Translation on english movie titles(into chinese) Essay Example

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‘Translation of English Movies to Chinese’


. The model, previously, has been used to conduct constructive analysis study and based on the fact that the case as well involves analysis of English to Chinese language translation, the approach was considered ideal. Some of the challenges of movie translation were analyzed and compiled in a tabular form together with various approaches to movie translation. The research found that however literal translation of word by word is most preferred within translator; it is not full proof from inherent mistakes of not being able to translate some word structure verbatim. Challenges facing translation industry were listed Italia; socio cultural constrains, linguistic challenge, problems with translating metaphors, cost constrains. Vinay and Darbelnet modelMovies have different meanings to different people. Above all, movies are a means to inspire, entertain and to challenge human thinking. They teach important life lessons. The importance of movies can only be illustrated by the demand of films in the global market which created the emergence of foreign movie translation. Film translation is a challenging task that follows different approaches and procedures. The aim of this research is to unveil the hidden approaches involved in the processes of conducting movie translation and be able to appreciate the challenges which are involved in the process. The analysis in the research is based on

Table of Contents

Abstract 2


Literature Review 5

2.1 Introduction 5

2.2 Theories governing translation process 5

62.3 Classification film translation

62.4 Translation of Metaphor in Movies

2.5 Subtitling 8

2.6 Translating sounds 8

92.7 Considering genre and socio-cultural problems in translation

2.8 Dubbing 10

112.9 Development of film translation in the World and China

Methodology 13

Analysis and Results 14

Table 2: Qualitative analysis of factors to be considered while conducting movie translation 16

Discussion 17

19Limitation of the Study

Implications and Recommendation 20

Conclusion 20

References 22

  1. Introduction

2007). Parks, However, around 1932, American film industry tried to sort out the challenges posed by film translations by producing films in multiple languages. Bassnett (2000) stated that this later turned out to be unprofitable, the films that were being produced were of poor artistic quality and the public shunned away from them resulting to great loses by the big studios that had specialized in the translations by then. Movie translation enable people to overcome language and cultural barriers but it should be done in such away that the intended message is not distorted (Mona & Gabriela, 2008). Silent movies were easy to translate by inserting inter-titles to the audiences’ languages. Later, sound films resurfaced which made the inter-titles to disappear and this brought with it the problems of movie translations (Newmark, 1988). heightened demand to cope with the latest text, be it a song, dance style or a film ,and this has brought in translation as a subject which has been given high value importance. The first films to be invented were silent movies ((2003) noted that there is a Kasparek According to Gouadec, 2007). Century. The rise of television, movies, internet, and media communication as information became easy to afford (th Currently motion pictures or movie industry has grown as a powerful form of art employing millions of people around the world. This acceleration is a significant characteristic of the 192000). Bassnett, Origin of the first film screening is credited to Lumiere brothers in 1895 by using a device called cinematograph (

translations have proved to be hard tasks. This is due to presence of many factors that need to be considered to deliver a good movie translation. These factors range from considerations on linguistic and cultural facts. He further emphasized that the quality of translated script is of great concern not only to movie fans all over the world but also to movie business industries. This research paper through documentary review will conduct in depth review of English to Chinese translation of movies. English has been chosen due to it dominant use and application in movie industry. The research shall provide major principles and strategies involved in movie translations; highlight various challenges facing translation industry as well as outline procedure likely to be adopted by translators while doing their work. Such findings will be useful as an addition to already existing body of knowledge within the scope of movie translation scholars. Chang (2012) noted that movie

Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

This section has examined different literally texts on the subject ‘movie translation’ by looking at strategies and principles involved in movie translations, the challenges experienced ,and a review of translation of English movies to Chinese language.

