On the Translation of English Movies’ Titles
Zhang Juan Wang Yueli
A Thesis Submitted as a Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of B.A in English
College of Information Engineering Fuyang Teachers College, Anhui Province
章娟 （200822010627） ）
指导教师姓名 王月丽 单 位
阜阳师范学院信息工程学院 申请学位级别 学士
阜 阳 师 范 学 院
2009 年 3 月
On the Translation of Oscar Best Films’ Titles
【Abstract】Foreign films, which embody various kinds of foreign cultural elements, make possible cultural exchange via the visual language. Film title invariably brings out the theme of the film and usually conjures up a specific image pertaining to the film and leaves a first impression on the audience. This thesis attempts to present a tentative panorama of the translation of titles of Oscar Best Picture winners by analyzing the possibilities and limitations of film title translation, as well as the translation methods adopted, such as semantic translation communicative translation and transliteration, the underlying translation principles and the effects achieved. The translation of titles of Oscar Best Picture winners, which is most typical of title translation of English films, may be supposed to shed a flood of light on the issue of film title translation. However, this thesis aims to be provocative rather than prescriptive and by no means to set rigid and solid standards exclusive with film title translation. Hence, film title translation is observed and examined from such perspectives as translation adequacy, intertextual translation and translator’s visibility. It is claimed that, from some perspective, film title translation quality may be in direct and perfect proportion to the visibility of the translator.
【 Key Words 】 Film Titles; Translation Adequacy; Intertextual Translation; Translation Quality; Translator’s Visibility
Foreign films are, in a way, a form of cultural exchange via the visual language. However, the film dialogues in the source language seem to cause an insurmountable hindrance to the target audience’s understanding of the film. This makes either dubbing or subtitling necessary to ensure full understanding on the part of the target audience. However, the translation of film titles is a peculiar part of film translation. Film title shows the important touch that brings the specific work of film art to life and leaves a first impression on the audience. As the saying goes, first impressions are half the battle. To win immediate acceptability, intelligibility and even popularity of the film, it is essential to make sure that the translation of a foreign film title creates an image of evocative power in the minds of the target audience just as the film title does when it crosses the minds of the audience speaking the source language. Granted the Academy Awards for their excellence in film production, Oscar Best Picture Winners can also be seen as an epitome of American cultures and are thus introduced into China as a medium of cultural exchange. Hence, the translations of their titles play an important role in cultural exchange and produce far-reaching effects upon the Chinese audience as film title mirrors the soul of the film. This thesis attempts to present a tentative panorama of the translation of titles of Oscar Best Picture winners by analyzing the possibilities and limitations of film title translation, as well as the translation methods adopted, the underlying translation principles and the effects achieved. For the sake of convenience, the first film granted the Academy Award of Best Picture in the year of 1929 will be referred to as Film 1, the second in the year of 1930 Film 2, and so on and so forth. This thesis, dealing with film title translation in terms of translation adequacy, translation intertextuality and translator’s visibility, aims to be provocative rather than prescriptive and by no means to set rigid and solid standards exclusive with film title translation.
II. Features of Oscar Best Films’ Titles
If the film is the comprehensive body between art and business value, then the title of the film is the expression of this comprehensive body. In the rich and colorful entertainment industry, the film wants to attract customers away from TV, online games and other entertainment media Body and get into the cinema; the most important thing is the name of the film. Throughout 81st Oscar best film titles, which mainly have three characteristics: Being concise and brief, being popular, and being brilliant
A. Being concise and brief
Because of the movie screen dimensional limitation, movie titles are often highly mention refined. They will concentrate the movie content; which often use the concise language, and it generally consist of three English words. For example, "Sunrise" "Hamlet" "Casa- Blanca "" Titanic" "Grand Hotel" "The Godfather" "The APartment ""Slumdog Millionaire". Among the 82 department of the award winning film, 65 Film title for three or the following English words composition, occupy 80%, and the longest movie titles only has 10 words, namely "The Lord of The Rings: the Return of the King
B. Being popular
The movie is a kind of mass media, which is for ordinary people entertainment, and appreciation. The Art is not for a few experts and scholars to do academic research, so it should avoid obscure words, difficulty words, uncommon word, or professional strong terms, but use Easy words for understanding, otherwise it will not be popular and fast Spread among the general public widely. It is the award winning film following the principle. For example, "Winds" "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "Going My Way" Gone “With the Wind "" the Lost Weekend" "American Beauty" "My Fair Lady" "Million Dollar Baby
.C. Being brilliant C. brilliant
The movie is a kind of business behavior, so it must pay attention to the box office value, otherwise it can't live and develop. But on the box office success, the title must have such a great attraction that draw the audience attention so as to stimulate the tickets desire to get into the cinema ,i.e. it is the brilliant, thought-provoking draw the audience's eye, which is the biggest characteristic of film titles and is also available high magic weapon of the box office. For example, "It Happened One Night (a breeze Flow) ", It is what happened in the night mainly attract many viewers to get into the cinema. Be like again, "Slumdog Millionaire (slums the millionaire) ", slums is the poor man's residence, how can appear a rich Wong? People's curiosity is stimulated; so they want to get into the cinema figuring out.
