On English and Chinese Movie Title Translation/LA TRADUCTION DES TITRES DES FILMS CHINOIS ET ANGLAIS
Kelan, Liu, Wei, Xiang, Canadian Social Science
Movie is not only a popular form of entertainment but also an important medium in inter-cultural communication. More and more communication between Chinese and English movies goes with the globalization. As a result, movie translation has become more and more important, especially title translation. However, there are many problems in movie title translation. In the hope of improving the present situation, this paper makes a study on how to translate English and Chinese movie titles. With many title translations as examples, the paper analyzes the characteristics of movie titles and focus on the problems in Chinese and English movie title translation, and concludes that there are three main problems, the messy and low-quality situation, the argument between alienation and assimilation, and over-imitation to Hollywood blockbusters' translation modes. This paper analyzes the examples and tries to find the reasons for each problem. Finally, suggestions are given on how to solve the problems, that translators should consider the individuality and characteristics of the original movie and consult the cultural backgrounds to keep the informatic, aesthetic and commercial functions in balance. So that readers can get a general idea about the situation of movie title translation and pay enough attention to movie title translation, and to improve the situation.
Key words: movie title translation, alienation and assimilation, over-imitation
Résumé: Le cinéma est non seulement une forme artistique préférée des gens, mais aussi un média très important des échanges interculturels. Sous l'influence de la globalisation, les échanges internationaux de films deviennent de plus en plus fréquents, la traduction des films paraît alors de plus en plus importante, en particulier celle des titres des films. Mais il existe aujourd'hui beaucoup de problèmes dans le domaine de la traduction des titres des films. L'auteur a fait des recherches sur la traduction. En citant de nombreux exemples, on a analysé les caractéristiques des titres des films chinois et anglais, les problèmes qui existent dans la traduction dont les trois problèmes principaux : celui de la confusion et de la mauvaise qualité de la traduction ; celui du débat de l'assimilation et de la dissimilation ; celui de l'imitation excessive du modèle de la traduction des films hollywoodiens. On a aussi analysé selon ces exemples leurs origines. Enfin, on a donné quelques propositions pour résoudre ces problèmes, c'est-à-dire, les traducteurs doivent, pour maintenir l'équilibre des fonctions informatique, esthétique et commerciale des titres traduits, trouver la meilleure traduction en tenant compte des caractéristiques individuelles des films et de la différence des circonstances culturelles chinoise et anglaise. Cet article a pour le but d'aider à mieux comprendre la situation actuelle de la traduction des titres des films, de susciter l'attention de sa traduction et d'élever la qualité de la traduction.
Mots-Clés: traduction des titres des films, assimilation et dissimilation, imitation excessive, fonctions informatique, esthétique et commerciale
(ProQuest: ... denotes Greek characters omitted (or Cyrillic characters omitted.))
Movie has become a popular form of entertainment and more and more communication between Chinese and English movies goes with the globalization. As a result, movie translation has become more and more important, especially title translation. This paper focus on the problems in Chinese and English movie title translation, gives suggestions on how to solve this problems by analyzing the distinct characteristics of both Chinese and English movie titles and the reasons of the problems. On characteristics, the paper concludes the characteristics of Chinese and English movie titles from three aspects, in terms of form, in terms of style and in terms of aesthete and thinking modes. On the problems, the paper concludes that there are three main problems, the messy and low-quality situation, the argument between alienation and assimilation, and over-imitation to Hollywood blockbusters' translation modes. And the paper analyzes reasons or facts for each problem. At the end, the paper gives suggestions on how to solve the problems, that translators should consider the individuality and characteristics of the original movie and consults the cultural backgrounds to keep the informatic, aesthetic and commercial functions in balance.
This paper intends to let the i~aders know the present situation of the Chinese and English movie title translation, and tries to give suggestions to movie title translators in the hope of improving the present situation, and believes that Chinese and English movie title translation will become better and better.
1. FEATURES OF CHINESE AND ENGLISH MOVIE TITLES
Due to the differences of culture and language between China and the west, the titles of each side differ in the following aspects.