2.2 Theories governing translation process

Nowadays, with the introduction of new technologies, boom in satellite, radio communication, the internet, and television has transformed the world to a global village. This has enabled cultures, languages, and all manner of artistic work to interact more easily and frequently. Eugene (2004) asserted globalization is the force which has made film industries to flourish and intensified the role of movie translators. This task has never been easy though, it required high level skills in languages most preferable a bi-lingual or multilingual speakers. A translator should have mastery on different approaches, styles and strategies of movie translation (Darwish, 1999).
Parks (2007) while examining different translation approaches noted the following; Linguistics based approach, functionality approach, and a more modern linguistic approach affects the choice of a translation method. Linguistic approach view translation as transferring meanings in the original text to foreign language, in other words it can be said that it is substituting source language (SL) by the target language (TL) both in context and form. Functionalist approach view translation as an activity whose purpose is to improve trans-cultural interaction by enabling people all over the world to share, appreciate, and influence each other through cultural infiltration. Translation of any artistic work under this school of thought is affected by both contextual and cultural factors. Modern linguistics highlight the complexity in the process of translation, they hold the view that translation should not be word by word substitution but rather a complex text analysis and text processing activity. This sentiment was in agreement with one of the early translation writer Newmark (1988) who also proposed the role of linguistic and functionality approach.

2.3 Classification film translation

Films translation is classified into four categories: that is subtitling, dubbing, free commentary, and narration (Newmark, 1988). Chang (2012) while conducting tentative analysis of film classifications in China identified two broad classification models in china market, which is subtitling and dubbing. Subtitling is a process by which the translator provides synchronized captions while dubbing on the other hand refers to replacement or insertion of sound trucks by another.

2.4 Translation of Metaphor in Movies

Metaphor is the use of any figurative speech, the personification of abstracts, the use of a word to denote different things (Newmark, 1988). This is linguistic phenomenon. It can be referred to us as an imaginative insight, it main function is to shock the audience through creating an aesthetic impact. The shock effect has to be maintained from the source language to target language. Rose (2000) on the other hand noted that wherever the cultural and linguistic factors are affecting the shocks then metaphor should never be translated Target Language (TL).   A more clear explanation on equivalence based approach was postulated Delabastita (1989) who clarified those movie translators should identify metaphors and transfer it intact from source language (SL) to Target Language (TL). He emphasized that Metaphors is inseparable to any language, and it translation is a daunting task. Most movies are in form of dialogue, often the speech may be characterized by metaphoric expressions. This has been noted by Eugene as well (2004) as a process that requires careful attention in order to maintain the original meaning in the text. Different strategies are used by translators all over the world to translate metaphors.

Modern linguistics like Rose (2000); Darwish, (1999) agree that metaphoric language is so contextual that it is difficult to maintain a particular view on how a particular script ought to be translated in an exercise in futility. Any good translator has to judge each text separately and appreciate the uniqueness of any language. Newmark (1988) suggested a seven approach strategies for translating metaphors. The first approach available to a translator is to reproduce the same image in target language as in the source language. Next approach is to replace the source language image with standard target language image. The next option available under this model is translating metaphor by a simile as well as translating metaphor with simile and plus sense. A translator can also convert metaphor to sense, delete the use of metaphor in the target language however this may distort the meaning, and finally there is option of combining sense and metaphor together in target language scripts (Baker & Saldanha, 2008).

2.5 Subtitling

This is the first category of screen translation. This translation method involves transfer of spoken language from a movie or film into written language of the viewing audience. However, this process is faced by many challenges. Gottlieb (1992) outlined the issues as both qualitative and quantitative constrains. Textual issues are imposed on subtitles by the film visual context. The formal constrains has been noted by Billiani (2001) as the space factors. A maximum of two lines is permissible. The a subtitle should take depends on the quality and the complexity of the text as well as speed, the average reading speed for the viewers, and necessity intervals. Delabastita (1989) also explored the same subject and deduced in his findings that constrains facing subtitling is a mere summary rather than verbatim account, this is due to the fact that people speak faster than they read. His argument received a supplementary boast when Gottlieb (1992) produced similar findings with an emphasis that subtitling can be hampered by omissions which can distort the entire meaning in the original play script. He noted that due to time and space constrains may lead to a situation whereby the translator may include or ignore the target audience. Contrary opinion was developed by Billiani (2001); his assertion was to distort the original meaning in a movie is neither the control translator; however this is in the hands of the procedure adopted.

