Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Gained in translation

While chatting with a friend about random incidents while abroad I remembered this one that happened while in France that shows the beauty and difficulty of translation. I was staying with a French family who spoke fairly good English, one evening we were watching TV and to remind me a bit of home we watched Pimp My Ride. Not because I am American but because the show was in English with French subtitles. We began watching the show and for anyone who has ever seen the show you will know that while they may be speaking in English it is at best a very loose form of English and it seemed to give the translator some trouble. The gangster rapper presenter would talk for 5 or 6 minutes in phrases that contains saying like 'what up dog?', 'yo my home boy' or 'dude yo be trippin'!' etc after this time the subtitles would come up in simply sentences in perfect President's French like 'Bonjour mon ami je suis bien!' or 'Oui j'aime ta voiture!'* I found this hilarious and dissolved into hysterics much to the bemusement of the family. What was so amusing was that a full 5 minutes of gangster talk was translated into 5 simple words of non-slang French, clearly the translator had ignored the idea in this translation of matching the style in English to the correct style in French and was as confused by the people on the show as I was.
*Hello my friend I am good! Yes I do like your car!

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