Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies The Film and the Book

Conclusion on Subtitling and Dubbing

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3. 3. Conclusion on Subtitling and Dubbing

It can be thus said that both subtitling and dubbing are influenced by several constraints which make both these kinds of translation very different from the literary one. On the other hand, as the constraints are very different for these two techniques, the final results are also very different.

From this point of view, there are two things that have to be taken into account: 1) the length of the target language version and 2) the fidelity if its meaning. As for subtitling, the length is always reduced in comparison to the length of the original, but the meaning has to correspond to the original as much as possible, because the audience can notice any minor discrepancy. On the other hand, the dubbed version has the same length as the original, but it is not necessary to stick to the exact meaning. What is important is only the plot-carrying meaning. In other words, if the adaptor needs to modify the dialogues in order to match the lip movements, he is perfectly allowed to do so.

4. Harry Potter

Harry Potter is the main character as well as the overall name of a series of novels by J. K Rowling and films inspired by these novels about a young wizard. The first book - Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - was published in 1997. Other volumes followed and six out of seven intended novels have now been published, the last being Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince released in 2005. Four books have already been adapted for the screen, the first one in 2001.

The Harry Potter series very soon achieved a great success. The books were translated into more than 60 languages and over 300 million copies were sold in more than 200 countries. The story became a worldwide phenomenon, the children read the books although they are extremely thick and there are thousands of web pages concerning Harry Potter.

4. 1. Potential Translation Problems and their Czech Solutions

The translation of Harry Potter is a big challenge. There are many aspects which might cause some problems.

4. 1. 1. British Culture

The book was written for British children and thus includes many cultural aspects typical for Great Britain. The most obvious one is the British boarding school. More than a half of the story takes place in Hogwarts, which is a typical example of a boarding school, a kind of school that does not exist in the Czech Republic. The students play Quidditch just like real students in Great Britain play for instance rugby.

Although Czech students also sometimes have to stay in the town or city their school is in, it is nevertheless very different from the British system. The Hogwarts boarding school is thus something which might not be properly understood, especially by small children who are not used to foreign culture yet.

The translators have a choice: they can either leave it in the British setting or move it to the country of the target language audience, the latter being much more complicated with consequences leading to the need of changing almost the whole book.

The Czech translator, Vladimír Medek, decided to leave the original British setting. In the particular case of Harry Potter this seems to be a little bit less problematic than in many other books, as the story is a fairy tale, thus including many things that are quite far from real life. A school where students have to stay all the year round and wear uniforms can only contribute to the exoticism of the story. The translation problems of British school culture can be shown on particular examples:

Dudley had been accepted at Uncle Vernon's old school, Smeltings. Piers Polkiss was going there too. Harry, on the other hand, was going to Stonewall High, the local comprehensive.(40)

Ten už měl místo ve Smeltings, ve škole, do které kdysi chodil i strýc Vernon; Piers Polkiss tam šel také. Zato Harry měl chodit do stonewallské školy, což byla místní měš­ťanka. (35)
Two issues appear in this sentence. First of them is Smeltings which, understood from the context, is a high quality boarding school. But no explanation is given to the Czech readers. The second issue is the local comprehensive translated as místní měšťanka. This does not correspond properly to the meaning of the original. Translation such as střední škola would be maybe enough.

Another example of a similar problem is the Smeltings uniform (40) translated as smeltingský stejnokrj. (35) This can be a little bit confusing for people who do not know that British students are obliged to wear uniforms at school.

On the other hand, when one of the boys states that he is going to be a prefect next year, a footnote is used explaining that “v některých britských školách (zejména internátních) bývají vybraní studenti pověřeni dohledem nad ostatními.” (93) On the contrary, head boy (111) (which according to the Lingea Lexikon 2002 means “žák, který reprezentuje školu při společenských událostech” is translated simply as primus. (97)

Apart from the school problems, there are some others, which are less complex, but not at all less important. First of them are various kinds of food mentioned in the book.

He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and, for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs. (135)

Ještě nikdy nevi­děl pohromadě na stole tolik věcí, které měl rád: ho­vězí pečeni, pečené kuře, vepřové a jehněčí kotlety, párky, slaninu a bifteky, vařené brambory, pečené brambory, hranolky, vaječný svítek, hrášek, mrkev, omáčku, kečup a z nějakého nevysvětlitelného dů­vodu i větrové bonbony. (118)

In this enumeration, the only food unknown in the Czech context is the Yorkshire pudding, while all others are perfectly understandable. But the Yorkshire pudding was translated as vaječný svítek which somehow translates the original, but Czech readers are certainly not very familiar with this expression.

Thus, when reading the translation, this word stands out very strongly, which certainly was not the intention of the author.

Similarly, in other enumerations of food, food unknown to the target language audience is either translated rather incomprehensibly (treacle tarts [137] become sirupové košíčky [119] and marshmallows [215] are translated as ibiškové pokroutky [185]. The latter could have stayed the same as the original since the word “marshmallow” is now quite commonly used in Czech, in any case more than “ibiškové pokroutky”. Cranberry sauce [220] becomes klikvová omáčka [189] (brusinková omáčka might have been better).

On the other hand, some others are explained rather than translated (trifle [137, 221] once as piškoty s ovocem a se šlehačkou [119] and once as piškot se smetanou [190], crumpets [215, 221] once as teplé chlebové placičky s máslem [190] and once as koláčky [185]).

