Saturday, April 20, 2013

Weekend blogging -- Gained in translation

Specifically, where does translation stop and adaptation start?

This is never a trivial question. When you read Tartuffe in college, the story was by Molière but there's a good chance the words were by someone like Richard Wilbur. If you reacted to something other than the plot -- a turn of phrase, a subtle shading of character -- it is not immediately clear who should get the credit.

Of course, a Wilbur starts from a position of respect of the original work and tries to capture what it's like to experience a work in its original form. What happen's when a translator simply says "to hell with it"?

From Wikipedia:
Die Zwei, the German version of The Persuaders, became a cult hit in Germany. This was largely because the dubbing was substantively altered creating a completely different program.[11] In France Amicalement vôtre (Yours, Friendly) also became a popular show because it was based on the redubbed German version instead of the English original. 
The German dubbing was "a unique mixture of street slang and ironic tongue-in-cheek remarks" and that it "even mentioned Lord Sinclair becoming 007 on one or two occasions".[18] Dialogue frequently broke the fourth wall with lines like "Junge, lass doch die Sprüche, die setzen ja die nächste Folge ab!" (Quit the big talk, lad, or they'll cancel the series) or "Du musst jetzt etwas schneller werden, sonst bist Du nicht synchron" (Talk faster, you aren't in sync any more).
Research from the University of Hamburg notes the only common elements between Die Zwei and The Persuaders! is they use the same imagery. Other than the "the linguistic changes entailed by the process of translation result in radically different characterizations of the protagonists of the series. The language use in the translations is characterized by a greater degree of sexual explicitness and verbal violence as well as an unveiled pro-American attitude, which is not found in the source texts".[19] 
In 2006 a news story by CBS News on the German dubbing industry mentioned The Persuaders! The report discovered that many German dubbing artists believed that "staying exactly true to the original is not always the highest aim". Rainer Brandt, co-ordinator of the German dubbing of The Persuaders and Tony Curtis' dubbing voice, said "This spirit was invoked by the person who oversaw the adaption and also performed Tony Curtis' role: When a company says they want something to be commercially successful, to make people laugh, I give it a woof. I make them laugh like they would in a Bavarian beer garden." [20] 
Other researchers suggest international versions of The Persuaders! were given different translations simply because the original English series would not have made sense to local audiences. For instance the nuanced differences between the accents and manners of Tony Curtis, the American self-made millionaire Danny Wild from the Brooklyn slums, and Roger Moore, the most polished British Lord Sinclair, would be hard to convey to foreign viewers. Argentinian academic Sergio Viaggio commented "how could it have been preserved in Spanish? By turning Curtis into a low class Caracan and Moore into an aristocratic Madrileño? Here not even the approach that works with My Fair Lady would be of any avail; different sociolects of the same vernacular will not do—much less in subtitling, where all differences in accent are irreparably lost".[21]

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