Thursday, January 17, 2008

Weird Subtitles from an Unknown Korean Film

The picture is not from the film but it should give you a premonition!
I'm going to give you a few treats:

"All canned not see clearly"

Isn't this sample subtitle an eye opener?

"I learn the thing of the society everywhere"

"Who ah?"

"be he"

The thing is that it probably gives you an idea of the structure of the source language.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Subtitiling humor-Part 1

Last night I finished watching this delightful Korean comedy and it reinforces my thoughts regarding subtitling.
I need a way to quote some examples and in the process I've downloaded things and don't know what to do with them!
The movie is full of puns which though conveyed in fairly good English yet lose the punch of the original play on words.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Over the past few years I have been exposed to a variety of subtitles.
In fact, before that, that is to say, living in India, I never gave subtitles much thought as one either watched things in Indian languages or in English. The ease of obtaining or viewing a CD or a DVD was also not yet in full swing there.

Here, in Malaysia, I realized that subtitling plays a greater role. Firstly, subtitles are extensively used on TV as the Malaysian population consists of the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians (mostly Tamil). Depending on the programme, you have the option of English, Chinese or Malay subtitles.

But, besides this, there is the easy availability of the DVD or CD version of films from most of the region (China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, etc) as well as a smaller selection from the European world.

My first serious look at subtitles was via French films borrowed from the Alliance Fran├žaise here at Kuala Lumpur. I’m bilingual (English/French) with the bias towards English. The subtitles were mostly “good”: they had not horrifying bloopers and the only comment I can make is that some were done by Native speakers of French and others by Native speakers of English.

The observation is that perfection sometimes kills. The flawless subtitling of the obviously Native speaker of English detracted from some of the flavoring and nuances of the French whereas the not so perfect subtitling by the Native speaker of French acted much in the way a French accent does. It actually enhanced the pleasure of the viewing.

Then came the Chinese movies viewed on Celestial Movies … That’s when the fun begins…Well, google “funny subtitles” and you have enough clones for the likes of The Best Bad English Subtitles from Hong Kong Movies. Some examples that spring to mind are the use of the word “fever” for “horny”. Yet here again the main satisfaction is the flavor- something was lost in the perfectly dubbed versions of Chinese films that I had seen on HBO or Star Movies. Some very vital cultural clues get swallowed up in the quest for perfection.

As the lust for viewing exotic films grew upon us, we progressed to pirated DVDs and here’s where the fun really got going. There was this version of the French film Taxi 4 –I have no idea how this marvelous gem of a sub-titler went about it. He or she merely used the sounds to weave the subtitles! An absolute gem.

But the end was nowhere in sight until we got this Japanese film and a whole bunch of others (Chinese, Korean…) recently. The subtitles are bizarre to say the least and must surely be the work of some robotic enterprise.

Hopefully I may find a way to capture some of these exquisite samples on my next blog entry!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Indian English

Goodness Gracious

While Indian English is sometimes the source of amusement, the fact remains that a certain number of Indians (given India’s population, this becomes a significant number) have little or no option when it comes to their “native” language or “mother” tongue. Again given the figures, a serious student would do better to consult the Dictionary Of Indian English featuring such terms as brinjal and wet grinder than being merely reassured that "Indian English is a recognized dialect of English, just like British Received Pronunciation (RP, or BBC English) or Australian English, or Standard American."

Perhaps this is or will no longer be the situation with the death of the last of those who lived under Colonial rule and the rise of Indian English. Be that as it may, Indian English still proves or is increasingly proving to be a thorn in the side-not only for those who seek to carve a new identity more in tune with geographical reality but also for all those who find that, while American/Canadian/ Australian or other “White” English is acceptable as a “marketable” tool, Indian English is an outrage. Such a thing is only permissible in terms of prizes for Indo-Anglican writings but somehow not to be tolerated as a “working” language. To quote some lines from what was once a famous war of words on some translator sides, the general Western attitude remains: "Again, let's face another truth: "Indian English" is not considered "standard English" by any accounts."

All that is, however, not going to be my focus here today. My desire is merely to gain world acceptance for a certain number of terms (particularly those to do with food stuffs).

And so I find the taste of a brinjal marred by any other name and cannot for the life of me bring my self to exorcise the yuck from yoghurt as I need my curds. An okra is definitely not going to help me make my favorite ladies fingers and I object to onions being called shallots at least in my part of the world.

And as for the dals, it’s a real tragedy when the best one can serve up is a plate of mushy lentils! While I do go ouch when I read some French translations on a packet of my favorite Haldiram offerings, I still maintain that all Dal Moth needs is some uniformity in spelling. To think that one can only settle for some sort of scientific term is like castrating our chillies! Pepper? That’s a hard round black dried condiment to me. And I’m the one who needs at least 6 or more of those green devils to meet my family’s daily culinary requirements.

So I hope I’ve stirred the sambhar up enough to dish up some spicy curry for thought.