"Lost in Translation" (not the movie!)

Discussion in 'Culture' started by Ceit, Jan 1, 2006.

  1. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    I'm only using the title because it's the title of a short article by my all-time favorite author, Tom Robbins, in which he talks a little about translations of his novels. He singles out the Czech translations mostly; the literal English translation of the Czech title of Jitterbug Perfume is Perfume of the Insane Dance. :lol: Still, the introduction seems to be pretty accurate, although it's a translation of a translation so who knows what could have happened in between. I've never seen any Tom Robbins books in any language but English, so I assume he's not all that popular outside the US, although gosh darnit he should be. What English language authors are popular in the ČR anyway? Do you think (or do you know) that the Czech translations are as good as the originals?
  2. Jana

    Jana Well-Known Member

    Tom Robbins books published in Czech:
    Další dálniční atrakce (Another Roadside Attraction, 1971, česky 1997)
    I na kovbojky občas padne smutek (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976, česky 2004)
    Zátiší s datlem (Still Life with Woodpecker, 1980, česky 2000)
    Parfém bláznivého tance (Jitterbug Perfume, 1984, česky 1996)
    Hubené nohy a všechno ostatní (Skinny Legs and All, 1990, česky 1998)
    V žabím pyžamu (Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, 1994, česky 2002)
    Když se z teplých krajů vrátí rozpálení invalidé (Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, 2000, česky 2004)
    Vila Inkognito (Villa Incognito, 2003, česky 2005)
  3. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    English language authors? That is not my cup of tea :D. I read only Dickens, Heller, Orwell, Poe and Shakespeare. But I know that Robert Fulgham is unusually popular in CR and so he decided to publish his novels in Prague. Last novels were even published in Czech translation sooner than in English original. Czechs are very fastidious about translation because they are lazy to read original :D (we also demand excellent dubbing). I think the quality of translations is good.
  4. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Well, even if he's not popular, I'm glad to see that Czechs at least have the option of reading Robbins. :D

    Hmm, Dickens, Poe, Shakespeare...yes, wer, I see that you're not a big fan of English language literature. :wink: I assume the Bard Will is translated into modern Czech?
  5. gementricxs

    gementricxs Well-Known Member

    And also J.K.Rowling is VERY popular between young people. She's actually popular all over the world, so it's obvious that she's also popular in Czech. (If you don't know, it's Harry Potter books).

    I think that the Czech translations are very good and it also takes long time to translate it. (The official translation was published after 6 months and fan-translation was on internet within few days.) So, translations are very popular.
    As "wer" said all shows, movies are dubbed. Even Spiderman was dubbed in cinemas and it's not movie for small children. I like reading books and watching movies in original English version, it's better for my English skill.
    Recently, I've been to Belgium and there's all movies, series, everything without dubbing in TV. All the English shows are only with subtitles there.
  6. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    What means Bard Will? Shakespeare?

    Shakespeare presents traditional challenge to Czech translators. We have hunderts translations in old Czech, in Modern Czech, in dialects etc. - It is easier to read complete work of William Shakespeare in English than to read all czech translations of mere 'The Sonnets' :wink:.

    Yes, gementricxs, you're absolutely right, the whole world including CR is affected by Potteromania :D.
  7. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Yes, Shakespeare is often referred to in English simply as "the Bard" and I stuck his name on there thinking that might make it clearer for non-native speakers. So he's been done in several versions of the Czech language...I'm really undecided as to whether classic authors should be translated into modern dialects or contemporary dialects. On one hand, a Czech (or German or Japanese) audience will connect better with the work if it's done in their normal speech; on the other hand, Shakespeare is hard for us to understand so why should he be accessible to the rest of you?! :twisted: I've seen other classical authors (Dante, Goethe, Cervantes...) translated into both modern English and the standard English of their time. The older style fits better when you know the age of the work, but in a modern voice you (or at least I) get the story better. The funniest translation I've ever seen was one of "Lysistrata" done in the 1960's, in contemporary style, slang and all..."Don't be so barbarous, baby." That was a great line.
  8. Wicker808