III. Methods of the Translation of Oscar Best Films’ Titles
On the 81 Oscar for best film, we find that the Chinese title Translation methods of three kinds: literal translation, free translation, transliteration. Specific see table 1: Translation literal methods Movie number Proportion 55% 37% 8% Liberal Transliteration ,
translation translation 30 45 7
A. Literal translation
As for the definition of the literal translation, it has always been controversial. It is the common belief that the form and content are consistent with the original is defined as the literal translation. Literal translation is keep the the basic form and content unchanged .At the same time, the requirement of the language is easy to understand. The emphasis of literal translation is "Like", claiming that the original content of the original text according to form (including word order, language Sequence, mood, structure, the rhetoric method, etc) expressed in the target language.
For the literal translation of the English films, it is according to the characteristics of English and Chinese, the maximum retain the content and form of English title. The advantages of literal translation are: on the basis of the absorption of the useful new factors and reflecting the objective existence of the things and exotic emotional appeal, it can further avoid the interference of objective factors. When in the expression form without the other monarch it can also achieve grounds faithful to the original text content, the translator naturally adopt the literal translation. Language is a social phenomenon, is the carrier of culture and an important component part Points. There are many differences between Western and Chinese language and culture, but we still can find the great similarities. In addition, title literal translation can keep the movie "the truth" the original wind ". This is from another side to explain why translators often choose literal translation. In 82 the best picture, there are 30 film title literal translation, accounted for 37%. In the actual film translation, some title sequence in both Chinese and English are equal to each other almost completely .which can use completely one-to-one translation .For example, the film "Sunrise" "Grand Hotel" "The Godfather" "The Lost Weekend" "A- American Beauty "and" The Last Emperor "" Million Dollar Ba- By ", respectively for 《日出》 《大饭店》《教父》《失去的周末》《美国丽人》《末代皇帝》《百万宝贝》". And some titles, English and Chinese word order not consistent, translation will Shall be in accordance with the Chinese characteristics, change the sequence of English, but in general it is still with English Form is consistent. For example, the film "The Life of Emile Zola" "The Sound of Music "and" The Silence of Lambs ", respectively for 《埃米尔·左拉传》《音乐之声》《沉默的羔羊》".
B. Liberal translation
The so-called free translation (liberal translation), "is mainly refers to catch the important aspect of content and metaphor meaning, sacrifice image, combined with the context to convey the original intention flexibility". That is, the language of the translated text perfectly follows the principle of the original language, and without considers the expression form of the original language, but also be faithful to the
original meaning. There are similar points between English and Chinese language, after, but the differences between Chinese and western in social development, education background, aesthetic value, customs, legal method rules and ethics are so common that we can’t direct translate in most situation. If we literal translate stubbornly, it may lose the essence of the original title at lest, or it makes audience bewildered. In this case, we can only do “the injury Form, the god "and carry on the free translation. For example, if the film "Gone with the Wind "literal translated into the《随风逝去》, it will have no lasting appeal, but also can't reflect the original colorful connotation. While , if free translated into the《乱世佳人》, it's a feeling of lasting appeal, and also reflect the warring era appropriately, and the hero fight with the fate helplessly. Be like again, according to Canadian writer mike Er · wong (Michael Ondaatje) of the best-selling novel of the same name and into "The English Patient", which tells during the world war II era, the actor and the actress go across a moral boundary and an romantic beautiful love story. Novel honor In UK booker prize for literature. In the international reputation, retaining the original item is very attractive to Europe audience. And the Chinese audience knew very little about the novel, if literal translated into "English patient", instead seeming trite, so the other translator translated into《英伦情人》, it not only the poetic flavor is abundant, and tightly abide the film touching the love theme. In addition, the film "All Quiet on the Western Front" "Hamlet" "It Happened One Night" "All About Eve" "One Flew Over the Cuckoo 's Nest "" the Apartment “translated into《西线无战事》《王子复仇记》 《一夜风流》《彗星美人》《飞越疯人院》《公寓春光》respectively.