1.1 In terms of form
As far as length is concerned, Chinese movie titles looks short and brief, normally no more than seven words, suchas ... And most Chinese movie titles are four-word idioms or set phrases, such as ... . Structure is carefully considered in Chinese movie titles. While for an English movie, the title is freer in both length, words use and structure, it can be as short as Mafrix, babe, or they, but also can be as long as The Englishman Who Went up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain. And it can be an idiom or a word or even a question etc., such as Far Away, they, and Who is Eating Gilbert Grape.
Another difference is that Chinese movie titles are mostly veths or verb phrases, while English movie titles are mostly nouns or noun phrases. That is to say, for Chinese movie titles, verbs or verb phrases are on the dominant position but nouns or noun phrases are used in a small number, for English movie titles, the situation is just opposite. The examples of each are in large numbers. As examples, ... etc. and Cold Mountain, Casablanca, Ghost, Million Dollar Baby etc. can serve well. From 1928 to 2000, there are fifty of sixty-two Oscar Award movies use nouns or noun phrases as their titles.
An evident feature of English movies is that names are frequently used as their titles. Thelma & Louise, Erin Brockvich, Jane Eyre, Madam Curie, Sabrina are eloquent examples. Places are also used as titles of English movies, for example, Casablanca, Brokeback Mountain, and Noting Hill. On the contrary, Chinese movies seldom use names or places as titles. Because only the name of an important person can be used as a title of a movie, such as ... , it is imaginable to use a name of a uobody as a tulle of a movie, this also applies to places.
1.2 In terms of style
Chinese movies are directly towards the theme in brief and meaningful words, it is easy for the audience to get a general idea about what is about or what is going to happen in the story with just a look at the tulle, whereas English movies' titles are always just telling who, what, when, where or how, much information has been kept. In order to understand the movie's theme, the audiences have to watch the movie with their own eyes, for example, you can't guess what it is going to happen in Ghost if you don't watch it, but it is sure that you can guess more about ... . And also without a beforehand watching you can absolutely get the theme of ... , but you can't in A love Story Furthermore English movies' titles are always free in style, it can be as odd as Seven, but also can be as common as A love Story, but for Chinese movies, titles are always serious, such as ... , it is hard to find a movie with a strange title.
1.3 In terms of aesthetic and thinking modes
English movie titles look simple, casual. The freedom in length, stmcture, and language use reflects their aesthetic theory of simplicity. Chinese movie tiles look symmetric, serious and delicate. Momover, Chinese movie titles sounds musical with peculiar Chinese tones due to careful consideration of a movie tile's audiometric effect. These features reflect the Chinese aesthete of symmetry and balance.
These differences above reflect the difference of philosophy thinking and the aesthete between China and the west world. According to Fu lei, westerners value analysis and details, they try to be as specific and perfect as possible in their writings. Accuracy and specificity are emphasized in western culture, and the westerners see from the angle of parts or factors. What the western thinking way of analyzing and valuing parts reflects in movies is that names, the main factor of storyline, are frequently used as tiles. And the large use of name-titles is also the manifestation of individualism, the heart-rooted philosophy belief of the westerners. The belief emphasizes the rights and independence of individuals. Therefore, as a manifestation in movies, names of individuals are emphasized as the most considerable characteristic.
Fu lei also concluded that Chinese value synthesizing and inducing. As a matter of fact, Chinese usually hold things from the whole and general view. So Chinese movie titles are of generality, and dimct towards the theme.
2. THE EXISTING PROBLEMS IN TRANSLATION OF ENGLISH AND CHINESE MOVIE TITLES AND THE CAUSES OF THESE PROBLEMS
With the development of the communication in movies between China and the west, many problems emerge about the title translation.
