Now, I think we all know that watching a movie in its original language is unbeatable. Synchronisation… well, sucks. Which is mostly not the translator’s fault: it’s hard to translate one sentence from one language into another without losing its original meaning. It’s even harder to try fit this translated sentence in maybe just 10 seconds while it might take 5 seconds longer to utter it in the target language than the source language. That’s a problem humankind might never overcome. Thus, let’s move on to one that can easily be corrected but often doesn’t happen to be done quite that well anyway.
Not just translated books or articles make us often chuckle and shake our heads. Here I want to talk about translating movie titles. In some instances, translators do a pretty good job. For example, ‘a knights tale’ was translated to ‘Ritter aus Leidenschaft‘ (knight out of passion) in German, which I think actually sounds a lot better and more interesting than the original title, same in ‘eiskalte Engel‘ (ice-cold angels) for ‘cruel intentions’! But, straightforward as the Germans can be, ‘girl, interrupted’ became ‘durchgeknallt’ (cuckoo)!
When translating a movie title goes wrong, it can end up like the following story: ‘Home Alone’ was titled ‘Maman, j’ai raté l’avion‘ (mum, I missed the plane) in France. True, the kid missed the plane in the first movie, but in the sequel he didn’t and yet they named it ‘Maman, j’ai encore raté l’avion‘ (mum, I missed the plane again). The third movie did receive ‘another’ title though; ‘Maman, je m’occupe des méchants’.
‘Cloudy with a chance of meatballs’ was translated to ‘Geshem shel Falafel‘ (rain of falafel). Maybe Israelis prefer falafels over meatballs and the translators (or whoever eventually decides on the translated movie title) thought that they could attract more people to the cinemas by making falafels out of meatballs (note, the two may look similar but really are two distinct dishes).
Peruvians seem to think that women can be ‘slightly pregnant’, having translated ‘knocked up’ to ‘ligeramente embarazada‘. Interesting!
And the most ridiculous title I came across during my research was ‘les jeunes gens qui traversent les dimensions en portant des lunettes à soleil‘ (the young people who traverse dimensions while wearing sunglasses) (yeah, the French again!). Can you guess which movie we’re talking about? Right, the Matrix. The French must have realised that the title was just a bit… ‘off the tangent’, as it’s been renamed to ‘Matrix’ (and they seemingly try to hide it as I couldn’t find any more details about that previous title 😉 ).
I’m not even gonna mention all the ludicrous Japanese and Chinese titles, no offense! But if you wanna have a look at some, check out this website.