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


Differences between Audiovisual and Literary Translations



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4. 4. Differences between Audiovisual and Literary Translations


When discussing audiovisual translation of a film based on a book, it is certainly worth investigating what the relations are between these two types of translation and if the translation of the book serves as a basis for the translation of the film. The aim is to find out whether the interrelation between the translated version of the book and translated version of the film is at least approximately the same as the interrelation between the originals. There are two questions which can be asked:

1) Did the translator of the film solve the translation problems in the same way as the translator of the book?

2) When the film script and the book dialogues are approximately or even exactly the same, are also the translations the same? Or in other words: is the audiovisual translation inspired by the literary translation?

As for the translation problems, there are some that appear in the book, but not in the film. These are for example poems and rhymes which are certainly very interesting from the point of view of translation, but from the reason of shortening these poems were not used. On the other hand, there are many others which can be found both in the book and the film.



4. 4. 1. British Culture


There are not so many cultural aspects in the film in comparison with those in the book. The story of course again takes place at a boarding school, which is located somewhere in Great Britain. If there was a possibility to replace the story somewhere else (e.g. to the country where the target language is spoken) in the book, this possibility is close to zero in the film. Thus, if the translator of the book nevertheless decided in this way, such a fact would cause serious problems to the person doing the language transfer of the film.

4. 4. 2. Names, spells and neologisms


As far as the names, spells and neologisms are concerned, it is something completely different. They appear in the film and there are many of them. Not all of them are the same, some of those that were in the book are not in the film and vice versa.

4. 4. 2. 1. Names


As for the official dubbing and subtitles, the characters’ names and names of things remain exactly the same. But as there are much fewer names in the film in comparison to the book, it is only the character of Dumbledore whose name has a Czech equivalent (Brumbál). The rest remain in the original form.

This is also the case of Ron Weasely which, however, is more problematic in the film than in the book. The reason for this fact is a slight change of the script in comparison with the original book dialogues. When Draco Malfoy meets Ron Weasley for the first time, he says in the book:


"Think my name's funny, do you? No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford."
But in the film he says something different:
Think my name's funny do you? No need to ask yours. Red hair and a hand-me-down robe? You must be a Weasley.

Moje jméno je k smíchu? Na tvoje se ptát nemusím. Zrzek a obnošený hábit. Musíš být Weasly. (Dubbing translation; others are similar.)
The difference is evident: in the film there is no mention about Draco’s father who told him about the Weasleys. Draco deduces that Ron’s name is Weasley, because he has got red hair just like the hair of a weasel. But this is not comprehensible enough in Czech. As for other character’s names, any of them does not pose a problem like this.

As far as the two fake translations are concerned, there are much more elements worth noticing, particularly in fake subtitles 2.

The first fake subtitles translate names in the same way as the book. But the author of the second subtitles decided to leave the majority of the names in the original form. The problem is the fact that the majority of people who watch the film are already used to the Czech equivalents, because they have read the book. The non-translation is thus very confusing, especially for those who are not familiar with the original names. (For example those who read the book in English).

Another problem that arises, when the original forms are kept, is the Czech declension. When Czech suffixes are added to these words, it sounds rather strange. Besides, as the suffix that should be used is not always evident, there are some alternations:


Vítejte v Hogwarts.

V Hogwartsích?


Nevertheless, it seems that the author had some notion about the book translation. For example Diagon Alley was translated as Příčná ulice, Muddles became mudlové, Scabbers is Prašivka and Rememberall is pamatováček just like in the book.

The translation of everything concerning the game of Quidditch, particularly the names of the players, is also worth noticing.

When the players are mentioned for the first time, professor McGonnagall says in these subtitles:
Woode, našla jsem vám chytače.
But later Wood explains to Harry:
Každý tým má sedm hráčů:
Tři charsers, dva beaters, jednoho keeper

a jednoho seeker. To jsi ty.


“Seeker” means of course the same as “chytač” in the first example (“chytač” being the book translation of “seeker”). In addition, the latter is also a good example of the declension problems treated above. As for the names of the balls, their names remain in English.

When discussing the influence of the book translation on individual audiovisual translations, another oddity is worth noticing. The forest into which the students are not allowed to go is called Forbidden Forest in the book, but the name was changed to Dark Forest in the film. The book translation was Zapovězený les. Both the dubbing and official subtitles reflect this change and translate the Dark forest as Temmný les. But the first fake translation is začarovaný les (not capitalized) and, surprisingly, the second fake subtitles, which seem to pay almost no attention to the book, translate this as Zapovězený les, thus in the same way as it was translated in the book, without taking the scirpt change into consideration!



4. 4. 2. 2. Spells


There are several spells that appear both in the book and the film, but there are also some new ones, which were not used in the book.

The ones that are the same are the Latin ones. They remain the same in the official translations, but sometimes are misspelled in the fake translations, for instance Wingardium Leviosa written as Vingardium Leviosa.

Those that are new in the film are either in Latin or in English. The Latin ones remain the same in the DVD subtitles and the dubbing. As for the fake subtitles, they are also in Latin, but they are very often changed . Thus, Oculus Reparo becomes Okolous repedro in one subtitles and Oculus Repairus in the others. Similarly, Lacarnum Inflamare is once subtitled as Lacardum Inflemorium and once as Legardum et lumoren.

The spells that are in English are those that are not serious spells and do not work. These are always the same in the DVD subtitles and in the dubbing. On the other hand, the first fake subtitles are sometimes inspired by the official ones. The second fake subtitles are different.



