in English-into-Persian Subtitled Films
this paper, efforts have been made to investigate the strategies
used in translation of colloquial expressions in English
language films subtitled into Persian. The question is:
what specific strategies have Persian translators used in
dealing with colloquial expressions in English-into-Persian
subtitled films? The colloquial expressions were classified
based on the combination of taxonomies presented by McCrimmon
(1963) and Holmes (1992). The data was gathered from two
American comedy films: Midnight Run and Liar Liar subtitled
into Persian. Furthermore, their original transcripts were
used. Then, the colloquial expressions of the films were
detected and with regard to Persian subtitles, the strategies
used in translating them were identified. The analysis of
the data indicated that the following strategies were employed
by Persian translators: colloquial translation or transfer,
deletion, translating into expression with higher degree
of formality, paraphrase, condensation or under-translation,
semantic equivalent, addition or over-translation, mistranslation,
and translating into expression with lower degree of formality.
Key Words: Colloquial expression, subtitle, formality,
Translation is defined as an attempt to replace a written
message and/or statement in one language by the same message
and/or statement in another (Newmark, 1988a, p. 7), and
in Nabokov's sense as quoted in Newmark (1988a), "rendering,
as closely as the associative and syntactical capacities
of another language allows, the exact contextual meaning
of the original" (p. 11). According to these definitions,
some sources of loss can be identified. The first source
as Newmark (1988a) suggests is the loss of meaning, since
the translator's language can only be approximate not exactly
the same, "if the text describes a situation which
has elements peculiar to the natural environment, institutions
and culture of its language area, there is an inevitable
loss of meaning" (p. 7). The second source of loss
is related to the personal use of language by the author
that is related to his/her style, "…the individual
uses of language of the text-writer and the translator do
not coincide" (Newmark, 1988a, p. 8). He believes that
everybody has lexical if not grammatical idiosyncrasies,
and attaches new meanings to a few words.
Regarding the close relationship of translation with language,
a study of the language variety and the formality scale
of the language seems in order before starting to investigate
translation's language related problems, especially problems
of rendering colloquial language.
Linguists suggest that languages vary on a continuum of
formality: vulgar, slang, colloquial, neutral, formal and
legal ceremonial. The word colloquial is defined by American
College Dictionary as quoted in McCrimmon, (1963, pp. 137-8)
"characteristic of or appropriate to ordinary or familiar
conversation rather than formal speech or writing".
A colloquialism is any word or expression, which might appropriately
be used in conversation among ordinary or educated people.
Newmark (1988b) suggests a stylistic scale of formality
ranging from officialese to formal, neutral, informal, colloquial,
slang and taboo (p. 14). Therefore, colloquial language
in definition lies between informal language and slang.
During the twentieth century, there was a new kind of material
that was translated. This kind of translation was the result
of the arrival of film industry and the invention of sound
films in 1927. That time translation was used to convey
the spoken dialogue of source language (SL) film to the
target language (TL) of the audience. This new type of translation
was called Audio Visual Translation (AVT). AVT is conventionally
taxonomised into "subtitling" and "dubbing"
which are the main forms of language transfer in television.
The first one which is the focus of this paper is defined
as ''supplementing the original voice soundtrack by adding
written text on screen '' and the second one is ''replacing
the original voice soundtrack with another in another in
another language" (O'Connell, 2000, p. 169).
When translating colloquial expressions spoken or written
in source language, the translator confronts at least two
problems. The first one, according to Dickins et al. (2002)
is the error in register that is translating into a language
more formal than the original. The translator failing, either
to recognize the level of formality of the original, or
to render it with the same degree of formality, is not able
to fully preserve the same register. The second problem
is the failure of producing the same effect on the target
audiences. Newmark (1988b) points out: "whilst translation
is always possible, it may for various reasons not to have
the same impact as the original"(p.6). One of the reasons
might be the fact that the level of formality in target
language usually differs from that of the original. In this
regard, Almaghary (2002) asserts that the kind of language
has a major role in translation and the best translator
is the one who knows the kind of people he or she addresses
(¶ 10). According to Kane (1986), the language of a text
determines the purpose of the writer and guaranties communication.
Thus, by accepting this claim, one can say that failure
in recognition of the language causes loss of communication.
