Friday, August 29, 2008

Epic failure of translation

For the benefit of comrades with little to no experience with Chinese languages, I'm going to tell you a little something about the Chinese art of translation. Chinese, being a tonal language, is a bit rigid and hence tends to suffer when it comes to assimilating foreign words and concepts. Translation is usually carried out either by capturing the meaning, e.g. aeroplane = 飞机 (Fei ji, lit. 'flying machine') or the sound, e.g. Harry Potter = 哈利波特 ('Hali Bote', lit. huh?). Quite rarely, it happens that a translation where meaning and sound are both relevant to the original, e.g. Coca Cola = 可口可樂 (Kekou kele, lit. 'palatable & pleasurable'). Indeed, 可口可樂 can be said to be a major triumph of the translator's art, particularly in marketing that nasty stuff to one-sixth of the world's population.

It's with the above general guidelines in mind that the following DVD cover I saw on Wikipedia struck me as a bit odd:

Judging from the spelling, this is quite likely a pirated copy. The title in Chinese? It translates as 'Beautiful New World'. Asterix & Obelix vs Caesar = Beautiful New World?! Wtf???

By the way, does anyone else who's actually read Asterix find the idea of Roberto Benigni playing Julius Caesar a bit odd?

1 comment:

Beak said...

Just a minor correction - he doesn't play Caesar, he plays the wannabe who wants to take over from Caesar. The whole film was a bit off and didn't do any justice at all to the comics.