The so-called transliteration (transliteration), according to the source language pronunciation rules, directly translated into the target language and the same or similar words pronunciation language. This is the simplest and the most convenient translation method, and it also one of the most commonly method. If the Title for related people's names, places are familiar to audience, or has the important historical significance, it should be transliteration. The advantage of transliteration is to keep the
original title of rhythm, and be appeal to a wider audience with its strong characteristic of different region. The film "Bin-Hur" "Tom Jones" "Gandhi" "Titanic", which in turn for《宾虚》《汤姆琼斯》《甘地》《泰坦尼克》.
D .Other methods
An effective way of contrasting film title translation with other types of translation involves emphasizing the distinctive features of film title, the linearity of the film content and the multi-linear potential of the translation of the film title in question. In so far as film title translation is concerned, translation may be dealt with in terms of translation adequacy, which can be classified into the following three divisions, though this might be an incomplete reflection on inconclusive grounds. Another property of film title translation to ensure functional adequacy is intelligibility, which means making the title translation be immediately acknowledged by the audience at first sight. The addition of some word(s) into the title translation may go a long way towards attaining intelligibility, such as the addition of “车” (car) in Film 78, “号” (ship) in Film 70, “正转” (biography) in Film 67, “杀” (killing) in Film 65, “野战” (field operation) in Film 59, “母女” (mother and daughter) in Film 56, “贩毒” (drug smuggling) in Film 44, “将军” (general) in Film 43, “雾都” (fog capital) in Film 41, “走红” (popular with people) in Film 39, “彗 星” (comet) in Film 23, “歌舞” (song and dance) in Film 9, and “喋血” (bloodshed) in Film 8. The omission of some word in the original title also plays a role in imparting adequate naturalness to the translation, such as the omission of “One” in Film 48, “My” in Film 37, and “Our” in Film 19, though something original is missing of course.
Values of the Translation of Oscar Best Films’ Titles
A. Information Value
As the Oscar best films, we can appreciate the value of the art on one side, and we can get the information from the movie, we can know the western culture and the differences between the china and English language country.
1.1 Marketability Film title is a suggestive expression of the film’s theme and the translation of the film title is supposed to equally embody the subject-matter of the film. The top priority of a film as well as the translation of a film title is its commercial concern. For the sake of the marketability of the film title, occasionally sacrificed is rigid faithfulness to the original linguistic form, which may fail to stimulate the target audience’s imagination or reproduce the corresponding image in the mind of audience. Hence the following three predominant features marking the translation of Oscar Best Picture titles. First, some translations are heavily loaded with Chinese culture so as to enlist the target audience’s ardent curiosity about the film title and thus their interest in watching the film. These translations are of absorbing interest and promising marketability due to the Chinese cultural elements contained in them. Typical examples include Films 79, 71, 67, 42, 33, 22, 20, 13, 12, 11 and 9, where considerable Chinese culture is clothed in such words as “无间道”, and “风云” “翁”, “阿”, “牛郎”, “桃色”, “奸雄”, “君子”, “蝴蝶”, “佳人”, “浮生” and “大王” At the sight of these title translations, the target audience will , . surrender themselves to fantasy and fascination as well as the thrust and zest to watch the film as soon as possible to find out what the film is about. Second, as mentioned in 2.1.1, the use of four-character phrase imparts a touch of elegance and expressiveness to the titles and thus enhances the marketability of the films. Third, granted that transliteration and literal translation or semantic translation is adopted in most cases of translating the titles of the Oscar Best Picture winners, communicative translation is also employed when necessary and adds appreciably to the marketability of the films in the target audience’s culture and society. Communicative translation characterizes the translation of the titles of Films 79, 57, 41, 13, 12, 11, 7, 6, and 4, where deviation from the original linguistic form and literal meaning is self-evident. 1.2 Artistic Adequacy
Film is a unique art of conveying stories and ideas through the visual language of picture and the synchronizing audio speech. And film title is, in a way, a preview of the film and the artistic adequacy of film title goes hand in hand with the popularity of the film proper. So the translator should put a premium on the artistic adequacy of film title translation, which may be approached and realized by means of the following three attributes of film title.