Colloquial language is one of the language levels, considering
the language scale of formality, that might be used by the
writer for an effective characterization and making atmosphere
of the story. Therefore, the proper translation of this
language and finding correct equivalents by the translator
in order to achieve intended goals of the writer and to
provoke the same impact from the target audiences and to
preserve cultural and local coloring of the original is
of great importance. The present paper draws attention to
the different strategies employed by Persian translators
to render colloquial level of language in English- into-Persian
Constraints of subtitling
All types of translation have their specific set of constraints,
which makes perfect conveyance of meaning impossible. Gottlieb
(1992, p. 164) claims that these constraints "may be
caused by a host of different agents in the communicative
process from production of the original to reception of
the translated version". For sure, screen translation
is not an exception. What makes subtitling different from
other types of translation is the fact that it involves
both technical and contextual constraint. Gottlieb (1992)
uses a bit different terminology and explains that subtitler
is faced with formal (quantitative) and textual (qualitative)
constraints. Textual constraints are those imposed on the
subtitles by the visual context of the film, whereas formal
constraints are the space factors (a maximum of two lines
are allowed, with some 35 character each) and the time factor.
The duration of a subtitle depends on the quality and complexity
of the text, the speed of the dialogue; the average viewer's
reading speed (150 to 180 words per minute) and the necessity
intervals between subtitles.
In this regard, Kovacic (1998) says on the whole subtitling
is a specific form of translating in which additional constraints
has to be taken into consideration (limited space, synchronization
with the image). He asserts that apart from that, it may
be regarded in the same way as any other translation: its
objective is to render a source language text into a form
that will make its meaning potential[ly] accessible to target
audience (Hatim and Mason, 1990, pp. 10-11 cited in Kovacic,
1998, p. 75).
Schowarz (2002) says that the main problem in subtitling
as caused by the difference between the speed of the spoken
language and the speed in reading. A complete transcription
of the film dialogue is not possible. Both the physical
limitation of space on the screen and the pace of the spoken
word require a reduction of the text. The experience for
the audience is considerably different from those who see
the original film. Viewers are asked to do a lot of extra
work by reading subtitles while still coping with all the
other visual and oral channels of the film.
Furthermore, Delabastita (1989) asserts that subtitles
are constrained forms of translation since the aural text
must be rendered as segments of usually not more than two
lines. In addition, due to the fact that people read more
slowly than they speak, most subtitles represent summaries
rather than verbatim accounts of what are said on screen.
So, omissions are virtually unavoidable. He states that
"the constraints of space and time lead into the problem
of selection as the translator has to analyze the source
text material carefully to describe what should be transferred
to the target text and what can or must be left out"
In the scale of formality, colloquial language is a higher
style than slang and it differs from the formal standard
language in pronunciation, choice of word, and sentence
structure. Holmes (1992, p. 265) suggests pronunciation
and grammatical features as two linguistic features of colloquial
style in English:
1. pronunciation features
[h]- dropping, e.g. Oh well, 'e said, 'I suppose you
can 'ave it.
[in] (vs. formal [ing], e.g. We was up there cuttin'.
2. grammatical features
Was with plural subject we, e.g. we
was up there cutting.
Come (vs. came): Frazer come on to us
McCrimmon (1963) describes colloquial English in this
1. relatively short simple sentences, often grammatically
incomplete, with few rhetorical devices;
2. a generous use of contractions (I'll, we've, didn't,
can't), clipped words (cab, exam, phone), and the omission
of relative pronouns (who, which, that) which would be
retained in a formal style;
3. a vocabulary marked by general avoidance of learned
words and by inclusion of some less objectionable slang
4. a simplified grammatical structure which leans heavily
on idiomatic constructions and sometimes ignores the fine
distinctions of formal grammar and;
5. a personal or familiar tone, which tries to create
the impression of speaking intimately to the reader.
The data was gathered by analyzing the Persian subtitles
of two following American comedy films: 1) Liar Liar
directed in 1997 by Tom Shadyac and featuring Jim Carrey
and 2) Midnight Run directed in 1988 by Martin
Brest and featuring Robert De Niro and Charls
Grodin. The reason for choosing these two films from
among available movies was twofold. First, the researcher
could find more instances of colloquial expressions in the
mentioned films. Secondly, according to Morgan (2001), there
is a relationship between film and subtitles, i.e. "the
better the film the easier it is to translate it well"
To avoid the effect of any probable problem in the hearing
of the dialogue of the films, which can be the result of
actors'/actresses' accents, the fast mode of speaking or
the existence of shortened sentences in the oral language
of the film and to be completely sure that no instance of
colloquialisms is left out in the dialogue of the film,
the researcher got access to the transcript of the chosen
films through Internet.