2.6 Translating sounds

One of the aesthetic factors is sound. Sound in movie depicted by rhythm, onomatopoeia, and assonance. Darwish (1999) while examining the translation constrains suggested that any translator need to maintain the original sound techniques used in the movie while doing translation. Similar sentiment was also echoed by Newmark (1981) who illustrated that semantic truth is cardinal and should be maintained while doing translations. However, Darwish (1999) outlined that sounds in screen translation can be sacrificed and reproduced by the translator taking care of the cultural orientation of the target language audience. The emphasis in sound can easily be replaced wherever the translator would like to stress on given semantics (Billiani, 2001).

2.7 Considering genre and socio-cultural problems in translation

The ideas can be referred to as beliefs, institutions and values that can be depicted in the film. Customs and habits are noted as behaviors. The products are the artifacts, music and art. The ecology includes weather, mountains, plains, flora and fauna used in the text. A good translator should pay attention to culturally bound words in the film. This is done to add value to the same words or ignore them if they may cause tension to the target audience nation. The available translation mechanisms are literal, naturalization, cultural equivalent, transference, functional equivalent, couplets, reduction and addition. Literal translation involves unit to unit translation (Newmark, 1981). The translator will engage in transference procedure if his or her work is involved in converts’ source language to target language directly by adjusting the alphabets. Wherever a translator adjusts both alphabets as well as adjusts normal punctuation of the target word then this is referred as naturalization. But wherever different procedure is used at the same time such application is called couplet, a translator may also add some information to the text that is referred as addition. Also dealt with problems of translating humor and noted that laughter may be difficult to translate and more often the original meaning is lost in the process. & Saldanha, 2008).While translating movies or any screen text to the audience language, besides context, the genre is one of the considerations. The translated title should be produced in such a way that the original genre is maintained. If perhaps the genre is comedy the entire script should be and occasionally provoke laughter to the audience. This should be maintained by the translator. Darwish (1999) supports this view arguing that even the choice of character names should reflect the overall genre being depicted in the movie. For instance while translating a horror film, the choice of names by characters needs to sound scary and threatening and in romance the choice of names and titles needs to be gentle and romantic. Billiani (2001) also emphasized the need to be keen while translating culturally bound words. He noted that cultural problems exist in clauses, phrases, and sentences. Cultural categories are four that is behaviors, product, ideas, and ecology (Baker

2.8 Dubbing

Lu (2009) however simplified the term by stating that dubbing is the replacement of voices of actors in the source language with those in the target language. This process enables the movie to grow wings to a land of greater opportunity where the market demand and opportunities are greatest. The process is governed by the availability of technology in the film production in a given country. Dubbing is intended to hide the fact that translation is being done to the dialogue. The impression is the actors the viewers are able to see are speaking the real language of the receptor. Dubbing is time consuming, translator has paid full attention to details, and it is an expensive exercise than any form of movie translation. Some of obvious disadvantages to dubbing are cost factors, time, and loss of authenticity. It also denies the audience to interact with the foreign language. However … noted that dubbing if done well has many advantages like because of standardization, condensation, omission, simplification will ensure less information can get lost in the process. dubbing is not the translation of the screen message but the cultural adaption of the target viewers’ language. Mona and Gabriela (2008) both held the view that explained that dubbing is a technique where by the original production is mixed with supplementary recordings. The approach requires that the translated text is spoken by the voice talents in the target audience. The original film, the dialogue, the effects as well as the background activities like sounds are dubbed or can be replaced by other audio signals in the target county.Ni (2009)

2.9 Development of film translation in the World and China

hen the first film was invented, they were silent. To increase ease of comprehending a film, subtitles of the source language would be inserted. This was the first element of movie translation done between the frames. Inter- titles were later replaced to audience in their own language and this could easily create assumption that the actors were using the same language in communicating to them. The invention of sound film led to the disappearance of inter-titles, original sounds of actors were now able to be recorded. It the beginning of recording these sound films that also brought the emergence of problems in translation.Newmark (1981) noted that w

