adding jokes?
Thread poster: Pointman
Pointman
Vietnam
Local time: 12:56
Oct 15, 2013

so my friend was translating a comedy comic book, but in his translation, he added some joke that was not in the original comic on lines that was not a joke in the first place, sometimes change the joke to something else loosely connected even when the original joke would still work if he doesn't change anything.

I strongly disagreed with him, but he claim that it the right way to translate things and will make the translation "better" than the original book.

what you think about this?


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:56
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Very unprofessional Oct 15, 2013

Pointman wrote:

so my friend was translating a comedy comic book, but in his translation, he added some joke that was not in the original comic on lines that was not a joke in the first place, sometimes change the joke to something else loosely connected even when the original joke would still work if he doesn't change anything.

I strongly disagreed with him, but he claim that it the right way to translate things and will make the translation "better" than the original book.

what you think about this?


I think that is very unprofessional.

By the way, you don't need to put "So" before you say something.


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:56
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's hard to decide Oct 15, 2013

without a concrete example. Translating jokes and puns is terribly difficult and sometimes, a joke in one language doesn't work in another so, if you had to translate something with that joke in it, you'd have to use another joke that would inspire the same effect in the reader.

Of course you say that this isn't the case and that your friend changed a joke even when this wasn't necessary but that could be a matter of opinion...

Personally, I think that you have to remember that you are a translator and that you have to faithfully render what is written, which differs from being a writer and creating your own work of art but jokes are a bit of a quagmire.


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 06:56
German to English
+ ...
Not sure Oct 15, 2013

If you look at the translations of Asterix into German and English you will find that there are "new" jokes in some places and others have had to be left out. If the whole thing "works", then why not? But you'd have to be a very experienced and sensitive translator to do this well!

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KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 06:56
Russian to German
+ ...
hard to decide II Oct 15, 2013

I agree with Marie-Helene on this one, it's hard to judge from a distance. Translating humour is very difficult. I would say that it can be justified to add a joke in a place that doesn't have one in the SL (and/or culture) but lends itself to it in the TL (and/or culture) when it is used as a compensation for a previous one that got "lost in translation", so the reader doesn't miss out on the laugh entirely. Of course, that doesn't mean that you should change the entire book around if it isn't necessary.

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Gül Kaya  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:56
Turkish to English
+ ...
Long live Asterix! Oct 15, 2013

David Wright wrote:

If you look at the translations of Asterix into German and English you will find that there are "new" jokes in some places and others have had to be left out. If the whole thing "works", then why not? But you'd have to be a very experienced and sensitive translator to do this well!


I adore Asterix and your post has kindled an urgent need to root out my copies from when I was a young'un and have a good old chortle. I hope the sky doesn't fall on my head. I love the inventive way the names were translated into English - my favourites being Dogmatix and Vitalstatistix.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:56
Member (2008)
Italian to English
(off topic) here is an example of German humour. Oct 15, 2013

"Before I became a comedian I used to travel frequently and I became exposed to a lot of anti-German stereotypes. In fact, the reason I became a comedian was to debunk the caricature of the Germans as mechanical automatons obsessed with order and sequence.

Now, joke number 1..."

[Edited at 2013-10-15 14:01 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 06:56
French to English
hard to decide III Oct 15, 2013

Gül Kaya wrote:


David Wright wrote:

If you look at the translations of Asterix into German and English you will find that there are "new" jokes in some places and others have had to be left out. If the whole thing "works", then why not? But you'd have to be a very experienced and sensitive translator to do this well!


I adore Asterix and your post has kindled an urgent need to root out my copies from when I was a young'un and have a good old chortle. I hope the sky doesn't fall on my head. I love the inventive way the names were translated into English - my favourites being Dogmatix and Vitalstatistix.


I agree that the Asterix books have been translated really well!


I once had to translate a text about a new night club in Paris, with an African theme. There was a pun somewhere that did not translate, but then there was something about the atmosphere being conducive to lust. The word "aphrodisiac" just popped into my head, then I wrote "afrodisiac" instead, thinking it would be neat.

