Colloquialisms and translations question

The problem we are facing now in our days when it comes to translations is that many of these translators/subbers are extremely young people, and they tend to write according to what age they fall into. The pre-subs I have encountered in some dramas are obviously done by young kids in High School (if they were in College they knew more or less their boundaries when writing subs).

Knocked her up/ Knock me up; if the subber is (mainly) from USA, Young (teenager) this would mean BEAT HER UP/ BEAT ME UP.

It would be very easy for me (since I’m from US) to know whether they meant getting her pregnant or beating her up depending on the scene/story.

my_happy_place
I had a pre-sub recently that had the sentence “You’re the only one who wants to knock me up,”

You are the only wants to beat me up/ destroy me/ discredit me/compete and beat me (take my position).

The scene can more or less make us understand or give us an idea of what knock me up stands for in the drama, even if we are not too familiar with that particular ‘‘slang.’’ Is definitely a very bad translation, but if they are very young; how can we blame them?

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I agree with you 100%! Even though I’m a native English speaker, I’m often flummoxed with the vernacular/lingo used for translations. In recent times, it seems to have become more prolific. It’s also across all streaming platforms. (I’ve never heard of “slay” used in this sense. It would have bamboozled me too.)

I find that I’m often using the below site to gain some insight into Americanisms.

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Wow! Thank you all for your replies :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

I wasn’t sure I would get many responses so I’m over the moon. Talking about younger people doing translations does make sense, there are some words that my daughter uses that seemingly have no relation at all to what she is talking about. For example, when she and her friends went through the “everything is gravy” phase, for saying something was great/cool/excellent. I mean, come on kids :blush:

I also agree about money being shown as dollars. I much prefer the proper currency being used as I like to ask Alexa what the value is in my currency (British pounds)

What I enjoy the most though, is when you see the translation pop up on screen and then low and behold the actors actually use the English word/expression, that you just can’t imagine would be used at all. The best one so far for me, which really tickled me, was the actor actually saying that something gave him the “heebee jeebees” - never in a million years did I think I would hear a Korean person using that :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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The prevalence of what I’d call US teenspeak is very irritating. For one thing it’s terribly reductive and it seems to me a writer has spent time creating dialogue for a specific character, but then their dialogue is translated into generics.

Term like ‘dude’, ‘punk’, ‘my bad’ etc. are really grating.

If it is the case we have students supplying subs then the pity of that is that they don’t have the soul of either a dramatist, or a translator.

Part of the problem is we have a predominance of native speakers translating into another language, when the ideal would be the other way around.

The non-native speaker, trans-literally, may not be as accurate, but they will express the essence of a statement better, in their own language.

Here are some examples of colloquial fails. Btw, I’m new here - can we feature screengrabs?

** Scene: Funeral (ever K-Drama has one!). Mourner expressing condolence: ‘Hang in there’.

** Scene: String quartet at conservatoire. Professor enters and is very critical of their playing … ‘You’re such —t!’ (Secret Affair)

** Scene: Distinguished medical figure speaking to student in a posh medical faculty … ‘does she —s you off?’

** Girl argues with boyfriend: You w-----!’ (Do You Like Brahms?)

** Scene: Josean period drama in which we see the Emperor in a long tirade against his princess daughter. No doubt he’s telling her off for the years of shame she has brought up upon this noble dynasty and he orders her out of the royal quarters. This is subbed then as ‘Go to your room!!’ I can’t remember which drama that was, but he may even have added ‘you’re so grounded’.

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This is such an interesting question and whenever I see one of these phrases, I always wonder what the original colloquialisms and idioms are in the original languages, because I’m always really fascinated by different languages essentially saying the same things in such different ways. I’m an OL subber, so I translate from English to my native language, but I’ve also got a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language Teaching and Translation, so maybe I can give you a bit of insight on how it tends to go when it comes to translating these kinds of terms in any language in general.

Basically, the core of our translation classes was always “equivalence of meaning” and what that means is that sometimes for certain phrases (especially stuff like this), you might not have a single word match up to the original sentence, but the stuff that has to match up is the meaning, the connotation and the tone of the speaker. Certain idioms or even words can be essentially untranslatable and that’s when the work gets especially tricky and interesting, because you either have to do a deep dive into various dictionaries to look for that slim chance that something matches up to the OG or you just have to come up with a creative solution. Sometimes, there’s really nothing else to do other than keep the OG (whether you transcribe it or kind of give it a somewhat literal translation) and write a translator’s note and explain it. Whenever I think of this, I always think of my first translation lesson in college. In my language there’s a really specific word for the thing in which we boil coffee. It’s not a pot, it’s not a kettle, or any other English word. Similar, but absolutely none of those things. And whenever it pops up in texts that need to be translated, it’s really up to each translator to kind of just deal with it and be creative in transferring the meaning. The first project we got in that class was a very “simple” guide on how to make black coffee. You’d think that short of a text would be really easy to translate, but it actually took a lot of time for all of us and everyone’s text differed in terms of creative solutions.