Rose, 2000).Gottlieb, 1992; Thereafter so many films emerged in Chinese dialect; however the market dubbing and translation mainly focused on USSR countries as well as eastern European countries. A more open space was later realized in 1956 when they began including the western countries. Researchers have argued that it this films that opened china to the global space of understanding beyond their nation (An ordinary Soldier. an Italian film was dubbed and translated by group of Chinese who were at oversees by then led by Wang Wentao. The film was shown at Grand Shangai Theatre. In 1949 another development in Chinese film industry took place. Changchun Film Studio dubbed and translated An unforgettable Dance, In 1948, Lu, 2009). In 1922, gave birth to Shanghai Peacock Film Company. The company was able to convert foreign films to Chinese subtitles. The audience could learn from various slides screen shown to them to understand the content. More often wherever a foreign film was shown in china, viewers without source language were then able to put on earphone to be able to understand the Chinese explanation of the foreign content in the film (Chang, 2012). However, translation was significant to enable the audience understand the plot and setting of the movie. By that time wherever a foreign film was displayed, the audience could easily read the synopsis of film. Later, live interpretation of the film began by commentators besides the screen explaining various aspects of the film, characters, plot, the settings and major themes (Yin, 2009). century, Chinese market was already flooded with film from America and European countries. This even found when China had not developed the film industry. Dubbing as a technique was not necessary owing to the fact that films were silent (thBy 20

(Ni, 2009).In China, film translation was received by skepticism; more concentration was in translation of other literary works instead of film. In recent china, film translation currently is a branch of study. Many articles currently existing in china includes translation methods, strategies in film translation, problems likely to be experienced while conducting translation as well as principles applied in film translationMunday, 2008). Film translation is a recent area of knowledge, though it has received global perspective. The western world is still leading in the industry in United States and Europe thus the academic disciplines related to film production is more mature in the same countries. There is intensive scholarly work on movie translation which has resulted to establishment of many institutes of learning the discipline (


The aim of this research was to identify various translations principles, strategies and approaches available to translate English film movies to Chinese language. The objectives were to compare translation methods available, to identify the most used translation methods, and to determine various approaches available in movie translation. Both qualitative and quantitative analysis shall be used. Comparative stylistic analysis model was chosen developed by Vinay and Dalbernet. The model offers a robust approach to classification of translation procedures and was considered by the researcher to be an ideal method for this paper. Besides, this model has received wide acknowledgement and already tested by the translation researchers (Newmark, 1988; Ni, 2009; Baker & Saldanha, 2008)

2000). Bassnett, Vinay and Dalbert developed a three procedure approach to translation direct, borrowing where the source language is transferred to target language directly. Calque is a kind of borrowing whereby the source language is transferred to a literal translation, the third category of direct translation is the literal translation where word for word translation is applied to the film. The four oblique translation procedures are transportation, modulation, equivalence and adaptation. Transportation is the change of one speech text in a movie without altering the sense. Modulation is the change of semantics from the point of view of the source language. Equivalence refers to a situation where languages describe different stylistic means while adaptation involves changing source culture wherever situation in cultural reference does not exist (

Darwish, 1999). An intensive document analysis was also conducted in journal articles, books creditable documentaries. The materials were analyzed from world perspective down to a narrowed perspective of China cases. The choice of materials were done through peer consultative discussion from students who were specializing in masters in translations, library attendants and online search using key words like translation strategies, theories of movie translation and methods of film translation. About fifty documents were read, and analyzed however only twelve documentary were later included into the references after realizing the materials was directly concern with the researcher research objectives. Data was carefully analyzed and inferences made based on the findings that were established. During the course of research some variable unique to the model was discovered. This occurred when the motifs of translator were put into consideration and it was established that the motive was to create rather than translate and this led to the creation of transcreation which ultimately was added to the translation list of procedures (

Analysis and Results

The contrastive analysis theory adopted for the translation of English to Chinese language has supported the identification of various procedures with the highest level of frequency in terms of use in translation of films. The analysis could also establish challenges encountered while applying different strategies during translation in the film industry as well as the approaches to be adopted while conducting movie translation.

