An Analysis of English-Chinese Subtitle Translating Strategies

1 January 2017

The research has taken place in this field in western countries (particularly in Europe). Compared with the studies in the West, the Chinese scholars, however, have attached much less importance to the studies of this field. A glance at Journal of Chinese Translator, the most prestigious journal in the field of translation studies in China, will be sufficient to show an amazing scarcity of research done in this area.

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As far as it could cover, there were four articles on audiovisual translation in the Journal of Chinese Translator. Zhang Chunbai, whose article on audiovisual translation was published as early as 1998, gave a brief account of the characteristics of audiovisual works, instantaneousness and popularity. Qian Shaochang, an experienced subtitler, conducted a practical research in this regard entitled “Audiovisual Translation: An important Area in the Field of Translation Studies” (Qian 61).

The greatest contribution of Qian’s research lies in that he described five characteristics of film language: listening, comprehensiveness, instantaneousness, popularity and no notes. In 2001, one article entitled “Strategies for Translating Subtitles” (Li 38) written by Li Yunxing came out. In Li’s article he analyzed the features of subtitling in terms of time-space constraints, informative function and cultural factors and then put forward corresponding strategies for translation with concrete examples for illustration.

In 2002 Zhao Chunmei, editor of the International Department of CCTV, had her article published: “Translation into Chinese of Film Scripts and Scripts of TV Drama Series-Four Main Conflicting Demands”(Zhao 32). According to Zhao, the translation of film scripts and scripts of TV series for the purpose of dubbing in Chinese must meet some special requirements. Based on these special requirements, the author analyzed the four main conflicting demands facing a translator in the process of translation: length vs. ontent, word order vs. picture order, naturalization vs. alienation and transliteration vs. semantic translation and suggested ways of resolving these conflicts. However, frankly speaking, all these articles on the research of audiovisual translation have not produced very satisfactory results due to the lack of any adequate approach in general or in particular. In recent years some scholars have begun to explore audiovisual translation from different approaches or within different theoretical foundations.

B. The significance of the study Compared with studies in the West, especially in Europe, studies on subtitling is at the fledgling phase in China and most of the studies are summaries of practical translation experiences with few theoretical supports. Many researches have been left untouched or lightly touched in this field, which deserves more of our exploration and discussion. Therefore it raises the necessity for the present in-depth studies. C. The objective of the study

Since there are many issues have been left untouched or lightly touched in this field, it is very necessary to explore something new about subtitle translation. This paper aims to do a research on the following issues: (i) principles used in the subtitle translation (ii) strategies used in the subtitle translation By analyzing the strategies of English-Chinese subtitle, hopefully it might provide a guiding rule for subtitling translation instead of merely offering experience in translation, thus improving the quality of subtitling in films and TV series. D. THESIS

This paper aims at offering the specific strategies on the basis of the principles of subtitle translation. By using empirical analysis on Gossip Girl, the author attempts to find an effectively and authentically expressive way of subtitle translation under the principles of conciseness, immediate comprehensibility and individuality of the character. This thesis offered six useful translation strategies, namely literal translation, condensation, deletion, expansion, paraphrase and replacement. ?. Literature review A. The definition and language features of subtitle

According to New Oxford Dictionary of English, Subtitle is explained as “captions displayed at the bottom of a cinema or television screen that translate or transcribe the dialogue or narrative”. And quite a few scholars have given definitions to subtitling. According to Jacobson, subtitling is “interpretation of verbal signs by means of some other language. ” (Jacobson 233). Birgit Nedergaard-Larsen defines subtitling as “a special type of language transfer: a written, condensed translation of a predominantly spoken original” (Nedergaard-Larsen 212).

In Dictionary of Translation Studies, Shuttleworth and Cowie describe subtitling as “the process of providing synchronized captions for film and television dialogue” (Shuttleworth, Cowie 161). Henrik Gottlieb, a leading authority on subtitling, says that it is a unique form of translation. His definition may be the most exhaustive one: subtitling is a written, additive, immediate, synchronous and polymedia translation. Subtitles can be used to render the movie dialogue from a foreign language to the native language of the audience.

This is the quickest and the cheapest method of subtitle translating, and is usually preferred by young generations (especially English learners) for the possibility to appreciate the original dialog and voices of the actors, which make them both enjoy authentic western culture and learn idiomatic English. B. Previous studies on the translation of English-Chinese subtitles 1. Features of subtitle Luyken (Luyken 23) points out that subtitle translation is very different from the translation of written text. It is a translation of spoken language uttered by the characters in movies.

According to the Wikipedia website, the subtitler often renders what is meant, instead of translating how it is said, especially in commercial subtitles. It will cause confusions to those who know some of the spoken language of that movie, for spoken language may contain colloquial quality or culturally loaded expressions. By reading such subtitle translation which contains confusing words, the audience cannot appreciate movies pleasantly. Qian Shaochang has also contributed a lot to study on subtitle translation. He (Qian 61-62) states that there are many restricts in subtitling, which lead o more difficulties than other types of translation. First is the limitation for the space of subtitles on the screen. Subtitles should not interfere the display of image. Therefore it has to be limited no more than 35 characters. Second is the duration of showing subtitles on the screen. It depends on the speed of how fast the actors speak in each scene and how fast viewers read the subtitles. Third is that subtitles should appear at the bottom on the screen as the speakers start utterance and disappear from the screen when they end their utterance, except the subtitles overlay the two continuous scenes.

