jump to navigation

Hollywood gets lost in translation – Groan! August 1, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture, Random musings, Translation Sites.

USA Today has an interesting article about how Hollywood is taking “a more active role in translating its [movie] titles to make sure ‘global launches’ go well.” Hollywood gets lost in translation examines the practice of titling movies for foreign audiences and cites several interesting examples. The author explains “Titles are often tweaked to sound better in the local language, or to provide a hint of the plot to audiences who might be skeptical of what is, to them, a foreign film.” It claims that “translations used to be left to foreign film distributors, with dubious results.” It is an interesting article that will hopefully educate USA Today’s ADHD-afflicted readership that there are other countries and cultures beyond our borders (dare to dream!).

I used to love trying to guess the American title of a movie or TV show when I lived in Germany and always enjoy researching the alternate titles on The Internet Movie Database when I come upon a movie or TV show title in a translation. For instance, the “Die Hard” movies are called Stirb langsam (Die Slowly) in German. “Die Hard 2” is Stirb Langsam 2 – Die Harder, “Die Hard: With a Vengeance” became Stirb Langsam – Jetzt erst recht (Die Slowly – Now more than ever), and “Live Free or Die Hard” has the imaginative title Stirb Langsam 4.0. And, yes, I needed to know this for a computer game.

It’s about time Hollywood started recognizing that they aren’t just making movies for American audiences. Now if only we could get them to stop including gratuitous shots of the American flag or other unnecessary shows of patriotism. Don’t get me wrong; I am as patriotic as the next person. However, after six years in Germany that kind of stuff really makes me shudder because instead of experiencing a swelling of pride or whatever the filmmakers expect us to react with I immediately wonder how non-Americans will react. Most Germans I know generally roll their eyes or make a comment. I had the same reaction at the Cleveland Indians’ game this past Sunday. Instead of belting out “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the Seventh Inning Stretch they started us off singing “God Bless America” (the ACLU would have had a field day…) and I sheepishly looked over at the Japanese guy sitting two seats over from me to see how he was reacting to it. OK, how did I get off-topic again…



1. Éric Léonard, trad. a. - August 1, 2008

Hollywood films often have a different French title in Québec and in France. I occasionally have to translate blurbs about movies and I have to be very careful about that.

Regarding the flag-waving, maybe that’s an opportunity for localisers to expand their market into film post-editing: replace the stars and stripes with a fleurdelisé for the Québec version or a tricolore in France or a Bundesflagge in Germany. With today’s digital technology, it wouldn’t even be that difficult!

And imagine the effect on national pride everywhere if it was a Qébécois, French or German hero who defeated the aliens in the name of all Earthlings…

2. jillsommer - August 1, 2008

@Éric: That’s interesting. I never really thought about the different titles in the different countries, but it makes perfect sense. Talk about needing to know for sure who your target audience is! Thank heavens there isn’t a big difference between Germany, Austria and Switzerland! French, Spanish and Portuguese translators don’t have that luxury… Although I have to say, Independence Day wouldn’t be the same with post-editing 😉

3. Janine Libbey - August 1, 2008

When I lived in Spain, I sometimes unknowingly saw movies I had already seen in the States because the translated titles were so different from the English version. One of my favorite translations was “Airport” which was translated into Spanish as “Aterriza como puedas” or “Land however you can”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: