Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Translating songs with rude words
Thread poster: Alison Sparks

Alison Sparks  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:41
French to English
+ ...
Feb 14, 2012

Hello to all. I'm hoping some of you can advise me. I have been asked to translate some songs from French to English as part of a "cultural experience" for the local collège. Whilst this isn't a problem normally, one of the songs is "rap" ( not my preferred choice), and contains words one can use easily in French but are excessively vulgar in English. I'm not sure that even the F word is acceptable let alone some of the others. Has anyone out there had this experience? The problem is to find words which fit the rhythm and context.

 

David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 06:41
German to English
+ ...
Rap? Feb 14, 2012

I thought absolutely everything goes in rap - and that too is a cultural experience for the collège. I'd be "excessively vulgar!"

 

sailingshoes
Local time: 06:41
Spanish to English
Good translation Feb 14, 2012

Good translation requires the same level of vulgarity in English, so you'll need to avoid using what seem like the default equivalents.

I love rap.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:41
Hebrew to English
No sanitization Feb 14, 2012

You can't offer a faithful "cultural experience" or a faithful translation by sanitizing the content.

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
One man's meat... Feb 14, 2012

This is a tough question. In principle, I agree that a translator's job is to translate, not to water down the original - and let's just hope they don't "shoot the messenger"! Rap can indeed be particularly unpleasant in terms of vile lyrics, and I suppose how you handle it will depend on the target audience and purpose.

It is also necessary to take into account that some words are taboo in languages which are not in others, or the same taboo word may be less shocking in some cultures than others. The notion of what is or is not "excessively vulgar" or where something (for example, my post header) might cause offence is also subjective and moot.


 

LA_DAMASCENA_76
Local time: 06:41
Arabic to Italian
+ ...
I totally agree - Feb 14, 2012

David Wright wrote:

I thought absolutely everything goes in rap - and that too is a cultural experience for the collège. I'd be "excessively vulgar!"


 

Alison Sparks  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:41
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the advice Feb 14, 2012

OK. Thanks, I get the gist.

I'll translate as it should be, but explain that in general one doesn't use some of these words in English without perhaps giving offence.

I wasn't trying to sanitise the content really, I was just wondering what does and doesn't go for 14 year olds. I gather they're going to use some of it to make contact with a school in the UK for potential "twinning".

I guess I'm probably too old fashioned, and too out of touch with how English teenagers speak. Perhaps why rap isn't my preferred subject for music!

I really appreciate all your suggestions and advice. I'll translate and let the teachers decide what to use. A bit like Pontius Pilate?


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:41
French to English
+ ...
Your job as translator... Feb 14, 2012

Your job as translator is partly to ensure that a text achieves its purpose for the target-language audience.

If the purpose of a text was to be serious, prosaic and informative, you probably wouldn't choose to translate it using humorous rhyming couplets.

So if the purpose of the text is to shock/offend, why do you see it as your duty to protect people from being shocked or offended?


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:41
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Offend English listeners as much as French ones Feb 14, 2012

Alison Sparks wrote:
...but explain that in general one doesn't use some of these words in English without perhaps giving offence.


My first reaction is: if a French listener won't be offended, then neither should an English one be. In other words, if the dictionary equivalent of the word is not offensive in French but is offensive in English, then don't use that word. The effect on the English listener should be the same as the effect on the French listener.

In my language combination, the situation is opposite -- the dictionary translation of many words in English that have lost their expletive meaning are still considered very coarse in my native language, so a rapper using them would appeal to a very different type of rap listener even if the actual meaning of the words are the same.

However, if English rappers use a similar word frequently in their songs (i.e. in the same location, or with the same function), then use that word, even if the word has a different meaning.


 

Alison Sparks  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:41
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
And therein lies the rub Feb 14, 2012

The text in French is not of itself hugely shocking because as Samuel says some of the words have lost their expletive meaning. So I don't think the intention is to seriously shock or offend.

