Subtitles are an important ingredient in language and cultural exchange. Not only do they give us access to global cinema, they facilitate language learning. So when subtitling errors derail your narrative, you also fumble a valuable cultural opportunity.
Professional translators know that handling onscreen media takes skill and finesse. Using unprofessional translators means risking embarrassing subtitling errors. The results, however, can make for some seriously entertaining browsing. Check out these seven examples of subtitles gone hilariously awry.
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1. Maybe the car is slightly offscreen?
Surely they meant “get on the car.” Batch translating a sentence, especially for commonly used phrases, gets the general meaning across. But of course, the individual words have meanings, too, and they might make the phrase situationally inappropriate.
2. Sometimes supervillains are misunderstood
And other times, DVD manufacturers hire a subtitler without grammatical fluency as a prerequisite. This leads to many subtitling errors. On the plus side, they may have invented a new poetic form!
3. That’s exactly what the audience is giving
Subtitling a feature-length film can be done in a couple of days or a couple of weeks, depending on the quality you want. Naturally, more time means more attention to detail, better proofreading, and a more flawless translation of your screenplay or teleplay. And less subtitling errors.
4. These subtitling errors are epic
As if Fraggles weren’t already strange enough, now you can think of POWs every time you see them! Just try not to let that pairing of images creep into your dreams. On the other hand, these subtitling errors might make a good prompt for a very original screenplay!
5. Subtitling with a flair for visual narrative
Closed captioning is a slightly different process than subtitling. While subtitles translate spoken dialogue only, captions includes all sounds, even using onamonapias and descriptions of music for the hearing impaired. Neither captions nor subtitles, however, typically include commentary on the visual action, even when it’s as powerful and moving as trembling hair!
6. This overeager translator made extra work
It raises an interesting question, though: would you translate sombrero to hat? Gelato to ice cream? Tofu to bean curd? Situations will vary. English borrows a lot of words from other languages. For the time being, however, keikaku is not one of them!
7. Take a coffee break, subtitler
The best part about this: it’s a clip from 2011’s The Artist---a silent film! This might be the only caption they needed to write! During the silent film era, dialogue was printed on cards called inter-titles, the grandfather of subtitles.
In the early- to mid-20th century, subtitles were painstakingly impressed of the physical film strip, frame by frame, before screening for a foreign audience (check out this brief history of subtitling by translation scholar Jan Ivarsson for more detail).
The process took a lot of time, and introduced the possibility of accidentally damaging or destroying the film with subtitling errors. It also made the stakes a lot higher for translation errors, because it was impossible to reverse.
Related Post: Why Subtitling is Better Than Dubbing: Every Single Time
Thank goodness subtitling is so much easier in the digital age so we can laugh about all of these mishaps online! But as much as we all love goofy memes, you don’t want your movie to become one.
When you need subtitles, hire professionals for the process. A good subtitling translator has knowledge of not just the target and origin languages, but important social and cultural norms as well. This will eradicate the room for subtitling errors.
And a good translation services provider is staffed with a worldwide network of excellent translators, working around the clock to deliver your guaranteed 100% accurate subtitling project on time to your hands.
But hey, you don’t even need to go searching--since you’re reading this, you’ve already found us! Get started on your accurate, professional subtitles today!