I went a bit off track there, but some of these colloquialisms and idioms can really pose the same kind of challenge. I’m not sure what the original phrase was for the translation to be “knocked her up”, but for me that’s always had a bit of a negative connotation. If I heard someone “knocked someone up” I’d probably assume the couple or at least the speaker didn’t really see that in a positive light. I’d say it’s perfectly alright to use that phrase as a translation if the connotation of the original phrase was the same or if the context implied it, but if this isn’t the case and it’s meant to be a positive connotation in the original, although the words are correct, the translation wouldn’t be since the meaning isn’t equivalent.

As for certain slang terms being used in translation at all… Hmm, that’s a whole other other discussion, really. From a linguist’s point of view, I’m always relatively accepting of new terms and new creative uses of language, but it also really depends on the language. Some languages are quite open about accepting new terms and creatively using old ones, while some are not. English is one of those languages with which you can really play around with the language (like for example, adding a noun in front of another noun to modify that noun in order to create a new term to fit your purpose), so perhaps this is why these terms are kind of sneaking in there.

Anyway, I’m going to stop here, because I feel like this is turning out to be like one of my little monologues that I always do whenever I hang out with any of my classmates. I could honestly talk about language nuances for days if given the chance. Hahaha! Really interesting topic, though, and I’d love to hear more insight from other translators, especially those of you that speak Korean and have actually seen this phrase or phrases like it pop up in the English translations. I’d love to hear how you’d rate them in terms of accuracy when it comes to the original meaning in the original language.

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The consensus is that the English is almost always more vulgar than the original and the swearwords much more impactful. Because Korean TV shows are watched by all the family, including grannies and kids, they usually avoid vulgarity and profanity, while films are much more “free” in that respect (and also sex and violence, of course).
See this thread, it’s exactly about this topic: Inappropriate use of vulgar words

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That’s very welcome professional insight.

I’m not a translator, but my mother was a conference interpreter and I well remember the time she’d spent working her way through often technical or academic papers, surrounded by a wall of specialist dictionaries. Then over dinner she’d be talking about struggling with a sentence that wouldn’t easily translate, and sometimes the word pictures she’d have to draw to convey a meaning.

Everytime I see a subtitle clanger, I say to myself, ‘oh, dear, whatever would mother say!’

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Thanks for the link!

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Yes. All you need to do is use a snipping tool (or equivalent) and then copy the image and paste it directly into your post. It will upload once it’s pasted. One thing to keep in mind is that if you grab screenshots from Viki that identify the scene and paste them, someone might recall writing those subs and feel very embarrassed by the public shaming. Personally, I think it’s better to find similar issues somewhere outside Viki and use those as examples. Alternatively, you could copy just the sub, describe the scene but make no reference to which drama it came from.

Just my 2¢’s worth :slight_smile:

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I like the term “regional colloquialism” to describe items of casual conversation in one language that would never be used in another language.

FYI, the word “colloquialism” (according to the Merriam-Webster website) derives from the word “colloquy” which means “conversation, dialog, high-level serious discussion.” It was first used in 1810 (though M-W does not indicate in which part of the English-verse).

Synonyms for “colloquy” are:

  • Conference
  • Panel
  • Round-robin
  • Symposium
  • Council
  • Panel discussion
  • Roundtable
  • Forum
  • Parley
  • Seminar

“Colloquy” isn’t what I’d call a comfortable yet standard word in English, but some of the synonyms are.

Also according to Merriam-Webster, the root word of “colloquy” is the Latin word “loquī” meaning “to speak,” and descendants of that word in English are:

  • Eloquent
  • Loquacious
  • Ventriloquism
  • Soliloquy
  • Elocution
  • Interlocutor

Merriam-Webster lists thirty-two synonyms for “colloquialism.” Some are:

  • Terminology
  • Slang
  • Idiom
  • Patois
  • Argot
  • Jargon
  • Lingo
  • Jive
  • Shoptalk
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My 2 cents here, and that is, we need to voice our concern if we encounter a situation in dramas/movies where they are adding ridiculous slangs/very poor translations in dramas/movies here at RViki. When I first started watching dramas/movies at other popular sites, the translation gave a lot to be desire. I was so frustrated and I kept looking how I could complain about these so terrible translations (especially in traditional Korean/Chinese dramas), and after a long while I finally found a way, and you can say that within one month of constant complaining (my 2 daughter also join to help me), everything improved about 80% not 100% since no one is perfect in this life.

