There is a malicious (and totally unfounded) rumour that translators are geeky people who live in attics, sit in front of computers all day and don’t have any friends because they are so serious about their work that they don’t have a sense of humour.

If you actually know any translators then you’ll know this is completely untrue and the reality is that translators are some of the funniest people around.  How else to explain their approach to translating film titles from English into other languages?  A recent article in the Independent reminded me of this and here are my favourites from their list….

“Jaws,” just in case you haven’t seen it, is a scary movie about a Great White Shark that eats people.  This must have inspired the French translator who took a very literal approach to the film and consequently if you went to see it at your local Odeon in Paris then the posters outside the cinema would tell you that you were about to watch “The Teeth from the Sea.”

Spanish is a relatively simple language to learn, but even so, I doubt many would expect that “The Pacifier” would be marketed in their bit of the Iberian peninsula under the title “A Super-tough Kangaroo.”

The Germans take a straight line between the film’s subject and their translated titles.  “Airplane,” for example, becomes “The Unbelievable Trip in a Wacky Airplane,” which is basically what the film is about.  For the Die Hard films, they again tend to tell us what is going to happen in their translated titles.  The first in the series, “Die Hard, became “Die Slowly,” while the follow-up, “Die Hard with a Vengeance” was “Die Slowly, Now More than Ever.”

However, when it comes to a literal take on a film’s title, the prize surely goes to Argentina.  There, the John Travolta and Olivia Newton John musical, “Grease,” became simply “Vaseline.”

Of course, some countries and cultures don’t take kindly to the in-your-face Western titles of some films.  Malaysia, for instance, is a bit more strait-laced than America, which is why a well-known “Austin Powers” film became, “The Spy who Behaved Very Nicely around Me” when it aired in Kuala Lumpur.

Other translators tend to focus on a major event in the film for their take on the title.  That’s presumably why “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” appeared in Denmark as “The Boy who drowned in Chocolate Sauce.”

Finally, my favourite, by some distance, is the Italian translation of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” which became (and no, I don’t know why), “If you leave me, I delete you.”Doubtless, if you work in translation, you’ll have seen your own favourites.  Please feel free to drop us a note with them!

Fiona Woodford, Head of Language Services, Global Connects