Theoretical Framework of Analysis
In order to analyze the extracted data from the dialogue
and transcripts of the films under study, the researcher
has used a combination of two classifications of colloquial
expressions proposed by Holmes (1992) and McCrimmon (1963)
as the theoretical framework. The model is as follows:
1. Contractions and clipped words (C)
2. Idiomatic expressions (I.E)
3. Pronunciation features (P.F)
4. Grammatically incomplete sentences (G.I.S)
5. Personal or familiar tone (F.T)
The procedure for obtaining the required information consisted
of three parts; viewing the films, using the transcript
and focusing on the Persian subtitles of each film. Since
there was no transcript of subtitles, the researcher wrote
down the Persian subtitles of the chosen films in front
of each English counterpart while viewing the films.In order
to have a clear understanding of the dialogue of the film,
the researcher has used the English transcript of each film
while watching the film. It should be stated that after
reading the transcripts, the researcher identified some
differences between the provided transcripts and the shooting
transcripts, so he wrote down and corrected the differences
between them and provided full transcripts. Furthermore,
the Persian subtitles of films were used to compare the
SL dialogue regarding colloquial expressions of the films
with their given translation.
After analyzing the data, two tables are presented respectively.
The first one specifies the frequency and percentage of
the five different categories of colloquial expressions
based on the above-mentioned model. And the second table
is provided to show the frequency and percentage of the
strategies employed by Persian translators in dealing with
colloquial expressions in the subtitled films.
Frequency and percentage of different categories
of colloquial expressions appearing in the two films
Title of Films
C = Contractions and Clipped Words
I.E = Idiomatic Expressions
F.T = Familiar or Personal Tone
PF = Pronunciation Features
G.I.S = Grammatically Incomplete Sentences
Frequency and percentage of strategies used
in the two films
|Type of Strategy
|Colloquial Translation or Transfer
|Higher Degree of Formality
|Lower Degree of Formality
It should be stated that translating into expressions with
higher or lower degree of formality is shown as "higher
degree of formality" and "lower degree of formality"
in the presented table.
Paraphrasing is a strategy in which the meaning of the
SL colloquial expression is paraphrased into TL. According
to Baker (1992), in this strategy the given meaning would
not be an exact equivalent or semantic equivalent of the
SL idiomatic expression as a kind of colloquial expression.
Furthermore, by using this strategy the impact of the colloquial
expression especially the idiomatic one and its cultural
significance have been lost. According to Baker (1992),
semantic equivalent is used in cases where the lexical constituency
of a colloquial expression especially an idiomatic one in
the SL may differ from its counterpart in the TL, but the
semantic content of it is identical across the two languages.
In other words, the translator transfers the semantic content
of the SL colloquial expressions but does not convey their
form in the TL.
Summary of the Findings
Analysis of the data gathered in the present paper reveals
that the subtitlers of the films under study have applied
different strategies to transfer the colloquial expressions
of the original films. These strategies are as follows:
1) Transfer or colloquial translation
constitutes the main part, i.e. 60.58% of the strategies
identified in this study. In fact, the translators could
successfully render most of the colloquial expressions into
expressions with the same level of formality in the Persian
subtitle. In other words, regarding colloquialisms, one
can transfer the same level of formality of the SL into
the TL subtitle without any great problem.
2) Deletion only forms 8.54% of the translation
strategies. This shows that regardless of the internal characteristic
of subtitling as a form of condensed translation in which
parts of the original dialogue are omitted, the translators
tried to keep colloquial expressions of the films, maybe
because they recognized their importance in the context
of the films.
3) Translating into expression with higher
degree of formality accounted for 7.96% of the strategies
applied by the translators.
4) Paraphrasing forms 6.86% of the translation
strategies in this study. By using this strategy the impact
of the colloquial expression especially the idiomatic one
and its cultural significance have been lost.
5) Semantic equivalent constitutes 6.86%
of the overall strategies used in this study. By using this
strategy, the translators have rendered the semantic content
but not the forms of the SL colloquial expressions into
their Persian counterparts.
6) Condensation or under-translation
only forms 4.96% of the strategies used in this study. According
to some translation scholars such as Delabastita (1989),
Kovacic (1998), Schowarz (2002), condensation is the important
peculiarity of subtitling. This may lead readers of this
study to expect a large number of under-translation strategy
in the findings of the study. This low percentage (4.96%)
can indicate a conflict between theory and the practical
findings of the study. But, it does not seem to be the case.
Although the percentage of condensation is very low, it
does not mean that it is used very little in the study.
Rather, some of the other strategies such as: mistranslation,
omission, and paraphrasing were used to make the colloquialisms
condensed, although they resulted in an inappropriate rendering
of the colloquial expressions.
7) Mistranslation forms 2.95% of the
overall strategies used in this study.
8) Addition or over-translation forms
1.42% of the overall strategies, because of its conflicting
nature with subtitling.
9) Translating into expression with lower
degree of formality accounted for 0.26% of the strategies
applied by the translators. This means that the translators
have not had tendency toward translating into expression
with lower degree of formality in subtitling.
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By Hossein Barzegar,
M.A. in translation studies,
Teacher Training University, Tehran, Iran
This article was originally
published at http://www.translationdirectory.com/
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