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subtitles on foriegn films

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subtitles on foriegn films

Old 02-18-04, 01:14 PM
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subtitles on foriegn films

do the subtitles on foriegn movies actually say what the people in the movie are watching?? i've always wondered this because i bought amelie and when i watch it i'm just kind of courious....
Old 02-18-04, 01:45 PM
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my problem with subtitles (sometimes) is that the whilte letters get obscured on white backgrounds. Not that I want yellow subtitles like some films on video, but isn't there a better way to avoid this.
Old 02-18-04, 02:02 PM
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No, not really. It gets worse with figures of speech and slang; how does one translate "my shizzle's off the heezy" into portuguese text?

(I'm sure someone will find the answer to THAT one. )

Amelie, I heard, had subtitle problems that were later corrected. But I do know that when two characters are rhyming and another scene where two characters are saying proverbs, english rhymes and english proverbs are put in place instead.

Still, subbing is the best course of action, short of learning the actual language.

The worst things are "dubtitles"; where the subtitles are made to match the english dub. Horrendous.
Old 02-18-04, 02:35 PM
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For many of the spanish films I've seen they are close but often times are "lazy" meaning that is a short translation of what it says. for instance, this happens a lot when is an idealogical argument such as with politicians, etc. but not everything gets translated but only a large portion of it get subbed. So if someone says something to the extent of "la ideologia del mundo marxista depende de algun otro idealismo con el cual tiene que estar en conflicto para poder ser util, y relevante en tiempos modernos". this might get subbed as "marxism needs be in conflict with another idealogy to stay relevant". this is not wrong is just that more than this was said. What I really said, was (loosely translated) "the ideology of the marxist world is dependant on conflict with another ideology to stay useful and relavant in modern times" Something like this is what I have noticed while watching many spanish language films. Also, like what was said before, slang is often times not translated and subbed or is adapted to the language. lets think of curse words and it would fit perfectly. There are also things that just have no good translation, as for the word that spaniards use a lot "chaval" which in other spanish speaking countries would be "chamaco" or "chamo" in venezuela yet in english I guess the closes world by definition would be "lad" a word that doesn't really get used in the U.S. and I guess is not as "slang" as "chaval" although is not really slangis just could be excpet for the fact that everyone uses it, not matter the age etc. :-). Also, any movie in an urban setting or with young people will definately be hard to translate and subbed. Anyone ever seen the movie "vendedora de rosas" or "the rose seller"? those kids do not speak spanish, well they do but no one can understand them, not even some of the few people I know from Colombia (where the movie is from) can understand them because the language does have a subculture and also subcultures have their own ways and forms with language.

I would also assume that if the languages are in no way related the're must be certain liberties that must be taken to make it "work" in the other hand by definition I would also assume that languages that are related might work better with each other so if I watch a movie from brazil or portugal or even italy I would watch it (if available) with spanish subtitles since the languages are very close in origin, history and formation. I would think it might be similar with french and spanish,portuguese and some of the other romantic languages.

It would be interesting to see what some of the other members that speak more than one language have to say. this is just my take on my experience with spanish language movies, not only from spain but from other places.
Old 02-18-04, 07:25 PM
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In my experience, english subtitles on spanish-language films are not a "transcription" of what is actually said for a variety of reasons, including use of slang, local proverbs, culturally specific items, etc. Good translation communicates the intent of what is said, rather than transcribes it. I am always very interested when dialogue with a cadence, either song or poetry, is translated. It must be very challanging to translate the meaning and keep the rhythm going.
Old 02-18-04, 07:51 PM
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yeah, songs or poems or even certain cultural things must me extremely hard. You are right, they don't need to be a transcript from what is being said, as the example I wrote, but don't you feel that sometime it may take away from the whole? I mean, if you can make the subtitles to half the sentence or the idea of the sentence, whomever sat there and translated it could easily do the whole thing. I would be willing to bet that they do but rather because of speed and flow of the film certain liberties must be made so that the subtitles go with what is being said "as the lips move". I'm guessing timing and the speed of the speaker (maybe even nation) and how he/she/they talk would also play into how it gets worked out. I know this is nowhere near the same but lets say someone wrote you a letter in another language that you did not speak, and you took it to a person who did know the language for them to tell you what it says. To tell you, not to translated mind you. Wouldn't you want (even if it wasn't your intention) for the person to tell you as close as possible a "word by word" account of what the letter says or would you rather they just translated the idea of the letter? I know what I would want, is not an idea that's for sure. I mean, look even in this country and politicians. The use or omission of one word could make or break you, ex. imminent danger vs. immediate danger (i.e. WMDs.) or lets say Marriage and Civil union (i.e. gay marriage) and that is just based on definition and misconceptions of the language. now lets think about between two languages? It must be extremely hard. Collin Powell just said "There is frankly no enthusiasm right now for sending in military or police forces to put down the violence," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday. (from the AP) lets say you are Aristide, would you want the general idea of the statement or as close to possible translation of what Powell said? International incidents occur because of poor language use or better yet, lack of comprehension. What did he mean by "enthusiasm"? did he mean they are not looking forward to it or that they will if they have to or maybe that they don't care about Haiti? Wouldn't a possible idea of the statement be "they don't care to send troops" or "they lack interest to send troops" that's not what he said (maybe he ment that but that is not what he said) maybe all maybe none but I assure you that that word was chosen for a reason compared to "interest" or "necesity" or any other word. yes I know, is not the same we are talking about subtitles and movies, but honestly is there a difference? isn't really the whole point to understand and comprehend and making sure that this what we are being told is true of factual or as close to the meaning as possible? therefore the post and the question (i assume, besides the curiosity). THis is just explaining what I said on my previous reply and also to show my reasoning as to why I feel that subtitles are lazy since in my book, I repeat, i my book only, they should be as close to the original as possible not cliff notes.
Old 02-18-04, 08:25 PM
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whenever i watch a korean dvd with my girlfriend, she always point out where the dialogue is entirely different from what i am reading on the subtitles. oh well, guess i need to learn korean faster. i know that this happens alot with alot of other foreign dvds as well.
Old 02-20-04, 07:10 PM
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Originally posted by Giles
my problem with subtitles (sometimes) is that the whilte letters get obscured on white backgrounds. Not that I want yellow subtitles like some films on video, but isn't there a better way to avoid this.
I too hate when white subtitles blend into the background, but I don't understand your aversion to yellow titles. An alternative, as is often done now, is white letters with black tracing.

