SBS translator of 'If You Are The One' to deliver public talk

If You Are The One 

The translator of the popular SBS dating show If you are the one will discuss how she solves linguistic and cultural challenges at a public talk at the Australia- China Institute for Arts and Culture.

Over the last two decades, the head of SBS Subtitling Department, Dr Jing Han from Western Sydney University, has subtitled more than 300 Chinese films and TV programs, including Crouching TigerHidden DragonLust, and If You Are the One.

At a special event at the University's Parramatta campus on Tuesday July 25 at 4pm, Dr Han will discuss the complexities associated with translating two very different languages.

"When you translate a language, you are also translating its culture, and it's important to not just translate the words themselves, but also their cultural context," says Dr Han.

"A good example is 癞蛤蟆想吃天鹅肉 – 'A toad craves for swan meat.' For the Chinese audience, the cultural and cognitive context for this saying is given in a known fable of the toad and the swan, but such a context is missing for the English speaking audience."

"In the context of how this was uttered, I translated this into: 'Just as a toad craves for swan meat, an ugly man gets a pretty girl.'"

Dr Han says a metaphor in the source language often needs to be swapped.

"Consider 吃黄豆了吧 – 'Did you eat soybeans?' Roasted soybeans are a common snack in the Chinese diet that also give one gas. So the Chinese expression 'Did you eat soybeans?' implies 'Did you fart?'," says Dr Han.

"However, saying 'Did you eat soybeans?' is very different from saying 'Did you fart?' And a lengthy explanation is not an option, as it would kill the spontaneity of the expression. My solution is to change 'Did you eat soybeans?' to 'An upset stomach?'"

Dr Han says achieving an intercultural communication in translation often requires skillful manipulation.

"In this sentence, 你要没让树住,就了, the literal translation is 'If you weren't caught by a tree, you'd be dead'; however, the pun using the homonym of 'gua' and 'gua' is missing in the translation, and the humour intended from the pun is lost," she says.

"In Chinese, the first 'gua' is a formal expression, meaning 'being caught'. The second 'gua' is a slang word, meaning 'die' in a humorous way. But in English, 'being caught' and 'die' are obviously not a homonym and cannot be connected in a humorous way as intended in the Chinese expression."

"So I came up with a different homonym in English which serves a similar purpose, 'If you missed, you'd be missed.'"

For more information about the public lecture, please visit the Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture website.


20 July 2017

Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer