July 3, 2017

Subtitles !

Ever watched a movie that's not in your language? Of course, all of us must have watched a movie or a documentary that's not in the language we speak or understand. Then, how do we understand it? Mostly, by reading the sub-titles. Unless one is multilingual. Ever wondered who writes the subtitles for these movies? I haven't ever thought about it. But I can say there were many times I laughed my head off reading the subtitles of songs and some true translations.

When I had to communicate in a language other than mine, English was always the medium of communication or Hindi sometimes. When I read some really good books in Telugu, I would think, how wonderful would it be if this book is in English and vice-versa. I also thought I could translate some essays or articles but the thought never went beyond that.

A couple of weeks back, a very good friend of mine called me out of the blue and says, she needs my help for a stage show they are doing for a cause. I was surprised as of how I could help her as I had already done the monetary contribution for the cause. I asked what it was and she said, I need to write the subtitles in English for the Telugu play. I was laughing at it and her for asking me to do that job. I said, what can I do? I just do some random scribbling here and there once in a while. She says, no you can do it and you must do it. I thought, Okay. Let me try.

When the thought to translate occurred me, I thought it's quite simple and easy to translate if you know both the languages. And also to translate from Telugu to English is much easier as the former is my native language and I have a command on the lingo. It never occurred me how difficult the task of translation is. However, I learned that speaking and writing are two different things. 

Translating a book is different from writing subtitles. When a 200 pages book is translated, it could be translated into 175 pages or 225 pages. It could be a bit longer or a bit shorter. The writer has the liberty to expand or contract. Whereas, while writing the subtitles for a movie or a play, we cannot take those liberties. The subtitles have to be short and crisp. The audience has to read it before the next scene is up or the lag time is really annoying. We should also make sure that all the sentences cannot be converted into true translations. It sounds very comical to read true translations. 

At the end, I would like to thank all those wonderful writers who mastered multiple languages and mastered the art of writing subtitles. Without you, how could I have watched all those national and international movies and TV serials?  Thank you, Manasa for believing in me and giving this opportunity. Hope I didn't end up true translating and write silly lines. All I can say is this experience has given me more satisfaction than writing hundreds of test cases and testing hundreds of defects for my work over the last decade. This has reminded of all the words that I have forgotten over the years and felt wonderful.

Have you ever translated anything? What's your experience? Please share.

P.S: And the cause I am talking about in the post is, Aarti for girls. Please do your bit if you can. All my Bay area friends and art lovers, don't miss the chance to attend a mind blowing performance at  @ Chabot Performing Arts Center, Hayward on the July 8th, 2017, Saturday!

8 comments:

  1. Great job darling

    Srividhya

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    1. Thanks dear, for always encouraging. :)

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  2. LOL!! I can't get over the subtitle of the Raveena dialogue! I also never knew how difficult translating can be until I translate stuff for my boys!

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    1. Hahaha...I know...I was LMAO when I read it..yeah, sometimes, it is very easy and sometimes, very tricky :)

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  3. I always thought translating was easy but now I know better.

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    1. It is easy as long as they are the words we speak daily. But, the classical part of our languages make it hard. Like I hard to translate Gandharva, kimpurush...what will I use for those in Englsih? :)

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  4. he he he I always enjoy watching a hindi movie with subtitles .. but you are right it is hard to translate.

    Recently i was in a fix becaue at work someone want to put a notice in Punjabi as a lot of punjabi indians were going to read it .. and Oh my god it took me ages to translate a few lines from english to punjabi ..


    Bikram's

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  5. You can be the best translator. But the effectiveness of the word (or the real meaning) is lost in translation. For example, the Tamil word "aththaan" will be translated into English as "cousin". But the underlying meaning of romantic sentiment (In Tamil Nadu cousins can marry each other) of that word cannot be translated.

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