2.1 The messy and low-quality situation
2.1.1 One movie with more translated titles
There are four Chinese titles for the American movie Ghost, ... are all translations of the movie Catch me if you can. This phenomenon never lacks examples. The audiences always get no idea that they all refer to one movie. Two causes contribute to this phenomenon. First, there are always different translations from the mainland of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. For Ghost, ... and ... come from the mainland of China, ... ... from Hong Kong, ... from Taiwan. For pretty woman, the mainland translation is ... ... , Hong Kong version is ... , Taiwan version is ... . Once Upon a Time is translated as ... in mainland China, ... ... in Hong Kong, ... in Taiwan, The Thirty-nine Steps is translated as ... in mainland China, ... in Hong Kong. The difference of translation from the three areas is the main reason of the messy phenomenon. Second, the media pay little attention to a standard or a same title. Newspapers, TV channels, journals ignore the use of different titles to the same film.
2.1.2 Low quality
Many movie titles are translated of low quality. Some titles are translated wrong and have nothing to do with the movie itself. For example, American beauty is translated as ..., or.... Judging from the translated title, people can hardly guess that the leading role of this movie is a common-looking middle-aged man, and that the story is about the moral danger in American family in the 1990s. The hero Lester Burnham works for an advertising company, but doesn't work well. His wife Carolyn, an agent of an estate company, doesn't ran his business well either. The couple is in "mid-age danger period". Their daughter Jenny is at high school, being in the "youth danger period", she hates everything and rebellious to her parents. The relationships among them are worsening. Lester falls in love with one of his daughter's classmates, and has a sexual relationship with her; and he also takes drag with his neighbor's son, and builds a homosexual relationship with him. His wife also has a relationship with her lover. Jenny is disappointed with her parents and plans to leave home with her boyfriend. At last, Lester feels both his life and his career were nothing success and shoots himself in blood. It is easy to find that ... is not a proper translation. According to page 47 in Webster' Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, "American beauty: an American variety of rose, periodically bearing large crimson blossoms". With no doubt, American beauty is a metaphor, it should be translated as ... or .... The main reason of this phenomenon is that the translators just translate from its literal meaning and totally ignore the theme and the content of the movies.
Besides, some translations go too far from the movie itself, for example, The sun also rises, a movie adapted from the novel with the same title by Hemingway, was translated as ... . The main reason is that the translators are too careless about the theme of the movie. And also their translating skills are not good enough.
And some are even translated exaggeratingly to please the public. Strong words like ... are frequently used, for example, Honky Ton Freeway is translated as ... , Violent Street is translated as ... , Cloud Dancer is translated as ... , Outlaw Fosey Wales is translated as ... . And violent words are frequently used in movie title translation to attract and excite the audiences, especially ... , for example, The Soldiers is translated as ... , Seed People is translated as ... , The Brute Force is translated as ... ... , The House Shadow is translated as ... ... . And vulgar words are welcomed by some translators, Things Are Tough All Over is translated as ... , You Are a Big Boy Now is translated as ... , By Design is translated as ... . There are two factors contribute to these low-quality translations. One factor is the business benefit of booking office. Translators are trying to use shocking words to attract the public to watch. The other factor is the translators' attitude and skills, good translators holds serious attitude towards translation rather than runs after business benefit, they are good at translating skills to make good translations for movie titles. The above-mentioned low-quality translations were the product of the wrong attitude or poor translating skills of some translators.
2.2 Alienation and assimilation
Alienation and assimilation have served as two main approaches in movie title translation. There are many good translations in these two ways. Waterloo Bridge is translated as ... , The Bridge of Madison County translated as ... , Bathing Beauty is translated as ... , Speed is translated as ... ... , Forrest Gump is translated as ... , My Fair Lady is translated as ... , these are classical translations of domestication. ... is translated as The Story of the Stone, ...is translated as The Promise, ... is translated as Rainbow. Rain Man is translated as ... , Sleepless in Seatle is translated as ... . These are classical translations of Alienation. However, there are still problems existing in alienation and assimilation.