    Wicker808 Well-Known Member

    I think exactly the opposite. Every time I see an English-language film with Czech subtitles, I see many errors, often completely distorting the original meaning. Reading English-language books translated into Czech, it is also often clear to me when the translator has translated something too literally. For example, right now I'm reading Prstenec kolem slunce by Clifford D. Simak, and there is a passage when one character says something like, "Zajímá mě jen to, co musíš říct," which is a literal but inaccurate translation of "I'm only interested in what you have to say."
    The translator didn't realize that this is "have something to say" in the sense of "má co říct" rather than "have to say something" in the sense of "musí něco říct." The fact that these bad translations are awkward and obvious to me even without having read the original says a lot about the quality of translation. This is a trivial examples, but exemplary of the type of errors I've discovered. In other situations, the translator doesn't translate terms that should be translated. For example, more than once I've seen names such as "Fifth Avenue" left untranslated, although there's no reason why a Czech who doesn't know English should know what that means.

    There's an entertaining list of mistakes in Czech film translations at this site: http://www.fuxoft.cz/preklady/ (at least one of which was submitted by me). If foreign media companies are surprised that their works aren't as successful in the Czech Republic as they should be, it may be because the Czech audience is completely confused by terrible translations.
  9. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Hi, Wicker808, I think there's different situation in films and books. I aggree with you that films, especially series, are poorly translated. I wrote about books and I really think that there's much better situation (big publishing houses order translations by professional translators).

    You wrote:
    'Every time I see an English-language film with Czech subtitles, I see many errors, often completely distorting the original meaning.'

    Yes, that's right but where can you see films with Czech subtitles? Films in TV and cinema are mostly dubbed. Films with subtitles circulate frequently only on the net and these subtitles are made by dilettantes :D - e.g. by me.
  10. Howard

    Howard Active Member

    All the Czech DVDs I've bought (25-30) have both Czech and English subtitles.

    Even 10-20% (guestimate) of my other DVDs (regular international films) which I've bought in Norway have Czech subtitles.

    Best regards
  11. Wicker808

    Wicker808 Well-Known Member

    On the contrary, most foreign films in cinemas have Czech subtitles, except those that are specifically for children, which are often dubbed. I don't doubt that both book publishers and move distributors hire professional translators. However, being a professional does not guarantee that you are good.

    I am also familiar with home-made subtitles available on the net, and I agree with you, that they are of a much lower quality than even those subtitles in cinemas. It often seems that the translator in question has absolutely no understanding of what the film is about. I saw a film recently with amateur subtitles, where there tranlator tranlated "I get my kicks" (in the sense, "I enjoy myself") as "Dal mi kopačky" (meaning, "He dumped me"). And beyond simple translation errors, these amateur subtitles often contain many Czech grammar and spelling errors, which leads me to think that the author knows neither English nor Czech. But I'm sure your home-made subtitles are much better, wer. :D
  12. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    OK, Wicker808, you kill me!!! :D

    I go to cinema three or four times per year, mostly to watch Czech movie - so I'm not representative sample. :D

    And vice versa, amateur could be also excellent translator. :D

    Yes, Howard, I put DVD's out of my mind, that's right.
  13. magan

    magan Well-Known Member

    Many things are culturally impossible to translate and it is visible from movies or books. In literature the main thing is the beauty of the language, the way writer writes and that is totally missed by translation. It becomes "story telling".

    From my experience, I only go to see Czech movies and read Czech books in original and same with English - avoid translations. However, not everybody can read in original, so I would say "better something than nothing".
  14. chramosta

    chramosta Member

    Megan, you're absolutely right. It is just as if you are learning a foreign language and are still trying to translate everything you want to say...you will NEVER learn a language this way. You just have tolearn to THINK in that language I think I managed to capture this in my book "LIVING TO LEARN OR LEARNING TO LIVE?" which is based on dificulties immigrants to foreign countries often have. I wrote the same book in Czech and belive me...it is NOT a translation, because I found it IMPOSIBLE just translate...it is virtually re-writen and even some passages were replaced for the same reason. This book is fun to read. The Czech title is "TA KANADA, aneb KDO CHCE KAM, POMOZME MU TAM" How is this for a title of the same book hah?


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