09 January 2007

The Backstroke of the West

We need to take a little time out to appreciate the contributions of a certain category of people who bring so much light and laughter to the world. I speak, of course, of incompetent translators.

Here's one of my favorite examples. When the Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith was distributed in an early Chinese-dubbed version, it was provided with English subtitles -- but rather than being taken from the original English dialogue, they had been translated back into English from the Chinese version of the script, and the results are a wonder to behold. A collection of stills with the subtitles is here. I can kind of see how some of these happened. For example, in the Chinese movie title "The Backstroke of the West", the Chinese word xi meaning "west" does sound a bit similar to "Sith", so it must have been chosen as a translation purely for phonetic reasons -- but then, in the subtitles, it was translated back into English as "west". And "backstroke" for "revenge" makes some sense if you think of "revenge" as equivalent to "striking back". But I think these subtitles must have been produced by one of those computer "translation" programs. I can't imagine any human being, however incompetent, rendering a person's name as "Ratio Tile".

That's an old example, but the Chinese of today are still at it. Check out these examples from Beijing's official preparations for the upcoming Summer Olympics. And who knew that the drooling, steel-fanged, slime-covered monster from Alien was such a kindly and neighborly type?

And, of course, don't forget this.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whaaa? "He big in nothing important in good elephant" Aahh hahahahaha!! "Dreamses" sounds like it came out of LOTR, from the "smelly boy" in that movie. LOL!!

10 January, 2007 10:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

As it happens, the Chinese words for "image" and "elephant" are very similar to each other. I suppose that might account for the elephant references in the subtitles.

I've heard that the efforts of half-knowledgeable Westerners to write in Chinese or Japanese sometimes produce results which are equally amusing to native speakers of those languages. It's hardly surprising.

"Giving first aid the already disheveled hair projection" -- words to live by, indeed.

10 January, 2007 12:53  

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