Table1. Qualitative Analysis of text procedures from English to Chinese language

translation procedure

English Speakers

Chinese language


Literal translation






Source: Authors own compilation, 2014.

As shown in Table 1, in the translation processes the documentary analysis revealed that translations within the English speakers are at advance stage. Various comedy translations were examined. The data established that more movies were being translated from English language as opposed to from Chinese language. The procedures that were most commonly adapted were literal translation method (25) and modulation (20). In Chinese market however the application of various translation procedures were at a low stage, still literal translation was the greatest dominance in the market. (15), this was followed by the use of modulation. However, it could be noted from the table that various translation procedures were being used in each country in translating movies to different languages; borrowing, calque, literal translation, transposition, modulation, equivalence, adaptation and transcreation.

Table 2: Qualitative analysis of factors to be considered while conducting movie translation

Determinants of translation

English speaking markets

Chinese market

Ability and fluency in language

Cost constrains

Genre and socio-cultural problems

Uniqueness in language use

Authors: own compilation, 2014.

As shown in Table 2, when a survey was conducted on 10 people differently from each market involved in translation of movies, it was established that among the challenges facing or likely to be faced by any translator one is required to be fluent in language usage, cost constrains to lower degree, socio- cultural issues in words usage posed a great challenge. The socio cultural challenges were seen in various unique pronunciations by actors, food, and clothing.

The analysis on factors determining further was categorized into two main categories that is linguistic factors and cultural factors. The linguistics based approach considered translation done from the source language (SL) to target language (TL). Another approach also viewed translation as a way of passing the transcultural reorientation.

Table 3: Strategies or approaches of conducting translation

Translation strategies

English Speakers

Chinese Market




Free commentary

Free commentary



Authors: own compilation, 2014.

From Table 3, above it can be seen that in Chinese market only two methods of translation is available that is dubbing and subtitling. Free commentary and narration approach only exists in the most of English speaking countries.


Equivalence on the other hand refers to where languages being used describe the same situation. The variation is in language style or functional means. Wherever a word did not exist in the source culture then an adaptation would to be done changing the cultural reference. Transposition as a procedure of translation is the change of one part of speech is argument was supported by Munday (2008).Baker & Saldanha, 2008). Form the results analysis from Table. 1. Shown, literal translation predominate the list. It was the most preferred and used procedure in conducting translation from English to Chinese language and vice versa. This was followed closely by modulation procedure. Literal translation is the word by word translation method, however being used widely, this approach has been criticized by modern translation authors like Rose (2000) holding the view that translation environment is so complex that the use of word for word cannot suffice in assisting to produce a good script. Literal application was also found to be used only wherever both the source language and target language cultures are the same and within same family set up. The socio cultural differences interferes with literal translation method and it upon such basis that other avenues were discovered to solve the challenges of direct translation method. Rose (2000) mentioned that direct translation can fail sometimes due to the variation on sentence structure making it impossible to conduct literal translation, sometimes the target language may lack a corresponding expression and if text is generated the original meaning shall have been lost, the text may have no meaning as well as complication in foreign structure. Modulation from the table was the second best popular approach used in the two countries analyzed and likely to influence the procedure chosen. Modulation changes the semantics and tries to change the source language view (

In analyzing different styles and approaches being used in movie translation it was found that dubbing and subtitling a text were being applied in the two countries. Dubbing is the insertion or replacement of sound trucks in a film. It can be said that dubbing is when a movie gives the audience soundtrack in different language from the original source language. Dubbed movie from the documentary analysis done is the ability to provide the audience with background knowledge. This assist in knowing what is happening in the story line and it becomes easy to connect with characters and anticipate the dialogue. The most significant of dubbed movies is to provide the audience to watch what they enjoy. The greatest challenge with dubbed movies is on the course of translation is not perfect match, sometimes a two second word may be dubbed to four sentence word and the fact that inaccuracy in translations. There is also problem of finding dubbed movies, most countries to not have industries to do work for voice overs except subtitles. To subtitle a movie from the analysis it was revealed that one require a dialogue and conduct edit to the movie. Narration is the insertion of a story in a movie. The story used to divert viewers’ attention as well as to break the monotony of watching one scene.