B. Cultural Value
1.1 Linguistic Intratextuality Linguistic intratextuality arises among the literal meaning, semantic meaning, referential meaning and associative meaning of the film titles such as those of Films 78, 72, 70, 66, 14, and 7. Linguistic intratextuality makes the translator more resourceful and resolute in making the deliberate and desirable choice to negotiate the notorious translation pitfalls. The semantic meaning of “Crash” in Film 78 and “List” in Film 66 is ambiguous if not based on the pictures or the visual language of the films. According to the content of Film 78, the title means neither plane crash nor train crash, but the physical collision of car crash, which is also a metaphor for racial and social collisions. Then the Chinese equivalent of car crash is applied in the translation. Similarly, in accordance with the film story, the semantic meaning of “list of names” (名单) is exploited in the title translation of Film 66. The title translation of Film 72 is the literal meaning of the original “American Beauty”, which is not a beauty, but a type of rose virtually present in the on-screen story about the dark-side of an American family. The film theme is about the nature of beauty in a culture and the protagonist is not a particular beauty. Nevertheless, the literal meaning is still acceptable as a title translation since the word “丽人” (beauty) is itself an eye-catching one. In the title translation of Film 70, the referential meaning of the original is preferred and thus the word “号” (ship) is added to the transliteration of the ship name. However, in Film 14, as valley coexists with mountain, the associative meaning of “Green Valley” (翠谷), viz. “Blue Mountain”
(青山) is most favored and immediately followed by “Green Valley” to coin a four-character Chinese phrase, which resembles the set phrase “青山绿水” (literally meaning “blue mountains and green waters” and usually used to describe beautiful scenery and suggest one’s love of the beautiful land). In Film 7, the thing that happened one night is a comic romance; so the referential meaning of “It” in the title is “romance” (风流), which is allowed for in the title translation. 1.2 Cultural Extratextuality Extratextuality concerning the Chinese culture and the English culture is responsible for the title translations of films such as Films 71, 67, 42, 41, 37, 22, 20, 13, 12, 11, 9, 6 and 4. Take “牛郎” in the title translation of Film 42 and “cowboy” in the original. They seem to be equivalent in terms of the shared meaning of “a boy who takes care of cows”. Yet they have totally different cultural meanings according to modern usage. “牛郎” may figuratively refer to the husband of a happily married couple, while the sentimentality of this word derives from Herd-boy, the character in the household mythology about two lovers and this word is even identified with the star Altair in the Chinese culture. Yet a popularized image of “cowboy” is the adventurous and heroic horseman in the enduring legend of the western United States. Cowboy may also refer to a reckless, impulsive and dangerous person or even someone who puts on airs of being tough and sophisticated, which may be applied to this film title. The title translation of Film 41 employs the cultural extratextuality that London, the setting of the film story, is a well-known fog city, and the content intratextuality that the protagonist is orphaned, while that of Film 37 exploits the literary quotation “窈窕淑女” to portray the protagonist who is trained to be “a gentle and graceful lady”, and that of Film 9 articulates the prominence and reverence the US theatrical producer Ziegfeld enjoys with the Chinese “大王” (expert), an ardent word of admiration as well as a word rich in cultural implications. The Chinese word “奸雄” applies to a person who achieves high position by unscrupulous scheming and finally makes contributions to the historical development of a country and such a historical figure well-known in China is the
politician, CaoCao (曹操), in ancient China. As Film 22 deals with the rise of an American politician as an indictment of the corrupt politics in America at that time, the title translation of “当代奸雄” (contemporary arch-careerist) is culturally extra textual with the identity of the protagonist in the film.
