Motion pictures are subtitled to reach larger audiences outside the linguistic community of production. An English film that seeks to reach an audience in mainland Europe, the middle east, India or the far east, will be subtitled into the various targeted languages.
Films require a different kind of translation than documentaries or e-learning. While the latter contain factual information and monologues, the former contain dialogues and conversational content which is often colloquial in nature and requires a high degree of functional translation rather than semantic translation. Film subtitling service requires a high degree of understanding of idiomatic and colloquial language on the part of the translator.
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Film Subtitling from English to Hindi – an example of Functional Translation
Film subtitling calls for cultural and contextual translation. It is not sufficient to simply translate words and phrases by providing linguistic equivalents for words. Evey beyond a sentence translation, i.e., reorganising the translated words and phrases are reorganised as per the morpho-syntactic norms of the target language, the resultant translation may not perfom the desired “function” and thereby lack correctness.
Take for example, the translation of a simple phrase from English to Hindi:
English: Good night.
Hindi: शुभ रात्रि
The translation in a day-to-day conversation in Hindi will sound contrived, artificial and out of the ordinary. The translation can be found to be faulty at multiple levels, although, literally it is correct.
Firstly, शुभ रात्रि is not a common phrase in the Hindi language, and certainly not used in colloquial speech. Secondly, in English speaking cultures, it may be important to check whether the phrase is exchanged in formal setting, or between acquaintances or between friends. That will determine the corresponding phrase appropriate in the Hindi usage.
Most importantly, we must note that the subtitle is for the FUNCTION of speech and not the words that are uttered. When we step up one meta level and identify that the the function of the phrase “good night” is that of ‘leave taking’ and not greeting, then we are better able to select an appropriate equivalent of that function, rather than the respective words.
Most certainly, the way of taking leave in a Hindi speaking culture would be:
अच्छा, मिलते हैं फिर?
चलो, फिर मिलते हैं।
or even more informally, in the more colloquial Hinglish style,
चल – bye!
depending on the target audience and the context of the film.
hence requires a high level of sensitivity to functional, pragmatic and situational translation rather than the literal, grammatical or morpho-syntactical.