The original question: As a speaker of german, I notice when watching German movies that sometimes the subtitles completely elide certain portions of dialogue. It's commendable when the translater performs a "gist" translation rather than a literal one (which can make no sense), but leaving out entire segments means missing nuances and, possibly, important character or plot signifiers.

I'd like to know why Hong Kong film companies can't seem to hire people with a passing acquaintance with english. Often the subtitling in HK films makes so little sense that they ought not have bothered at all.

Last edited by Norm de Plume; 02-20-04 at 07:14 PM.
Old 02-20-04, 07:28 PM
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Originally posted by Norm de Plume
I'd like to know why Hong Kong film companies can't seem to hire people with a passing acquaintance with english. Often the subtitling in HK films makes so little sense that they ought not have bothered at all.
From what I've heard, English subtitling original started because Hong Kong was a British colony, and films were required by law to have English subs. So the film companies paid for as quick and cheap a translation as possible. Nowadays I think the HK studios still do it just out of habit, or out of a growing realization of the global market. Recent HK subs have definately improved, in general.
Old 02-20-04, 07:42 PM
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are there any examples of bad subtiles?
the american version of brotherhood of the wolf is pretty bad.
Old 02-20-04, 07:52 PM
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The R1 release of AVALON (2001) has "dubtitles," that is, subtitles based on the dub. As a result, when watching the film in the original Polish with subtitles, subtitles will appear when there isn't any dialogue, since they added dialogue to the dubbed English track.
Old 02-21-04, 02:51 AM
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Originally posted by Rypro 525
are there any examples of bad subtiles?
the american version of brotherhood of the wolf is pretty bad.
In The Princess Bride, Buttercup's term of endearment for Wesley . . . "farm boy" . . . is translated into Spanish as "muchacho". I consider that to be pretty bad.

I also find it humorous when the subtitles and the language tracks are different . . . another "feature" of the Spanish translations of The Princess Bride.
Old 02-21-04, 12:14 PM
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I would say that anime probably has some of the better subs out there, as there is a large and vocal fanbase, quite a few of whom know some Japanese. There is usually a large outcry when the subs are "dubtitles," or when the subs are considerably altered from the original language (adding or removing foul language, adding or removing political content, adding dated and inappropriate foshizzle hep jive talk for all the fly homies, etc.)

Also, many anime discs have very easy to read subtitles, that are visible on any color background. Most discs also translate important on-screen text, such as signs. Recently, anime companies have been even adding subs that match the color, font, size, and location of the original text. Check out the first disc of His and Hers Circumstances for a very good example of this (although, there was a glitch on early releases of this disc for some players, with some subtitle settings... I believe the disc was fixed, and possibly even had an exchange program set up.)

Anime is fairly unique in that it is often fansubbed by several different groups before it is licensed in the US, so even if a fan doesn't speak Japanese, he has other examples to compare to the official release. These fansubs are usually not viewed as piracy, since once a series is licensed, most of the groups stop subbing and ask that the files aren't distributed any more. The studios often view fansubs as building support for the series, and I have even heard of studios having someone who is involved in the English aspect watch some fansubs to get an idea of the series.
Old 02-22-04, 01:35 AM
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Originally posted by Rypro 525
are there any examples of bad subtiles?
the american version of brotherhood of the wolf is pretty bad.

An entire book could be written showing examples of wacky or terribly bad subs on many HK films. I've read a couple of books and websites that have shown some particularly hilarious examples.

Many subs just translate the general gist of the dialogue by necessity. Some languages (English compared to Japanese, for example) are just too different from each other, so an exact translation would look very awkward and unnatural. Doing the job well could almost be considered an artform. Hell, the woman who translates most Hollywood movies into Japanese is very well known in Japan, almost a celebrity in her own right.

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