Literally Lost in Translation: The Difficulty in Properly Subtitling a Film and its Effects on the Viewer

How can the issue of cultural and linguist translation be tackled? Can it even be tackled at all? While a film may be able to translate the language, some cultural references are usually lost, especially when taking into consideration a unique language and culture like Japanese for example, and attempting to translate the language and culture relevance to an American audience. No easy feat.

Take a film like Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” as an example – there’s something culturally amiss in the translation, so much so that more than one English version has been released since the original Japanese release in 1988.

There’s much room for exploration of what makes a film translation either good or bad, and this would make for an interesting project particularly if explored by bilingual folks who are fluent in both the linguistic and cultural nuances of the original film and its subtitled release.

  • Some ideas and subtexts are impossible to translate because those concepts may not exist in another culture. – Munjeera 7 years ago
  • Each language has its own set of nuances, in the way that the the dialogue is written, which can be lost in translation. In some Bollywood movies, this is sometimes remedied by referring to cultural aspects commonly found in US/English culture as an equivalent, so that the viewer has a general idea of what is being explained. However, there are some historical figures or cultural aspects that would require more than one line to explain, which is not possible in most cases. Additionally, there can be multiple dialects of the same language, which can say a lot about a character that can explain where the individual comes from. Such information may not be available to the viewer who does not understand the particular language. This would definitely make for a interesting article! – vaidyadoc 7 years ago

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