Friday, April 23, 2010

Subtitle translation as it should be

Last year, I wrote about a poor example of subtitle translation that I had come across. The subtitler evidently did not have a sufficient comprehension of the film’s dialogue, and made up what they did not understand, which sometimes resulted in important aspects of the meaning being lost, or even twisted around to mean the opposite of the actual dialogue.

In happy contrast, English subtitles for the Spanish film The Secret in Their Eyes by director Juan José Campanella were written by a credited translator who worked in close collaboration with the director to get the style the directer wanted, and to polish every title. Read about it here.

The article cites an example of one sentence that took hours to get right, and very right it was in the end. Quoting translator Tony Grey:
For example, there was a line of dialogue that was crucial in the film, repeated several times by an important character, which in Spanish means “What would I gain by shooting him four times?” This was too long and clumsy. Next option: “What would I gain with four shots?” I didn't want to use the word “shots” because it sounded to me like someone in a bar ordering shots of tequila.

Finally, I put “What would I gain by killing him?” which explains the meaning perfectly — but Juan didn't like it because he wanted to maintain the imagery of the gun being fired four times, which the audience sees onscreen.

So I went home that night and kept thinking about it until it finally came to me. “What would four bullets get me?” This was the subtitle we were looking for. And it was Juan's prodding me that made it possible.

Maps of multiple demons

This was the ad that just appeared in my Gmail:

Can you see that? Here's a closer look:
If you wrestle with English spelling, you might think that languages with phonetic spelling are impervious to spelling mistakes. Evidently not. And a government agency, too!