It Just Doesn't Translate  

MrLaffs06 61M
2 posts
3/13/2006 3:16 pm
It Just Doesn't Translate


When thinking about how difficult it is to truly explain something to someone in writing, especially to someone from a different culture (or gender), I am reminded of the time my girlfriend and I went backpacking in the People's Republic of China, back in the 80s. There weren't a lot of westerners around in those days but we were able to get around and experience the lifestyle, as much as any outsider can do it.

One afternoon in Shanghai we went to see a Chinese Chop and Suey 'em movie, spoken in Mandarin (the language of the mainland), subtitled in English and Cantonese (spoken in Guangjo and Taiwan). The theater was the largest I have ever been in with the longest screen I have ever seen. It must have been two or more times the size of a normal screen (before the cineplex), with plenty of space for the subtitles.

The movie went along quite well until the major fight to the death near the end. At that point the Cantonese subtitle went from one end of the screen to the other with hundreds of characters showing through in bright red. Then the English subtitle appeared underneath it and all it said was, "but." So that's how I knew there were a few other foreigners in the theater because I heard them laugh while the locals turned around to see why all the (foreign devils) were laughing.

Some things just don't translate well, eh!

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