2.2.1 Alienation and assimilation
When translating, which should be chosen has become a heatedly discussed question. Scholars both at home and abroad hold different ideas about this question. According to Venuti, domestication is following the target language's mainstream values to conservatively assimilate the source language in order to adapt to the native laws, publication trends and political needs (Venuti, 2001: 240). In his opinion, translation of the audiences' familiar language use covers the culture difference, kills the culture individuality, and makes the translation become the warm bed of culture invasion and colonization. Venuti defines alienation as a way from the native mainstream value but keep the distinction of the source language and culture (Venuti, 2001: 240). He suggested unfamiliar translation could catch and maintain the distinction of the source language and culture, and can strengthen the readers' realization of culture difference, and give them different reading experience so that it can exert the fixed function of original text better. His theory was followed by a great number of scholars at home, they strongly appeal for the dominant status of alienation. It seems that alienation has been the necessary trend in the future translation. But there are also scholars strongly opposite.
The main cause for the divergence is the different attitudes toward the different cultures. Movie concerns about cross-cultural communication. Venuti denies assimilation, the key reason is that he thinks that domestication is the warm bed of culture invasion and colonization, and those who think oppositely will certainly not agree with him. Another cause for the divergence is the different attitudes towards the audiences' understanding about the movies. Some translators think that assimilation helps the audiences to understand the foreign movies, while others think that with the development of international communication, many western cultural things have been brought to China, many audiences are eagerly to watch something more western, so it's good to translate by alienation.
2.2.2 Cultural background difference between alienation and assimilation
Due to the culture difference between China and the west, there are many difficulties in alienation and assimilation. Many translators are not familiar with the English culture or don't pay much attention to the culture difference between China and the west, it's hard for them to alienate or assimilate the source movie titles well. For example, the American movie One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest was alienated as ... in Taiwan. Because the translator didn't consider the culture difference, in English, Cuckoo extendedly means the mad, and Cuckoo's Nest extendedly means the madhouse, while in Chinese, ... symbolizes loyalty, ... has no special meaning but the nestle of the birds. Another example, Hong Kong movie ... was alienated as Chinese Odyssey 1: Pandora's Box, the monkey king Sun Wukong was regarded as Odyssey of China, but Sun Wukong has not much in common with Odyssey of their experience. What's more worse, Pandora's Box symbolizes diseases, wars and all kinds of disasters, ... is a magic box which can pass though the time tunnel, these two box has nothing in common at all. Obviously, the translator knew little about Odyssey and Pandora's Box so as to make the mistake.
2.2.3 Over- assimilation
In movie title translation, over- assimilation is a common phenomenon. Take the famous American movie Gone with The Wind as an example, it is translated as ... , it is a typical example of over- assimilation. At the beginning of the movie, the prologue says " There was land of Cavaliers and/ Cotton Fields called the old south.../ look for it only books, for it is/ No more than a dream remembered/ a civilization gone with the wind... " , as a matter of fact, the theme of the movie is that the southern culture has gone with the Civil War, and also, the heroine, Scarlet, has also lost her love, all seems has gone with the wind. ... means a beauty in a no peaceful world, it is just translated from the angle of the Chinese audiences' taste rather than from the original meaning of gone with the wind, the title itself. Moreover, ... imitate the style of ... , the traditional Chinese love style, specifically, it carries on the style of the Yuanyang Hudie Groups in old Shanghai before the revolution in China. It did pass on some information of the movie and carter to Chinese audiences' taste, but go against the purpose and aesthete meaning of the original title. However, the audiences, even some scholars, popularly accept this translation. And many translations followed its step, such as White Sister is translated as ... , Lady Hamilton is translated as ... . You Can't Take It with You is translated as ... , Deeds Goes to Town is translated as ... , The Story of Louis Pasteur is translated as ... , Lucky Lady is translated as ... , The Devine Lady is translated as ... , and etc. The main cause of over- assimilation is the business benefit of booking office. Another is that almost all the translators like to imitate to each other.