C. Commercial value
1.1 Functional Adequacy The importance of film title translation consists in the solid fact that film titles wield enormous power in the film audience while, in the first place, only a functionally adequate translation can win the audience’s acceptance and appreciation of the film title and subsequently the film itself 1.2 Acceptability Acceptability tops the list of factors that should be taken into consideration in achieving functional adequacy of the translation of film title. From the translation of titles of Oscar Best Picture winners, it can be noted that, on balance, the dominant feature of being short and concise assumed by the original film titles is well reproduced and reflected in the Chinese translations. Apart from that, other translation methods taken also rest on the principle of making the translation immediately acceptable to the target audience. For instance, of the 80 translations, some 45 percent translations are expressions of four Chinese characters, most of which either remotely or strongly resemble the four-character Chinese idiom in linguistic form and some of which are authentic Chinese idioms such as Films 37, 26, 20, 19, and 11. And it is noteworthy that the title translation of Films 14 and 12 have sort of become established idioms in the Chinese vocabulary thanks either to the linguistic exuberance and artistic conception of the Chinese title or to the overwhelming popularity and far-reaching influence of the film or both. The use of four-character Chinese expression caters to the aesthetic sensibility and linguistic sensitivity on the part of the Chinese audience. Film title translation sometimes entails deviation from the original linguistic form. Take Films 48, 14, 11 and 7,
whose titles in the form of simple sentence are put into Chinese phrases. Further compelling evidence manifests itself in title translations of Films 80, 79, 71, 67, 65, 64, 58, 40, 29, 24, 23, 13, 12, 6, 4, and 3. It is true that both the original and the translation are in the same form of phrases, or in other words, equivalent in terms of linguistic function, but either the headword or the referent of the original phrase is substituted for the sake of their acceptability
D. Communication value
1.1 Elegancy As a condensed assertion of the content of the film concerned, the film title is a prelude to the film as a commercial product of art. Elegancy is meant to refer to the style of title translation that embodies the attributes of refinement and delicacy. Take the translations of the titles of Films 79, 71, 67, 56, 42, 41, 37, 33, 22, 20, 14, 13, 12, 11, 9, 7, 6, and 4, among which those of Films 79, 71, 67, 42, 22, 20, 13, 12, 11 and 9 are specially characteristic of elegancy deriving from the Chinese cultural elements as explained in 2.1.3. The translations of the titles of Films 56, 41, 37, 33, 14, 7, 6, and 4 are short and compact in linguistic form and yield nicety and subtlety in content. In short, all these translations combine elegance and conciseness. 1.2.3 Convertibility Convertibility, in this context, is defined as the convertible nature of an ideal film title translation, which can converse anthropologically, artistically, culturally, linguistically by inviting the target audience to engage in the story of the film or the imaginary world the title translation creates in the mind of the target audience. In another word, artistic adequacy of film title translation also lies in whether the translator can make the translation more conversant. Translations of adequate convertibility include those of the titles of Films 79, 71, 67, 13, 12, and 11, to name just a few. The title translation of Film 79, the remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film “无间道”, converses with the target audience via the same Chinese title plus the additional word “风云” (changeable situation). This translation further clarifies the
changeable and dangerous situation in which the main characters were caught up, which elicits the audience’s curiosity and participation in watching the film. The title translations of Films 71 and 67 inform the audience of the film content, which is about the love story of Shakespeare and the biography of Forrest Gump respectively. These two translations converse with the audience by way of domesticating the linguistic forms of addressing Shakespeare and Forrest Gump, viz.“莎翁”and“阿 甘”. All the title translations of Films13, 12, and 11 may be deemed as the most conversant as they communicate with the audience beyond the original linguistic forms and resort to the Chinese culture properly and naturally as a gesture of making the audience well-informed about the film theme in an enjoyable and favorable way. 1.3 Provocative Adequacy Great importance is also ascribed to the provocative adequacy of film title translation, which is to make the title translation more sentimental or sensational, enticing or inviting, to catch the eyes of the target film audience.
