New meaning found in translation

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Sol Invictus
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New meaning found in translation

Postby Sol Invictus » 2014-07-31, 10:44

My mom and I where talking about TV series and she noted that some series have completely different content when translated in Russian than it is when translated in Latvian (examples she brought up - Offspring made out to be big drama, rather than comedy; Sex and the city being about four sluts, rather than about genuine relationship issues anybody could have). I in turn remembered reading translations of the Beatles songs in Soviet-era Latvian magazine in which the lyrics seemed far more depressing than in English

Have you ever noticed cases where the original or another translation has a completely different meaning? Why do you suppose that is - is it perhaps a cultural thing, making it more appealing to local audiences or just the translator's own interpretation?

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Re: New meaning found in translation

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-07-31, 17:58

Well, this may not be quite what you're looking for, but there are at least two stories that I've seen a Malayalam translation of (and saw the original in only one of those two cases) with a fundamental translation fail. In both cases, I find it highly unlikely that the story would make any sense to a Malayalam-speaker.

One is this story called [fər məˈɾə̃m] in Malayalam. Now, [məˈɾə̃m] means 'tree', but [fər] is not even a word in Malayalam. I had to think about it to realize that what they meant was "The Fir Tree" (fir trees do not exist in Kerala). :lol: And there are some crucial words here whose translation was changed. It seems pretty clear that the original (in Russian, although more likely, it was translated to English and only then to Malayalam) was about some kids making a snowman to send Santa Claus a letter asking for a fir tree for New Year's Day. But (as you might guess) there are fundamental problems with translating this. How do you say "snowman" in Malayalam? Or "Santa Claus"? (Or "fir tree"? :lol:).

So in Malayalam, they translated 'snow' using the word for 'dew' (or 'fog'). So these kids get together and make a man out of dew, then they form a circle around him singing, "Dew man, dew man!" :lol: And then he has to send a letter to Grandpa Dew asking for a [fər] tree, whatever the hell that may be. :P

The other one, for which I have the original, is a comic where Donald Duck and his nephews go to Mexico to watch the Running of the Bulls (which is not in Mexico anyway, but oh well :P). Donald is impatient to get to the town where this event is taking place and finds out that a piñata factory makes a delivery there; unfortunately, his impatience makes him end up inside a piñata. There are probably many people on this forum who have no idea what a piñata is, let alone the poor translator, who tried to omit the word "piñata" whenever possible (so e.g. "the piñata factory" -> "that factory"). :lol: However, there's one part where there's a sign off to the side saying "Piñatas For Sale." How to translate that? Obviously, you can't just leave "piñata" out in that context! So I think he guessed that maybe "piñata" had something to do with peanuts and wrote the Malayalam equivalent of "Peanuts For Sale." :P
Last edited by vijayjohn on 2014-07-31, 21:02, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: New meaning found in translation

Postby loqu » 2014-07-31, 20:31

The Anime show of Sailor Moon suffered from such a change of plot between the different dubbings.

Sailor Uranus and Neptune had a lesbian relationship, but in the American dubbing they were cousins. That was even worse, because the characters flirted too often and some viewers thought there was some incest going on.

Also, in the Japanese original, Sailor Starlights are three women but transform into men when in civilian form. In the Italian translation, on the other hand, they are six different people. And in the Russian one they are men all the time (don't know how they can be men with such big breasts).
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