4. 4. 3. Language of the characters


All the audiovisual translations reflect the specified way of Hagrid’s speaking. In the dubbing as well as all subtitle versions he speaks in a familiar way similarly to the book translation. On the other hand it is worth mentioning, that sometimes his way of speaking is more familiar in the subtitles (including the official ones) in comparison to the way he speaks in the dubbed version. This is quite strange, as the subtitles should be usually closer to the standard language as they are written. Nevertheless, it is sometimes the other way round, for example words such as všecko or nejlepčí are used in the subtitles while všechno and nejlepší are used in the dubbing. On the other hand, the dubbing takes advantage of a specific intonation which is imparted to Hagrid by the Czech actor who dubbed him.

4. 4. 4. Addressing Students


There is also a difference in the way teachers address their students. In the book as well as in the dubbing, the official subtitles and the first fake subtitles the teachers and other adults use the polite form when speaking to children. The second fake subtitles are much less consistent and children are sometimes addressed in the second person. Sometimes even one person during one dialogue changes the attitude:
Byl jsem zvědavý,

kdy vás tu uvidím, pane Pottere.


Připadá mi, jako by to bylo včera,

když tady tvoje matka a otec


kupovali svoje první hůlky.

4. 4. 5. Dialogues


Approximately 20 – 30% of the film dialogues are directly inspired by the direct speeches in the book. This means that they are either exactly the same or changed only slightly.

As for the translations of these sentences there is a big difference between the official translations and the fake ones. The DVD subtitles and dubbing indicate that their translator was well aware of the book translation. There are several fundamental expressions and phrases which are the same. For example the phrase you don’t use your eyes is translated as ty pro oči nevidíš.

Another proof of the fact that the translator of the subtitles and dubbing took the book into consideration is his translation of the sentence Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwart. This was translated in the book, dubbing and DVD subtitles as Rubeus Hagrid, klíčník a šafář v Bradavicích. On the other hand, the two other versions are different:

Rubeus Hagrid. Jsem and Rubeus Hagrid. Klíčník a

strážcem bradavických lesů a luk. správce Hogwartskejch pozemků.

But some examples indicating the contrary can be found, i.e. that the film is translated in a different way. The sentence “Honestly, woman, you call yourself our mother?” is translated in the book as „Prosím tě, to si říkáš naše matka?”

But that same sentence in the film changed to “Vážně mami, jsi vůbec naše matka?“ in the dubbing and -Vážně, mami, jsi vůbec naše? in the official subtitles. The other two subtitled versions are also different.

Thus, it can be observed that there are differences in particular cases as far as the interrelation between the dialogues in the book and the ones in the film is concerned. It might seem at first sight that this is caused by the dubbing and subtitling constraints. But this is not always true.

Very often, subtitles have to be shortened in order to be comfortably read and therefore words have to be replaced, or syntax has to be simplified. However, exception proves the rule. And there are several such exceptions in this film. The sentence I demand that you leave at once. You are breaking and entering. (translated in the book as „Žádám, abyste okamžitě odešel, pane!“… „To je přece vloupání!“) sounds in the Czech version as Okamžitě odejděte, pane! To je násilné vloupání! But in the subtitles it was changed to a form which is not shorter at all, just contrariwise:
Okamžitě odejděte, pane!

Dopustil jste se násilného vloupání.


Nonetheless, after having studied several examples of sentences that are the same in English, but different in Czech, it seems that the above treated constraints are only an additional cause for the alterations. The main reason seems to be just the fact that the translator did not consider it important to translate everything exactly in the same way.

5. Conclusion


The thesis treated the audiovisual translation from two points of view.

First, characteristic features of this kind of translation were dealt with in order to demonstrate its particularity and uniqueness within the field of translation studies. It was observed 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.

Second, the question of interrelation between audovisual and literary translations in the case of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was brought up with the aim to find out whether such an interrelation exists and what its extent is. Four audiovisual translations were taken into consideration: official DVD dubbing, official DVD subtitles and two versions of fake subtitles found on the internet. First, all these translations were examined in detail in order to be able to state their quality and try to find out whether their authors were aware of basic principles of subtitling and dubbing. The comparison of the audiovisual translations and the literary one followed.

While examining the four audiovisual translations it was observed that fundamental differences exist between them.

Both the official dubbing and the official subtitles meet an overwhelming majority of requirements that are necessary for a good understanding of the film by the target language audience.

On the contrary, the two fake subtitle versions are very badly done in many respects. They do not stick to the principles that would enable their comprehensibility and the number of language and formal errors is sometimes unbearable.

As for the interrelation between these audiovisual translations and their literary counterpart, it can be observed that the more the translation sticks to the principles of subtitling, the more it corresponds to the translation of the book.

But it is important to distinguish between the solutions to the translation problems and the translation of dialogues. While the official DVD dubbing and official DVD subtitles evidently have a connection with the literary translation as far as names, spells and neologisms are concerned, it is much more difficult to find such a connection in the translation of dialogues.

As for the two fake translations, there is a substantial difference between them. While the potential translation problems are often solved in the same way in the first fake subtitles version and the book, the second version takes the book into consideration very sporadically. But as far as the translation of the dialogues is concerned, neither of the authors was inspired by the literary translation of the dialogues.

It could thus be said, that if the translation of the film aims at an audience which is familiar with the translation of the book (provided that such a translation exists), this literary translation should be taken into account. Otherwise the film is badly comprehensible and the audience is confused.

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