Subtitles … A Bittersweet Experience

Who among us, whether a translator or not, has not said to himself: “Well, I could’ve done a better translation.”  Subtitling mistakes are so common that they have become legendary among translators and movie fans alike.

[Mind your language ]

[Mind your language ]

80 errors throughout one film!

This could be very annoying to viewers. Many of them reported that bad subtitles are very distracting sometimes. One audience member ounce counted at least 80 errors throughout a movie he watched and said: “Aside from a lot of mistranslations, the subtitles failed to show the original feel of the movie.” In such cases, you cannot but doubt the professionalism of the translator.

Lost in translation : Left side or the past of leave !

Lost in translation : Left side or the past of leave!

 Lost in too much translation

Mistranslations lead to a failure in transmitting the feel of the movie such as puns, jokes, idioms and homophones. However, detecting subtitling mistakes could be an extremely funny and entertaining task, only if you understand the original language of the movie. Men are organizing trips to the moon, we are on our way to finding a cure for cancer, but still, Arabic subtitles translate the word “nuts” literally instead of transmitting its intended meaning, which is “crazy”. This mistake has become very common to Arab viewers, specifically Lebanese ones, that they cannot help but laugh every time they stumble across this word.

Why in the world can’t we get Arabic subtitles with good quality?

Subtitling is not an easy job and it is not very well paid in relation to the difficulty and responsibility entailed, therefore you rarely find qualified translators working as subtitlers. In fact, subtitling wages reflect the attitude of employers towards subtitling as a profession and they have no problem hiring anyone to accomplish this task.

It is not like we are dismantling atoms, the solution is more simple than that!  Higher fees, good working conditions and more realistic deadlines for better subtitles.

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