December 13, 2005

Article at Authory

Lost in Translation

Last week my brother-in-law found some time to install the DVD player he and my sister gave me last Christmas—which goes to show you that I'm no techno-geek, since it had to sit on my couch for nearly a year. Delighted to finally have DVD capability, I went out and bought three seasons worth of I Love Lucy (Seasons One, Four, and Five), my all-time favorite TV show.

When I put in Season One for my own personal I Love Lucy marathon, I was frustrated to find that most of the episodes were subtitled in Spanish. I was even more frustrated that Ricky Ricardo's famous Spanish rages were not translated into English, but that's another story. Since I couldn't figure out how to turn off the subtitles, I assumed that they were standard to the set and decided to tolerate them.

Once I did, I started to notice something interesting.

I am not especially well-versed in Spanish, having only taken three years in high school and nothing since, but I can read a bit of it unassisted and recognize some more if put side-by-side with English. What I found fascinating during my viewing of I Love Lucy was seeing how English was translated into Spanish. Being fluent in English (I hope) and knowing enough Spanish to recognize translations, I found that a lot was lost in translation.

Some examples:

English colloquialisms apparently did not have exact translations. When the English-speaker would say "Easy!" while moving something, the translation into Spanish would be "Careful!" or "With caution." The meaning of the colloquialism was captured, but not a translation.
• A whole range of English versions of "okay" would have one Spanish translation: Bien.
• The subtleties of language, which were sometimes used to humorous effect, were lost. Comical alliterations like "tubby trio" and "flabby foursome" could not be recaptured once they were translated.

All of this made up for the annoyance of subtitles that weren't needed. Eventually, after fiddling around with the DVD remote, I finally figured out how to turn off the subtitles. But the translation game was so much fun I may turn them on again in the future to see if I can catch more translation glitches.

(Image: Scene from I Love Lucy, Wikimedia Commons.)