However, in the English I use some of them are definitely very coarse. Neil Coffey, I don't think it's my duty to protect, but since this is a "cultural exercise" for 14 year olds, I do think I need to be careful.

It isn't so much the dictionary definitions which are the root of the problem, indeed some of them are rather milder than the intended meaning in this context. It's more a question of the cultural differences, and what can be said/discussed.

After spending time with the class in question I can't imagine any teacher in the UK who is in total control of a class allowing quite such free and frank discussion and all in such good humour. (I spent more than ten years working in schools in the UK.)

I will, as Samuel suggests, try to find some English rap to listen to and see what that is like. BUT, I think I've found a partial solution to one particularly difficult phrase by spoonerising it. Remains to be seen.

At least it is an absolute joy to be doing one of Francis Cabrel's songs as well - Petite Sirene - and who knows maybe I can persuade them to do one of Christophe Mae's!

One last minor question. Isn't it a part of the translators job to cross the cultural divide as smoothly as possible? Or is that just a pretention on my part?


 

Denise Phelps  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
And register? Feb 14, 2012

I actually disagree with most of the other commenters. I don't know, but I imagine that one of the problem words is 'con'. In French, this is about as offensive as "crap", the way "coño" is in Spanish. But their literal translation into English is absolutely about the most taboo word you can use. I think, especially in the context here, there would be an argument for translating the register rather than the literal meaning.

 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:41
Hebrew to English
Beyond expletives.... Feb 14, 2012

....rap in English has a reputation for being highly misogynistic and homophobic. I don't know whether French rap is the same....if not, might make for an interesting cultural difference....

I'd translate it first of all, warts and all, and present this to the college/teacher (whoever you are liaising with) and get them to glance at it....they may feel that they want their students to experience the full picture...(English teenagers these days are pretty hard to shock or offend)...on the other hand, if they agree with you about its explicitness, then you can discuss this further with them and work around it via alternative translations.


 

matt robinson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:41
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Cover yourself Feb 15, 2012

Some fourteen year olds will appreciate a debate about the relative strength of expletives between languages, some will just want to have a few swear words up their sleeves, and some may even go home and tell their parents, who could subsequently make a complaint. It could be a very interesting activity, but before you do anything I would clear it with the head of department.

 

Halil Ibrahim Tutuncuoglu "Бёcäטsع Լîfe's cômplicåtعd eñøugh"
Turkey
Local time: 07:41
Turkish to English
+ ...
On the other hand "Traduttore, tradittore" Feb 15, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

You can't offer a faithful "cultural experience" or a faithful translation by sanitizing the content.




“Translation is like a woman. If it is beautiful, it is not faithful. If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful.”

—- Yevgeny Yevtushenko


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:41
Hebrew to English
Braver than me.... Feb 15, 2012

I think there might be a woman or two who might disagree there.....icon_smile.gif

In addition, when I say "faithful", I don't mean literal...I merely mean not straying too far from the spirit of the text for fear of not wanting to offend anyone.

In the OP's first post, she claims the college are organising a "cultural experience". The truth is any "cultural experience" runs the risk of offence or discomfort....it's part and parcel of the whole experience....

...when I was a teenager myself, I felt extremely uncomfortable on my first "cultural experience" when I landed in Luxor, Egypt....everything was so different, so foreign and I had never encountered anything like it (that experience may even be classified as "culture shock").

...and I've also been offended (on more than one occasion) by the cultural directness of the Israelis. It's part of the experience in delving into other cultures....

You live, you learn.

...cultural experiences can be both positive and negative. I don't think we should shield teenagers from this reality and instill any kind of illusion in them that everything they encounter from abroad(from divergent cultures) will be palatable to them.


N.B. ...but she should follow the advice to cover her own back by getting final approval by the college, naturally.


[Edited at 2012-02-15 09:44 GMT]


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


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


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

Translating songs with rude words

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 »
CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »



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