Translation of English Film Titles Essay Example

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Translation of English Film Titles


The process of translation is usually an enormous task especially to those researchers who have a quest of carrying out extensive research in making some sense out of those English movies for them to be understood by other people of different languages. Many at times English movies have had to be translated into a variety of other languages that are not necessarily English. This has indeed proven to be a not-so-friendly task as it can be found out from those who have already attempted to enter the murky waters of translating movies. Due to this fact, many English movies have had to be translated wrongly hence leading to the loss of the intended meaning as well as the original intent of the movie in terms of the lessons to be learnt.


It is therefore of great importance that when translating any piece of work from one particular language to another (English films for this matter), that the original message of the film is taken into consideration. Usually there arises a need to translate a film if the characters in the film as well as the researchers’ languages are fundamentally different. Better still, translation could be necessary in instances when the target language for production is literally different from the source data. The success of the translation therefore is deeply dependent on whether there is some equivalence of meaning between the English film and final film in which the other language is actually translated (Kasparek, 1983).

Based on this brief introduction about the problem at hand, this paper therefore seeks to discuss the various techniques employed by translators in order to make sure that there is the equivalence of meaning between the original film (in English of course) and the final language in which the film is eventually translated. The paper also goes an extra mile to look at the various instances when translation has not been able to be accurate enough and hence making the original meaning of the film to be completely lost.

The Types of Movie Translation

According to scholars in the film industry as mentioned by Parks, 2007, there are two major classifications of film translation. These are the process of Subtitling and Dubbing. These two types are fundamentally different from one another based on the way each one of them is done.

To begin with, Subtitling refers to a mode of translating films in which the original content of a particular film is almost retained in terms of its original culture. Here, the culture, mode of behaviour as well as the general trend of life of the source country or region is literally retained in its original state. This therefore means that the final consumers of those films translated using this kind of translation have the privilege of enjoying the ‘other’ culture in those films (Parks et al., 2007).

The second type of film translation is called Dubbing. In this type of translation, the original content of a particular movie is literally ‘domesticated’ so-to-speak. This therefore means that the source information in the movie undergoes serious changes in a manner as to rhyme with the target consumers. It is in this kind of translation that there seems to emerge a lot of cases in which the originality of the content was almost completely if not completely lost. Its major strength however lies in the fact that those who consume such translated films tend to enjoy them to their best (Parks et al., 2007).

It therefore goes without saying that the choice of a particular mode of translation is dependent on the target audience. There are those target audience who are more of conservatives. They would prefer to watch films that are presented in their own preferences. They would rather pay more to watch it in their own form and context than pay less for the same movie in its form of origin. For such audience, the best option to settle for in terms of translation is the dubbing type.


In the current generation, due to universality and globalization, the hint to translation is the capability of sticking to the original title of a film as much as possible. For such masterpieces as blockbusters as well as those movies with superheroes such as the like of Batman and Superman, this equivalence of meaning is an important aspect of translation. According to Darwish, 1999, film translators are more concerned with money that arises from those films that they translate at the expense of the originality of the intended meaning. According to him, this explains why a movie that is not necessarily funny and comic is translated into one that is funny even if it is absolutely ridiculous. This is intended to make it catchier.

A practicable example is the movie title “Paul Newman and his Gang” that was translated from its original title that was “Slap Shot”. Such a translation is done cleverly so as to attract as many people to the movie theaters as possible (Lu, 2009). Such films as the George Clooney’s “Up in the Air” were eventually translated into a completely different title altogether i.e. “Mileage, My Life” in Japan. Another translation is the funny movie going by the title “The Full Monty”. In China it was translated into “Six Naked Pigs” hence slightly losing its original meaning in which some young jobless men formed a striptease act.

Sometimes film fans just find themselves being overtaken by the translated movies without necessarily trying to decipher the original meaning of those particular movies (Rose, 1980). In fact, many at times, fans care less about it. This in itself has made a lot of lessons that were otherwise intended to be gotten out a movie to be lost never to have an effect to the society. Many may not have realized for example how such a thriller title as “The Terminator” was eventually translated into the new title “Deadly Mission”. Neither is it in the public domain how the movie title “Love in the Skies” was obtained from its original version “Top Gun”.

Even though there has for centuries been the wrongful translation of movie titles without any negativity attached to it, some experts in this field of literary works have faulted the move. Their take is that this act is in itself a lack of professional ethics in the film industry. There are those however who are from a different school of thought in which they claim that a movie has every right to be made as appealing as possible to the audience, otherwise translators have every right equally of making it meet these requirements (Darwish, 1999).

From the perception of many people, film translation is not quite acceptable; especially for those people who prefer original films in their source content, their titles notwithstanding. For such people, translation is out of doubt a form of domestication that localizes foreign works hence synchronizing them with the domestic languages as well as cultural values. On the same note, subtitling as a type of translation allows for negligibly small adjustments in a movie title. This is to say that subtitling has been and still remains the most neutral and uninterrupted form of translation. Through this type of translation, the viewers get exposed to the foreign world and the general sense of a totally different culture. It should not be forgotten that the world is currently turning into (or already is) a global village. Therefore, subtitling only helps to complement this already accepted fact. On the other hand, this kind of translation may at times lead to the erosion of the local culture with excess adoption of foreign cultures.

Literature Review

There is the common misconception that the film industry is tied to either Europe and/or America. Bassnett, 1990 argues that this is not necessarily entirely true. In fact, it is not just true. It may be true that the industry largely traces its roots to these two regions, but it is not true that they (Europe and America) still remain the centerpiece of this lucrative industry. Other continents and countries have over time established their own productions that are mainly founded on their own local content (Rose et al., 1980).

The United States has for the last few centuries been one of the most powerful countries in the world. It has led virtually in all fields of life and the film industry is no exception. Scholars have argued that the United States has been one of; if not the most developed countries in the world as far as the film industry is concerned. According to these scholars, this development has been greatly influenced by the rise in the spread of the American culture and traditions which can only be attributed to the growth in their film industry. This therefore justifies the extent to which the films industry can influence the development of a particular nation (Bassnett et al., 1990).

As was discussed widely in the types of film translation above, dubbing ass a type of film translation leads to the production of movies that are perceived by the target audience as brand-new products. In actual sense, films translated using this type of translation tends to convince their viewers that the movies are actually not transformed ones. When such audiences hear their own languages in certain movies, they tend to be quite affirmed that they (the movies) are indeed of significance to them (Billiani, 2001).

The translation process is believed to be affected by challenges related to cultural impediments. According to Eugene, 2004, this belief forces some translators to avoid cultural conflicts by leaving out a portion(s) of a particular title or dialogue in the film. This in itself brings to the foe some of the difficult decisions that film translators usually have to make in the course of their work. However, it is critically important to consider merging the maintenance of the source content with the temptation to satisfy those who prefer locally-translated films.


In conclusion therefore, films are out of doubt one of the most powerful tools when it comes to passing over virtues as well as information in general. The way a movie is translated therefore is equally a determinant factor in passing over these values. In this regard therefore, film translators have to take care while translating movies from one language to another. According to Billiani, 2001, unless this is done, it may continue to interfere with the transfer of values and information from one generation to the next hence encouraging rot in the society.


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