Poll: Do you think media coverage and movie depictions of translation are accurate?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 00:49
Oct 8, 2017

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you think media coverage and movie depictions of translation are accurate?".

View the poll results »


Gitte Hoveds (X)
Local time: 09:49
Danish to English
+ ...
No clue whatsoever Oct 8, 2017

I've never seen a film depicting the life of a translator.
Come to think of it, how interesting could that possibly be?

Day 1: Translator sits at computer from early morning till late afternoon, interspersed with breaks where she makes coffee or lunch, walks the dog or herself.

Day 2: See Day 1

Day 3: See Day 1 or 2

etc. etc. etc.


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:49
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Other Oct 8, 2017

What 'media coverage and movie depictions' of translation?

I can't recall any movie depictions at all in my 32 years plus of translating, except one, the scene in John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness (I luffs this film) where the translator is translating from Latin and typing "I live I live I live I live...." into what-must-have-been an old IBM computer.

As for 'media coverage,' well, maybe we'll see headlines such as "Disgruntled Translator Staples 100 POs to PM's Forehead" or "I Married an Alien Translator" in the National Enquirer one day. Other than that, what 'media coverage' could there possibly be?

Who on Earth at Proz dreams up these ridiculous polls? icon_confused.gif

Small edits

[Edited at 2017-10-08 08:58 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-10-08 09:03 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Local time: 08:49
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I don't know/I don't think so... Oct 8, 2017

The only two movies I remember having seen “depicting translation” were a very old one (1963) called “Charade” played by the late Audrey Hepburn and a more recent one (2005) called “The Interpreter” played by Nicole Kidman both as… UN interpreters!

As for media coverage, if memory serves me right, I might have read one or two interviews with translators after a coveted literary prize (Booker, Nobel, Goncourt, Femina or the like) was awarded to the original writer.


Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:49
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Truly, Madly, Deeply Oct 8, 2017

Many years ago there was the fascinating film Truly, Madly, Deeply which brought Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson to prominence. Stevenson played a translator in a small and somewhat chaotic London agency which I thought seemed convincing.

Apart from that, I can't think of any films featuring translators.
In the news, interpreters are often described as translators, the general public not knowing that there is a difference, or that the native language of translators and interpreters is a matter of any importance ...

Wait a minute ... more recently there was Lost in Translation starring Bill Murray as a bewildered American celebrity who knew no Japanese hired to make a commercial in Tokyo. To some degree, the film did concern translators (or rather interpreters).

[Edited at 2017-10-08 09:18 GMT]


Anna Herbst  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:49
Member (2008)
English to Swedish
+ ...

Posted via
ProZ.com Mobile

Translation? Oct 8, 2017

I could understand the question if it referred to interpretation, but translation? Gitte is spot on.
Anna (translator)


Mohsen Kafi
New Zealand
Local time: 20:49
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
Translators' image in movies Oct 8, 2017

As an Iranian citizen, I believe that the representation of translators/interpreters in Iranian feature films is far from real. I have recently coauthored a paper entitled "translators' image in Iranian feature films: A sociological perspective", which will be published in the next issue of FORUM, International Journal of Interpretation and Translation. I hereby provide you with a short excerpt from this article:

"Overall, the results indicated that translators are often depicted as self-disciplined and dis-sociable individuals who are somehow obsessed with their work. Moreover, they often hold nontraditional beliefs about different issues. The analysis uncovered three main stances with regard to the attitude of the other characters towards translators. More specifically, the translators were seen as helpful individuals, traitors and inferior members of the society. Finally, the findings of this study indicated that translators have a minor role in most of the analyzed films".

Hope you guys will find the time to read the full paper in less than three months.


Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
This poll Oct 9, 2017

Commenting on Julian's notes, I am assuming whoever authored this poll was thinking of the recent flick “Arrival,” heralded by many interpreters and translators on social media as a great movie to go see.

I rented the DVD and saw the movie, which left me underwhelmed and unimpressed, especially because one of the main protagonists, Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, is a “linguist” (not an interpreter or a translator), who finally deciphers what the giant floating rock aliens are trying to say. A few things I found wrong with this movie:

a) At the UN event (one of the flashbacks experienced by Dr. Louise Banks), she holds a copy of her book, “The Universal Language.” From an evolutionary viewpoint, and from the evolution of languages, a universal language is an impossibility.

b) The argument language vs. science doesn't hold water.

The topics explored are interesting: how an unknown language is analyzed, methods of analysis, and (chuckle here) the rush with which language professionals are pushed to produce results, which only shows the ignorance of those doing the pushing.

As for “The Interpreter” with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, I watched it and disliked it because of its many contrivances. Movies usually present the alien language vs. humans assuming they're being invaded situation with some highly meaningful, world-important message given by the aliens, as if anything written in a language we don't know always says something very meaningful, sacred or religious.

To me, movies and TV series are for entertainment and I don't lose sleep over how we translators are portrayed for good or ill. Sure, debates can be fun but moviemakers don't pay my bills.



Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:49
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
??? Oct 9, 2017

Anna Herbst wrote:

.... Gitte is spot on.

Anna (translator)

As moderator you probably have access to and can actually see what Gitte is writing in the Post Reply field but yet has not finished and submitted as a post. What is "spot on" is Lost In Translation to us as we can't see what Gitte has written.


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

Moderator(s) of this forum
Jared Tabor[Call to this topic]

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

Poll: Do you think media coverage and movie depictions of translation are accurate?

Advanced search

WordFinder Unlimited
For clarity and excellence

WordFinder is the leading dictionary service that gives you the words you want anywhere, anytime. Access 260+ dictionaries from the world's leading dictionary publishers in virtually any device. Find the right word anywhere, anytime - online or offline.

More info »
Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for ProZ.com users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through ProZ.com. Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »

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