There is almost no substitution used in the translation except for one case when chocolate eclairs (137) is translated as větrníky s čokoládovou polevou (119), the two desserts being similar, but not the same. But there are more British cultural aspects. A good example can be the sentence:
Perhaps people have been celebrating Bonfire Night early - it's not until next week, folks! (13)

Možná že ně­kdo začal předčasně pálit ohně - ale na ty je čas až příští týden, vážení! (12)

A Bonfire Night is mentioned here, a well-known British festivity with a lot of fireworks, which takes place at the beginning of November and commemorates Guy Fawkes who tried to set the parliament on fire in the early 17th century. Not only is this event completely ignored in the Czech translation, but it just mentions fires without any context and thus is not comprehensible clearly enough.

On the contrary, when it is mentioned that somebody hummed “Tiptoe Through the Tulips“ (48), a well-known song in Britain, a straightforward translation is used and the name of the song in Czech is „Náruč plná tulipánů“ (43) which does not ring a bell at all.

Thus, all the above mentioned examples show that there is a certain inconsistency. Some things are kept, some of them translated, others explained. This confuses the target language reader.

4. 1. 2. Names, Spells and Neologisms

The names, spells and other neologisms are a typical feature of Harry Potter. J. K. Rawling coined many new words, some of them having a hidden meaning. She often uses French or Latin when coining the new expressions. But English is sometimes used as well. On the other hand, many of the new words do not seem to have any meaning and what matters is rather the sound of it.

As for spells, they are all in Latin. For instance, Hermione says oculus reparo when she wants to repair Harry’s glasses. The Latin word oculus means “eye” or “sight” and reparo is the first person singular of the word “reparare” meaning “to repair”. Similarly, when she wants to turn a boy into stone, she uses the spell Petrificus totalus (294) which resembles to “total petrification” in English. There does not seem to be any special reason to translate these spells as the Latin sounds approximately the same to the English and the Czech readers.

As for the names, some of them are translated into Czech and same are not. This is again inconsistent up to a point.

If we take into account only the main characters of the book, only Dumbledore’s name has been changed into Brumbál. All the other characters stayed the same. Dumbledore’s name again seems to be inspired by French, “d’or” meaning “golden”. But none of the others were changed: Malfoy, coming from French “mal foi” (“bad faith”) or Voldemort (“vol de mort” meaning “flight of death”). There is no reason to translate these names as English readers probably do not understand the meaning better than the Czech ones.

On the other hand, names which have a meaning in English are much more problematic, especially if the names somehow correspond to the character’s visual aspect or are in a way telling something about the character. A typical example of such a case is the Weasley family, the name being certainly inspired by “weasel” and all the characters with this name being red-haired.

Another example of the same problem is the list of books that Harry has to buy. Here the names of the authors are somehow connected to the titles of the books. They were translated in this way:

The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1)

by Miranda Goshawk (76)

Miranda Jestřábová: Příručka kouzelných slov a zaklínadel (1.stupeň) (67)

One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi

by Phyllida Spore (77)

Phyllida Výtrusová: Tisíc kouzelnických bylin a hub (67)

Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius

Jigger (77)

Arsenius Stopečka: Kouzelnické odvary a lektvary (67)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

by Newt Scamander (77)

Mlok Scamander Fantastická zvířata a kde je najít (67)

A Beginners' Guide to Transfiguration

by Emetic Switch (76)

Emeric Cvak: Úvod do přeměňování (67)


Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling (76)

Adalbert Waffling: Teorie kouzelnického umění (76)

The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble (77)

Quentin Trimble: Černá magie - příručka sebeobrany (76)

The fact that some names are translated into Czech while others remain in the original form, so much the more that they are right next to each other, contributes to the feeling of inconsistency.

In addition to spells and characters’ names there are some other new coined words. Those that have come into general knowledge are especially the names of the houses – Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor and Slytherin. They are translated as Mrzimor, Havraspár, Nebelvír and Zmijozel successively.

As for the game of Quiditch, its Czech name is Famfrpál, the balls are called Camrál, Potlouk and Zlatonka (originally Quaffle, Bludger and Golden snitch).

The currency units Sickles and Knuts become srpce and svrčky, Galleons stay the same.

Others include names of some pets (Scabbers is changed to Prašivka, Fang is translatd literally as Tesák) and magic things (e.g. Rememberall becomes Pamatováček).

There are some puns such as Diagon Alley which is a homophone with diagonally. The Czech translation is Příčná ulice, where the equivoque is lost. Similarly, a spokesgoblin becomes mluvčí skřet banky which does not reflect the analogy with spokesman.

4. 1. 3. Language of the Characters

This concerns particularly Hagrid, one of the main adult characters. He is a non-educated man and his speech is very different from the others. He uses a specific dialect which is very typical of himself and its aim seems to be the accentuation of his primitiveness. In Czech he speaks just in a familiar way, no specific dialect was used. It can be shown on a short extract:
"I'm tellin' yeh, yer wrong!" said Hagrid hotly. "I don' know why Harry's broom acted like that, but Snape wouldn' try an' kill a student! Now, listen to me, all three of yeh -- yer meddlin' in things that don' concern yeh. (209)

„Říkám ti, že se mejlíš!“ namítl Hagrid ostře. „Ne­vím, proč Harryho koště vyvádělo takový věci, ale Snape by se nepokusil zabít nějakýho študenta! Teď mě poslouchejte, všecky tři - pletete se do věcí, do kterejch vám nic není. (180)

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