Major challenges that could be derived from the text is; fluency in language, genre and socio cultural problems, and uniqueness in language use in terms of structure. Translation involves process of making important decisions like interpretation of source text, re- phrase the meaning in the source text to target text. Being fluent and relevant skills both of factual and procedural knowledge is vital to successfully develop a good translation. To effectively translate a movie, consideration on socio cultural differences will enable a translator to easily understand and be able to maintain meanings in the text. One of the problems facing direct translation method is uniqueness in sentence structure. Sometimes it becomes difficult to translate one word by the other because of uniqueness of language composition from the source language to target language. Translation of movies in china market was discovered to be a recent development. To date not much has been done except nowadays the market is open to all types of movies. Initially they adopted a conservative approach where they only accepted movies from the former Soviet Union and eastern countries.

Limitation of the Study

The study was limited to sample materials read and the research design chosen. The choice of documentary analysis is only secondary source of date. This was not primary data collected form the participants in the filed of translation. The researcher relied mainly on the published articles and books to conduct the research. Any error in the publication could be difficult to eliminate and the researcher could easily conclude with such errors. The secondary data also lack originality which normally characterized primary data methods of data collection techniques. The study was also limited in scope. The researcher thought the scope was too wide and narrowed scope could produce a more focused results.

Implications and Recommendation

The study recommends the following, that another research be conducted using primary data by either survey or descriptive research design to be able to test the correlation between the findings and text the accuracy of information in the text documents analyzed. Translation of film is a very useful process, more canters of learning especially in China needs to be established and the subject matter should be incorporated in curriculum to be able to develop the industry. This requires participation of both private and public entities or through a government private partnership approach to help resolve and reduce market and knowledge differentials. A different research need to be done taking a smaller scope like challenges facing movie translation or techniques of movie translation in either developed market like Europe or United States or in china. With such focus and smaller perspective, the researcher hope a greater in-depth inquiry can be established which can generate more information and by adopting different research designs. A unique training methodology should be invented that makes the subject fun to illicit interest to the audience and improves mastery and retention capability. These research findings will be useful as an addition to already literatures in the field of film translation.


By adopting comparative stylistic analysis developed by Vinay and Dalbernet, the model assisted the research findings to be able to test which type of translation procedure is more commonly used. Direct translation was most preferred notwithstanding it limitation of some cultural words not having the target language equivalents. Wherever any successful translation process is to be achieved it requires the translator to pay attention to word structure both in source language configurations and target language. This knowledge will guide a translator on which procedure to be adopted, however, the researcher established that because of the limitations inherent in each procedure it is better a translator to conduct follow two approaches one to be used to test the accuracy of the other in instances where time constrains is not a factor. The challenges facing translation process can be reduced by increasing the knowledge content in colleges offering translation related disciplines as well as thorough on the job training to perfect the skills of a translator. The technique of conducting translations can be learned and no single technique is better than the others. Each technique should be used to complement each other rather than compete with each other. Dubbing and subtitling are still the major translation techniques, however there is need for intensive research to explore and expose other techniques like the use of narration and free commentary which are equally useful. Challenges of translating metaphorical expressions can be reduced if only mastery of word fluency and deeper understanding on the application of metaphors and knowing the procedure of handling metaphors in a movie.

Translation a very useful process, it enables the audience to receive entrainment of their choice; it is a fun and invokes creative thinking. The process is an intuitive process requiring a translator to employ skills and creative capability. It involves thorough analysis of source text and target text and methods and procedures to be used depend on the findings of analysis made. The love for movies is great, everyone has a favorite movie, favorite actor or actress, favorite genre and it is upon this basis that the process of translating film should be professionally conducted to enrich movie content to the target audience.


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