2.3 Over- imitation to Hollywood blockbusters' translation modes
Because of the fierce competition in movie market, some translators use the Hollywood blockbusters' translation modes to stir up the audiences' curiosity and purchase desire so as to tie up the similar movies to sell them out. For example, after Total Recall (acted by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1990) won its popularity, all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's movies are translated in Total Recall's modes. Imitating Total Recall's translation ... , Raw Deal is translated as ... , Kindergarten Cop is translated as ... True Lie is translated as ... . And also, many movies follow the ... mode, Finding Nemo is translated as ... , Toy Story is translated as ... , The Long Kiss Goodnight is translated as ... , Outbreak is translated as ... . Following the mode of Farewell , Arms, ... is translated as Farewell, my concubine. Similarly, "... are popular modes to be frequently used. Regardless of the aesthetic meaning and the individuality of the original titles, these translations are mechanical imitation of low quality.
3 SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO TRANSLATE MOVIE TITLES
3.1 Consult the cultural backgrounds
"Translating a language is translating a culture."( ... , 2001, January) Due to the culture difference between China and the west, many difficulties exist in translating. Therefore, it is necessary to consult the cultural backgrounds when translating. Movie titles draw materials mostly from the stories, backgrounds or leading roles, though brief but meaningful. Some titles originated from allusions, it is hard for the translators to hold the implications. Moreover, movies carry rich culture information, mirror the utterly different nature environment, religions and histories. Therefore without consulting the cultural backgrounds and repeated deliberation, translators can never find good translations.
For example, if you don't know that " Top Gun "is the code of the fighter training school of U.S. F-14 naval force, you are possibly to translate it as ... . As a matter of fact, the movie praises the spirit of the school, valuing the power of will. So ... can express the original title's deep content. ... mirror Chinese culture, it's hard to transform to English, with considering about the culture information and the content, we can translate them as Police Office in1998, A Tree in The House.
... is a masterpiece of movie title translation. The translator had considered about the cultural backgrounds of both sides. Waterloo associates with the battle in Belgium, in which Napoleon lost. But in the movie, Waterloo Bridge is in London, England, where the hero and the heroine met, and at last, the heroine walked right towards the running train to kill herself there. If the translator translated it as ... the audience will certainly think the movie is about Napoleon. Moreover, there is an old allusion of ... in Chinese, it is said that there is a fairy cave at ..., in which Pei Hang, a man of Tang density, met with a fairy named Yunying ( ... , vol.50), ... just match the bridge. Since it is a tragedy, and the heroine committed a suicide, ... is added before ..., which makes the title more gloomy and Chinese. Waterloo Bridge is just the place of the story, but ... is not just the place but even implicates the story, it is a typical form of Chinese movie titles. ... is an excellent model of consulting the cultural backgrounds.
3.2 According to the individuality and characteristics of the original movie
Alienation and assimilation, literal, liberal and adaptation are all good ways for translating movie titles, we can find good translations for each of them. So we can't say that we should take which way as the leading method. A movie has its own individuality and characteristics, we should find the most suitable way for it. For example, Mrs. Doubtfire is a comedy, it tells about the hero Denier disguised himself as an old lady and named himself Mrs. Doubtfire to be the house governor to stay with his children after the divorce with his wife, the movie is amusing. So it is translated as ... by the liberal way to show its comedic effect, while the other ways are no better than this. Take Three Smart Girls as another example, the story is about how the three girls managed to make their parents love each other again. By alienation, we can translate it as ... , by literal translation, we can translate it as ... , but both two translations look common in Chinese, so how to make it look extraordinary is the key problem in translating. ... is a classical ancient Chinese poem phrase, ... means a family has excellent children in Chinese, therefore assimilation is no more suitable here. Shallow Hal is another example, its Chinese translation is .... This story tells a man loves a fat lady named Shallow Hal whom no other man would love, it just uses the famous Chinese idiom ... so the translation is neither literal, liberal nor alienation, but adaptation and assimilation. Seven is a horror movie about the seven sins in Bible, because of this specialty, Chinese audiences may not understand the meaning if we just translate it in the literal and the alienation way. In short, we should find the most suitable way to translate the titles by considering about the movies' characteristics and individualities.
