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Lost in Translation….. Subtitlation?

A couple of years ago, while I was studying in Argentina, I decided to go see a movie that my friends could not stop talking about: “The Hangover”. It was hilarious. I laughed out loud a million times….but I noticed that some times I was the only one laughing. Am I weird? Do I have a different sense of humor than the wonderful open minded people of Buenos Aires, Argentina? Well…I might be a little weird, but funny is funny and good humor is good humor.

After the first thirty minutes or so I started to read the subtitles and then it all hit me. The subtitles just did not relay the jokes the way they were expressed in English. Let’s start with the title. The translation of the word Hangover in Spanish is “resaca”, but the title of the movie in Spanish is “¿Qué pasó ayer?” which translates into “What happened yesterday?”. Anyone who has ever seen this movie knows that the title “What happened yesterday” definitely applies to this movie…but this is only the beginning. As all native English speakers know, we have a very extensive curse word vocabulary. We have sort of created the art for “toilet humor”. Now with this said, anyone who has ever lived in a Spanish speaking country knows that native Spanish speakers give us a run for the money when it comes to talking dirty. Every time there was a curse word in the movie (and believe me, there were lots of them) the subtitled translation would be “maldito”, which simply means “damn”. Sometimes the word damn just does not cut it when it comes to a “R” rated movie.

In today’s thriving translation industry, you have hundreds of companies that are competing for translation, voice-over, and subtitling projects. You would think that in this competitive market someone could actually come up with more clever ways to express these jokes in Spanish the same way they were intended to be expressed in English. Movies are expensive these days. Tickets, popcorn, a soda and your looking at a $50 night. All I am saying is that I think you should get what you pay for, no matter how bad the language is, or what language you speak.

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