Movies shape the world we live in. They introduce us to new cultures and different realms, ones we have never seen before, and thus, shape our perspectives. But how does the film industry reflect the profession of translation? How accurately are the challenges and realities conveyed to the audience? To seek the answers to these questions, we will review movies about translation in our new content series.
The first movie of this new content series is Lost in Translation. Throughout the movie, we see a world-famous actor, Bob Harris, struggling with a language barrier. Bob goes to Tokyo to shoot ad films but does not speak their language. The movie underlines the importance of a professional rather than conveying an overview of the translation industry.
During the first shoot, we see the director giving instructions to Bob Harris, explaining his vision for the ad. However, there isn’t a professional translator to facilitate communication between the two parties. An English-speaking colleague tries to assume this role; however, she fails.
The director gives a long, passionate speech about his vision. When the woman translates what he says, Bob Harris is puzzled as there is inconsistency between what he says and what the woman translates. Although the director gives lengthy instructions, the translation is only one sentence: “He is asking you to put your hand on your face.” Confused, Bob Harris questions if this is all he is saying.
This scene, where the filming takes longer due to this language barrier, emphasizes the importance of working with professionals to deal with language barrier issues. A professional interpreter or a translator is aware that they are the messenger and thus obliged to deliver exactly what is said or written and be loyal to the source.
How Much Actually Gets Lost in Translation?
Is it always possible to deliver a 100% equivalent translation in real life? The answer is no. A professional is indeed liable to provide all aspects of a message by staying loyal to the source as much as possible. However, a language does not only consist of words. It is a living organism, constantly evolving and being shaped by cultural elements. Languages keep changing as long as humans change.
Sometimes, these cultural nuances may get lost in translation. For instance, we often see examples of this situation in dubbing and subtitle translation. Movies reflect a culture, emotions and personal elements through fiction, all expressed in their own spirit. The nuances may be lost in the process. Similarly, nuances may get lost in localization, interpretation, and literary translations.
As professionals, we should always look for ways to overcome this issue through hard work, research, and following multiple steps to provide accuracy. The role of a messenger is to be a bridge between two different cultures and ensure communication.