Antigua it's what kids do on the playground, like sandlot baseball in the U.S.

The Spanish subtitles changed "toff's game" (upperclass, aristocrats' game) to "juego duro" (a rough/tough/hard game). They obviously heard "tough," not "toff," and didn't worry that the conversation didn't make any sense.

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Evonymus (Ewa Kazmierczak)  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
English to Polish
+ ...
movies Jan 7, 2007

For me, one of the most annoying mistranslations is that of a simple “I’m sorry”, which, depending on the situation, should be translated into Polish ‘Przepraszam’ (+/- ‘forgive me’ etc.) or ‘Przykro mi’ (smth like – ‘I feel sorry for you’). And this is often confused, unfortunately.

And I agree with you Tori - it is not necessary to give away the plot in the title, but on the other hand the title should reflect (at least to some extent) the plot. And here is my example (one of many, unfortunately) - the movie “Sliding doors” with Gwyneth Paltrow and absolutely gorgeous John Hannah) was translated into Polish as “Przypadkowa dziewczyna” (smth like “A random/causal girl”), which has nothing to do with the plot.
Anyway, the topic is indeed Vast and there are so many examples of wrongly translated movies that you might just wonder why.
rgds Ewa

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Vito Smolej
Local time: 22:57
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
example of a WRONG translation Jan 7, 2007

...traditional (g)...

William Faulker: "Light in august"

in German:"Licht im August"
in French: "Lumière d'août"
in Slovenian: "svetloba v avgustu"
in Slovak: "srpnove svetlo"

etc, etc

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Miia Mattila
Local time: 23:57
English to Finnish
Classics Jan 7, 2007

A couple of classic examples (English - Finnish) came to my mind while reading this thread:

1. The X-Files: The truth is out there = Totuus on tuolla ulkona (= The truth is outside)

2. Movie title that reveals more than necessary:

Shawshank Redemption = Rita Hayworth - Avain pakoon (= Rita Hayworth - Means to escape) If any of you has seen this wonderful movie based on Stephen King's short story, you know what I mean

3. Confusing movie title:

There's Something about Mary = Sekaisin Marista
Double meaning: 1. Crazy about Mari (Mari can be used as the Finnish equivalent for Mary) or 2. High on marijuana (mari = pot)

The list could go on and on...

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Local time: 22:57
atrocious translations Jan 7, 2007

Thank you for all your posts. I’d like to provide some examples of really atrocious translations into Polish :

- „Warriors of Virtue" > "Wirtualni wojownicy" which stands for “Virtual warriors”

- "Needful things" of Stephen King > "Sklepik z marzeniami" (A dream shop) - a title thatat the same time gives the plot, which can be irritating for some readers

-„Dirty dancing” > „Wirujący seks” (“Whirling sex”), which I hate

I’m looking forward for your next replies

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