3.3 Keep the informative, aesthetic and commercial functions in balance
Movie is a special form of entertainment, when we are translating we have to consider all of its functions. To the audience, movie titles must be attractive and exciting, to the movie business runners, movie titles must be beneficial, and for the movies themselves, as a form of art, the titles must be aesthetic. The three functions are not contradictory at all, but it's hard to balance them when translating. Now many movies are translated commercially but in low aesthetic and informative functions. Such as The Sun Also Rises, it is translated as ... , Seed People is translated as ... , The Soldiers is translated as ... , You Are A Big Boy Now is translated as ... , and etc. And some are informative but less commercial and aesthetic, for example, Gone with the Wind is translated as ... , it is too literal and has little aesthetic function, and the American thriller When The Bough Breaks is translated as ... , many audiences thought it as a science teaching movie, and then had no desire to watch. As good examples, Bathing Beauty is translated as ... , it uses the classical Chinese idiom ... , which performs high aesthetic function and is familiar and attractive to Chinese audience, also, it accurately passes the information of Bathing Beauty. The Wizard of Oz is another masterpiece of movie title translation. Oz means fairyland, ... is the title of the novel written by Li Baichuan in Qing dynasty, the novel is about the customs by telling the story of fairies. So ... is appropriate for The Wizard of Oz. Other examples such as, Love Me Tender is translated as ... ... , Waterloo Bridge is translated as ... , The Bridge of Madison County is translated as ... , Swim Fan is translated as ... , A Gleam of Hope is translated as ... , Speed is translated as ... , these translations are attractive to the audience, and loyal to the original titles and in high aesthetic taste.
However, it is never easy to keep the three functions in balance. To achieve this goal, a translator must accomplish the following three aspects. Firstly, it requires excellent movie aesthetic appreciation ability. Translators are special audience, they are not only watching the movies but also perceiving, understanding, imaging, transferring their emotions and trying to recreate. Movie aesthetic appreciation contains the appreciation culture and art features of a movie. This is the pre-condition of accurate translation. Secondly, it requires good literature accomplishment. " as a part of literature translation, movie translation require the translators to have certain knowledge of both Chinese and foreign languages" (... , 2000). Only with good literature accomplishment, translators can represent the original title's charm and meaning. Thirdly, it requires right attitude for translation. Translators have to be responsible for both the movie art and the audience, neither can they translate carelessly nor only run for business benefit. Such as The Sun Also Rises, the translation is too careless and only run for business benefit.
English and Chinese movie title translation is the transformation between the two cultures. To have excellent translations, we must know the distinct characteristics of both Chinese and English movie titles. The paper concludes that Chinese movie titles looks symmetric, serious, delicate, short and brief, normally no more than seven words, and most Chinese movie titles are four-word idioms or set phrases, while English movie titles are freer in length, words use and structure. Chinese movie titles are mostly verbs or verb phrases, while English movie titles are mostly nouns or noun phrases. English movies frequently use names as their titles, while Chinese movies don't. Many problems emerge about the title translation at present, mainly about the messy and low-quality situation, the argument between alienation and assimilation, and over-imitation to Hollywood blockbusters' translation modes. This paper concludes that translators should keep the characteristics of the original movies and consult the cultural backgrounds to keep the informative, aesthetic and commercial functions in balance.
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Liu Kelan1 XiangWei
1 Doctoral candidate of Wuhan University,China
* Received 8 February 2006 ; accepted 1 May 2006
Liu Kelan, female, born in 1968, associate professor of Hubei University, Doctoral candidate of Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei, 430000, P.R. of China.
Xiang Wei, female, Hubei University. Wuhan, Hubei, 430000, P.R. of China…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: On English and Chinese Movie Title Translation/LA TRADUCTION DES TITRES DES FILMS CHINOIS ET ANGLAIS. Contributors: Kelan, Liu - Author, Wei, Xiang - Author. Journal title: Canadian Social Science. Volume: 2. Issue: 4 Publication date: January 1, 2006. Page number: 75+. © Canadian Research & Development Center of Sciences and Cultures Oct 31, 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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