V. Significance of Oscar Best Films’ Titles
Throughout all the Oscars for best film, we can find that they have a common feature is the height of the social reality on sexual. The author divided them into: war and reflecting Patriotism film, reflecting the love and the moral and ethical film, reflecting social film and American spirit film. For their social reality of high attention and won the experts and the acceptance of an audience. Their director and screenwriter has the attention of the social reality eye, it may be due to the success of this
A. For children
1.1 Patriotism film Mr. Liang Liang senior Taiwan critic says the Casablanca is "real patriotism movie". In the plot, director prepare for the French and German many times between national patriotism Confrontation, but by Renault, the sheriff, the actor from a "feelings first activists" promoted to "patriotic", definitely the patriotism of victory finally.
Therefore, the theme of the socialist countries is also the subject of performance one of mainstream movies, also reflected the sexual reality 1.2 Film of Juvenile problem
Film《西区故事》reflected the teenagers. In a rebellious era, teenagers ignorant love, they without reason to composite the gangs to fight between gangs, conflict, and so on. The film reveals the youth gangs fighting social phenomenon, with a cold and noticeable power to reflect the social problems, have a high degree of reality on sexual. With Samples reflect teenagers and family films and reflect the roll of film career bastard Tom Jones ", reflect the mother and daughter in the family conflict of mother and daughter feeling reflects the beauty of the crisis of middle-aged men Countries such as beauty.
B. For young people
The 12 th Oscar best film 《乱世佳人》 tells the story of the civil war in the background of the epic love. Her charm lies in her many times to marry the WeiXiLi and the not forget for a moment, and Rhett to her Infatuation, tells the story of the specific s love story, in shadow history has irreplaceable position of the transcendental. The 28 th awards best film granted the write ordinary little love film "Marty" this Piece about ordinary men and women (whether looks or social status) love process, but also in the final after the twists and turns, jack shall have Jill. More about innocent girls love of kiki "(1959 years 31 st Oscar award film) and performance "love without borders" the theme of the English patient "(1997 69th Academy Awards best film). The 70th annual Academy Awards the film Titanic "the same theme for its love a great success. The film with the tragedy of the sunken ship to foil the tragedy of love, earned countless tears, also because of its describe the love in the face death Through a great test before and the great unselfish love to human nature of indifference in capitalist society found some comfort, the subject of which has strong feasibility, it achieved unprecedented success.
C. For old people
15 th an Oscar for best film, "Minnie Buddha lady depicting the face of the war, they write the civilians in order to survive and justice and fight, they describe their wartime life, with humanity Socialist and human care, reflect the people's heroism, will national unity and patriotic enthusiasm natural into the blind date of the activity of the neighborhood. ... Film if floating dream "(1 1 th Olympic , one of the best film) represents the "tomorrow will be better" theme, through the exaggerated the value of individualism, reflect the Americans sense of optimism. It also caught the Americans because of psychological and won High praise, become an Oscar for best film. As the 1980 s, the American economy, people in the values to pursue revolutionized change, people from external material satisfaction to pursue of inner full Foot. At the same time, Americans began to remember the old good time, and is willing to calm down to engage in introspection in history. Forrest Gump is these kind of reflect the spirit of the age of the representative of the film. Forrest Gump life the portrayal of, is the American spirit of the best model
The past eight decades saw a prosperity and popularity of American films, among which the Oscar Best Picture winners are, in a way, representative of American films in each period of times. As an in exhaustive and incomplete account of the translation of the titles of Oscar Best Picture winners, this essay aims to be provocative rather than prescriptive and by no means to set rigid and solid standards exclusive with film title translation. For instance, the first part of the title of Film 76 is also put into “魔 戒” instead of “指环王”. Personally speaking, the former is preferred by this writer and thus the latter is classified as a title translation of minimum quality in this essay. Based on the exposition of this essay, it may be claimed that film title translation should be sharply distinguished from other types of translation since, in most cases, it calls for the visibility of the translator and, from a certain perspective; film title
translation quality is in direct and perfect proportion to the visibility of the translator. In another word, the translator may enjoy more creative freedom on the one hand and be confronted with more challenging and demanding requirements on the other hand in the process of film title translation
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