I’m saying about 80% because sometimes they do slip with one or two wrong word usage (for example they use a lot ‘‘my bad’’)…lol, I learned to let it go just because no one is perfect in this world; so a mistake here and there can be forgiven (at least I forgive them) since the rest of the translations are really, really good, and that makes up for that blunder (at least for me, myself and I). Someone mentioned that we in USA are so accustomed to seeing these slang words in sentence/subtitles that we don’t even notice them, but that’s not true; I just choose to ignore it, and make my viewing more enjoyable instead of dwelling on something we have little to no control at all to change. I’ll try, and if it works it works, but if it doesn’t; I won’t lose sleep over it either.

We can only hope the whole team involved, and especially the EDITORS now here at RViki in the dramas/movies; are good enough to correct whatever mess the pre-subs may have, and I have faith they will. The several composition of team members I look into, look to be very well coordinated. What I loved the most was to see so many OL added in every drama. That was definitely a pleasure to see.

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@steviepics_788 ,
I had a good chuckle, your examples are so on point!

Welcome to Viki, and Discussions. :raising_hand_woman:t5::wink:

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TANGENT ALERT - SIGNAGE

I have a simple philosophy, if a sign is in shot and it has no bearing on a drama, then why sub it.

This occurs especially with repetitive examples. So, a drama will have those setting shots eg. we’re back to the police station, or the hospital. A shot that might flip up thirty times in a series, so why do we need have to have the slogan on the banner hanging from the building translated - every time.

Now, perhaps there is that one viewer who would be thrown if the sub wasn’t there, but I always think, if at any point something is not subbed, the director has indicated that the audience doesn’t need to know this.

A common example is where you might have a chase sequence across the city full of car crashes, punch ups, arrests, cuffings, and still the in-sight signage is being translated.

That’s when I tend to go AAAAARRRRGGHHHH!

Screengrab: Translation of the names on the door plaque. It’s from Episode 12 of Hospital Playlist 2. If you don’t know the names of the characters by now … !

PS. Most of my examples are from N’Fix shows, and yes, I worry about the thing most people don’t. Ha ha.

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If it doesn’t say which drama it’s from, I think that only the “culprit” will identify it, but not many others - unless it’s an “iconic” scene with very well-known actors.
Because… many people here don’t really watch much outside Viki. I watch wherever I find what I’m looking for, and if there’s a choice, I prefer Viki, but if Viki doesn’t have it, I watch elsewhere. However, I know many people who are hesitant to do that because they don’t know how to navigate those waters, for fear of sharks.

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I saw manganese’s comment earlier and understood his concern about Viki titlers, who are not necessarily commissioned, but this is a Netflix drama and it is fair to take issue sometimes on a commercial drama where one is paying a full subscription.

As it is, this is not what I’d call a subtitling fail. It’s a commonplace across all Nfix dramas and in all likelihood ‘translate signage’ will be an instruction in the ‘style guide’ that is sent to translators.

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Yes, with the prefix con- which means “with” (the final N gets absorbed in compound words). So = to speak with someone.
“Colloquio” is a very common word in Italian, and it’s used for any private, slightly more informal, meeting/conversation: including discussion between heads of political parties, job interviews, informal oral examinations in university (that have more of a dialogue format rather than a question-answer format), even parent-teacher meetings.

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Oh, wow, that’s really surprising actually. You usually hear translators having problems with not being allowed to translate swear words and having to find a replacement that’s considered “polite” rather than the other way around. Thanks for the link. I’ll check out the thread, because now it’s really piqued my curiosity.

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Oh, I can only imagine. I’d say interpreters are the topmost level of the translating career. Our professor used to be an interpreter as well and she’d always tell us all kinds of stories about unexpected things that might happen when you’re on the job. Since you’re doing it in real-time, you don’t really have the luxury of sifting through dictionaries while on the job and have to do all your preparation beforehand, which is also somewhat guess-work really because you can’t know for sure what the people there might end up saying and if you’ve covered all the terms you need. You really have to have laser-focus and nerves of steel for that job. Just translating really technical stuff tends to be a lot of work, let alone having to do it at the very same moment that the original piece of language is produced. Interpreters are a whole a different breed and I applaud them. But on the bright side, with translation and interpretation work like that you do end up with a bunch of extra knowledge on various topics, because it definitely forces you to do a lot of pretty in-depth research as you prepare.

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What you say would be certainly true for Western content. But Asian content is pretty tame in comparison (again, the TV content).

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To be honest, I actually really like that. I don’t mean to generalize when it comes to Western content, but I have noticed that in certain instances they do tend to go overboard with the swear words. I don’t mind them, per say, but also the plot can easily go on without that much swearing and as viewers we do get the point. Plus, coming from a country where translators who translate for TV aren’t really allowed to use the crudest variety for certain words even if they’re the correct translations and have to opt for something tamer, I have to say it would certainly make it easier on them. Hahaha! But I’m just really surprised that some of the English subs for Asian content are using swear words where there aren’t any or making certain things sound more crude where there isn’t a need for it.

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