The last factor for subtitles is that subtitles should be displayed in a precise and easily-understood way, and paused naturally. 2. Principles of subtitle translation Zhang Chunbai takes film as an audiovisual art that serves the mass audience (Zhang 50). Therefore, he thinks first and foremost, the basic function of subtitles is the informative function. That is, to offer adequate information about what is happening on the screen simultaneously, to provide them with the concise and easily comprehensible subtitles and thus to carry out a smooth and easy communication between the film and the target audience.

Consequently, in the purposeful translation activity, here come the first two principles of first priority: conciseness and immediate comprehensibility. Secondly, film is called motion picture. Just as its name says, it’s a product of rapid movement of numerous pictures when it first appears. As its motion, it’s a form of art which can never be reversed. If one reads a printed book, he can go back if there is something that cannot be understood. However that is not the case within the film watching. Therefore, film subtitles, as an information, should be concise and transfer the meaning to the audiences instantaneously.

In the process of film subtitle translation, immediate comprehensibility should also function as a guiding principle. Thirdly, subtitles can serve expressive function, the subtitles writers express their thoughts, feelings and opinions through the characters of the film. The individuality of the character in a film should be expressed by both actions and dialogues. Each subtitles writer takes efforts to write each line to make empathy on the audiences. The character will impress the audience deeply if the true nature is revealed by what the character says and does. Therefore, if the source ubtitles does a lot to reveal the true part of a character, the target subtitles should also do the same effect in individuality of the character to make empathy on the target audiences. Accordingly, in the purposeful translation activity, here is the third principle: individuality of the character. 3. The method of the English-Chinese subtitle translation Firstly, Hazel R. Morgan (Morgan 44) once said, “If the viewers see too much text on screen, they’ll switch off”. Actually, if every subtitle is too long, audiences must get the linguistic information with more time and efforts.

As mentioned before, subtitle’s main function is informative, so the most relevant information should be focused on in the process of subtitling a film. Therefore, a briefer rendering should be made because audiences can concentrate on the image. Even a simple sentence should be made shorter. C. Remaining problems The analysis based on the above principles determined by the features of subtitles is not that specific and targeted. They are a broad study of the subtitle translation and they don’t provide subtitlers enough concrete examples about strategies application. D. Summary

Exploration on subtitle translation in China develops mainly based on and motivated by the Western translating theories. Although it is still in its infancy, a few researches have been done from the perspective of functionalist approach, the perspective of interpretative approach, the relevance theory, the perspective of audience perception, etc. Few discussions are conducted on the application of adaptation theory. Some emphasize on the transfer of the cultural information from the original movie to subtitled one. All have contributed a lot to stimulate and flourish the development of subtitle translation.

However, subtitle translation is not simple as it was thought before. How to achieve a better translation and let the Chinese audience enjoy the movies as the local viewers watch the original ones? This problem needs further discussion and exploration. In this thesis, the writer plans to study the problem from the perspective of the translating strategies, attempting to find an effectively and authentically expressive way of subtitle translation. ?. Data and research methodology A. Data description In order to study the English-Chinese subtitle translating strategies, this thesis takes Gossip Girl as an example.

It is the representative of American drama and very popular among young people. The data is the script of this US TV series. B. Data collection The script comes from one of the most well-known subtitles translation groups-Ragbear (http://www. ragbear. com). Subtitles Translation Group is a group of people creating Chinese subtitles for American series and films for a mushrooming audience of Chinese viewers who download them from the Internet free through services like Bit Torrent. On the basis of the Internet forum, translators collaborate and communicate well but they have never seen each other face to face.

What is most remarkable about the effort, which involves dozens of people working in teams all over China, is that it is entirely voluntary. Such translation groups are locked in fierce competition with a handful of similar outfits that share the same ambition: making western popular culture available in near-real time free to Chinese audiences. Over the past few years people have seen such subtitle teams for translating the subtitles of American TV series. Up to March 8, 2011, the registered number on the Ragbear (http://www. ragbear. om) is 205,344, compared with 119,278 on Tianya Community(http://www. tianya. cn/), the biggest online community in China. Although it has a short history, Ragbear has some famous elites and win the initial public offering in some hot episodes like Survivor, Desperate Housewives and Gossip Girl. C. Research methodology This paper applies empirical analysis on the script. The analysis focuses on the translation from English to Chinese. The study is based on an analysis of three episodes of the script that starts from the very beginning of Gossip Girl.

By analyzing the Chinese translation under the principles of subtitle translation, the author will find out whether the translation is adequate or not and try to give some revised suggestions. ?. Results and analysis A. Strategies used in the screenplay 1. Literal translation Douglas Robinson (Robinson 125) defined literal translation as “…ideally the segmentation of the SL text into individual words and TL rendering of those word-segments one at a time”. As the Chinese is quite different from that of English, it is impossible to achieve literal translation.

It is an ideal literal translation. What it really means is not to distort the true features of original information. What translators should do is to maintain the core of the SL information. As far as cultural elements concerned, literal translation means to transplant cultural factors directly into the TL by literal translation, the foreignness of SL words and expressions are kept. English learners can learn English cultural information more easily and thoroughly and further to have a better communication with foreigners. Example (1):

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