My proofreading colleague maintained that I shouldn't add in puns and told me to use the normal spelling. In a moment of rebellion I refused her modification. Within minutes of delivery, the client e-mailed back to thank me for the great translation and wonderful pun. He actually rewrote the French to weave it in.

In the event of substantial changes, the translator ought to mention it to the author first.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Tom Oct 15, 2013

I just read that out to my wife while she was making pancakes for breakfast and we both laughed.

However, I don't agree with your first comment. I think being able to add jokes where they work in the context, and remove them out when they don't, is the mark of a good translator.

Anthea Bell, who translated the Asterix books, is a genius - I'm sure no one would call her unprofessional.

[Edited at 2013-10-15 14:14 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:56
Chinese to English
I would Oct 15, 2013

I translated a funny story last year, and I couldn't get all the jokes to sit right as they were in the original text. I ended up "shifting" some of the funny lines - not so much changing the joke, but allowing different elements to pop up in a different order, sometimes in different sentences. This was very dry, deadpan humour, so there wasn't an issue with the timing of punchlines.

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:56
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
You have to be flexible Oct 15, 2013

Last year I translated from Russian a humorous novel influenced by the style of P.G. Wodehouse, who is greatly admired by the authors. I used their jokes where I could, but if something was untranslatable, I would try to find a different joke, not necessarily at the exact same point. I would also suggest ideas for jokes in English to the authors when something in their text gave the opportunity for one.
Working on a book like this is not just a matter of presenting them with a final translation in one step. Usually there are at least three drafts, each one accompanied by notes from me, to which the authors reply with more comments of their own, and this forms the basis for the next draft.
Jokes frequently featured in both my comments and theirs.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:56
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Not all frames have jokes in all languages Oct 15, 2013

Pointman wrote:
My friend was translating a comedy comic book, but in his translation, he added some joke that was not in the original comic on lines that was not a joke in the first place, sometimes change the joke to something else loosely connected even when the original joke would still work if he doesn't change anything.


Some jokes will simply not work with a frame, so you have to make a joke in another frame to keep the joke pace going. Some jokes will work, but they will sound forced. Some jokes will work, but they will have a different feel from the types of jokes that the translator usually makes, so he'd have to change those as well (or leave them out). Ultimately, if the story line is retained, the translation works, and everyone is happy except the student of translation.



[Edited at 2013-10-15 15:14 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
So you say Oct 15, 2013

Tom in London wrote:

By the way, you don't need to put "So" before you say something.


I know, it's so so-so...


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 07:56
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
It must sell Oct 15, 2013

Translating jokes sometimes works, sometimes not. If the joke is in the language, it is not translatable. If it is in a situation, it can be translated.
If a book is intended to sell, the translator must deliver a text that is as funny or funnier than the original.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:56
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
In collaboration with the author Oct 17, 2013

One thing that certainly will not work a lot of the time is painstakingly translating the jokes as they are.

Comic strips are not like medical records or documentation for a machine, where close accuracy is vital.

They are more like marketing, where the message must sell the goods. 'Nothing sucks like Electrolux' works fine in Swedish and Danish, where the name for a vaccum cleaner back-translates as a 'dust sucker'.

The Danish translators of Donald Duck, Asterix and Tintin all did brilliant jobs, and I believe feedback from the translators of Donald Duck and Tintin was actually incorporated in later episodes. Captain Haddock's alliterated expletives were certainly elaborated in the Danish versions by the translator, Jørgen Sonnengaard.

There has been an outcry against a retranslation of the Tintin albums, to make them 'more true to the originals' and bring them up to date. I have not read them, but many others feel they fall flat, while the earlier translations are as brilliant and popular as ever.

Indeed, the vocabulary is seen as a defence of original Danish expressions against over-use of English as 'Danglish'.

My son grew up with Sonnengaard's translations, and I came of age in Danish with these comics... and in fact read the English ones later or not at all!

I have also read a couple of Asterix albums and a few frames of Tintin in French many years ago.

They all work, because the translations are rewritten, not slavish calques of the original source.

I sometimes dislike the word 'localise', but this is a case where it is appropriate.


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