I. Introduction Nowadays, more and more overseas movies are introduced to Chinese movie market. As movies play a significant role in culture communication, proper translation to overseas movies is very important. The title is a soul to a movie. The audiences read movie titles before they enjoy the movies. So good title translations can easily attract people’s attention. Therefore, how to translate the film titles well is an important course in movie translations. This paper will focus on the translation of English movie titles and is composed by two parts.
The first part will be an analysis on the features of English movie titles, then the second part will part will be an exploration on the translation techniques of English movie titles. II. The Features of English Movie Titles There are mainly three features of English movie titles. The first is linguistic features. Generally speaking, English film titles are usually very short and concise in language so that they could be easily remembered by the audiences. A lot of movies use the actor’s or actress’s name as the movie titles, for example: Forrest Gump, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter etc.
Some movies also name the titles according to the place where the story begins, such as Grand Hotel, Pearl Harbor etc. Besides, there are many movies named by a noun phrase, such as the Sound of Music, Finding Nemo etc. The second is artistic features. Film titles often used rhetorical means such as personification (e. g. Dance with Wolves), repetition (e. g. Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! ), oxymoron (e. g. True Lies), alliteration (e. g. Pride and Prejudice) and so on. The application of rhetorical means on the naming of movies makes the titles vivid and attractive.
The last but the most important feature of movie titles is the culture feature. Movies often contain specific cultural meanings, so movie titles often closely related to various cultural aspects, such as history, philosophy, social customs and so on. For example, Seven does not simply mean the number “7”, but indicate the seven deadly sins in the Bible.
III. The Translation Techniques of English Movie Translation After we know the features of the English movie titles, we should use some translation techniques to better translate them into target language and more or less keep those features. Movie titles translation should not be mechanical but to be based on the plot of the movie and the cultural similarities and differences between eastern and western culture. Facing different kinds of movie titles, we should use different translation techniques. The first technique is literal translation. Literal translation means translating literally, keeping both the original form and the original content of the movie title. The aim of English movie title translation is to display the pith of the movies. If the movie titles could match the stories perfectly, literal translation is basically the most suitable skill to employ.
For example: Harry Potter?????? ,Brave Heart?????? ,Roman Holiday?????? , Pearl Harbor ????? etc. This kind of technique could reserve the conciseness of the original movie titles. However, in literal translation, the word order or structure should be adjusted as the translator should pay special attention to the differences between the wording in English and in Chinese. Sometimes word-for-word translation may violate the Chinese idiomatic ways of expressions and their aesthetic taste, therefore the word order or structure of the English title has to be slightly altered.
For example, the Silence of the Lamb ??????? , Woman in Love ???????? and The Wind that Shakes the Barley ??????. The second technique is transliteration. In film title translation, transliteration means to seek phonetic correspondence. For example, Titanic ???????. Through transliteration, the rhythm of the source language can be preserved, which will help to keep the rhythm and form of the original title and attract the audience’s attention by its typical foreign flavor. However, in many cases, transliteration is not proper due to Chinese people’s unfamiliarity to the western culture.
For instance, Cleopatra is the historical and poetic drama of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt who wants to stabilize her power by making use of the tensions of the two powerful Roman generals who love her. If we translate Cleopatra into ???????? instead of ?????? , it will not be easily understood, and cannot attract a large group of audience. The third technique is free translation. Free translation is a flexible measure when literal translation is not available. As we mentioned, film titles are mostly very short and concise, literally translated titles sometimes cannot make the Chinese audience understood.
And there are some titles that contain lots of elements which is only well-known by westerners. Chinese audience will be confused if we translate these titles through literal translation. However, when we use free translation, the version will be easily understood. This technique could reserve the artistic feature of the movie titles. Free translation often calls for some techniques, such as omission, extension, conversion and amplification in particular to make the Chinese version beautiful. For example, Mission: Impossible ????? , Ghost ???????, Shrek ??????? , The Mask ?????? etc. Some film titles use idioms and sometimes there is equivalent Chinese idiom to the titles.
Translator can then build a bridge between them and give audience a better title. We can borrow and transform from the ancient Chinese culture from which the poems, some famous sentences, and great novels are all we can use. For example, Bathing Beauty ?????? , this film is very famous and known to every household. If we translate it into ??????? , we will think it is ridiculous and hard to understand. ?????? conforms most to Chinese’s thinking habit and it possesses the special lasting culture appeal of the Chinese language.
IV. Conclusion Though film titles are short, their translation is not an easy task. The translation of movie titles should not only be faithful to the original, but also cater to the taste of the audiences. In the previous parts, this paper provide an analysis on the linguistic, artistic and cultural features of English movie titles, then the second part explores the translation techniques of English movie titles, namely literal translation, transliteration and free translation.
From what has been discussed above, Different film titles require different translation methods. Translators should take all factors into consideration. In all, there are many challenges for us to translate the film titles, thus we should combine the practice of using translation methods. If we master the trick of the translation of film titles, everything becomes easy. Work Consulted Chen, Ying. “On The Translation of Film Title from a Cross-Cultural Perspective”, Read and Write Periodical, Vol. 8, No. 3 1-2, March. 2011, CNKI. Web. May. 2013 Newmark, Peter, A Textbook of Translation.
Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2000 Nord, Christiane, Translating as a Purposeful Activity: Functionalist Approaches Explained. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2001 Mei, Zhongfang, “On the Translation Strategies of English Film Title from the Perspective of Skopos Theory”, Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 1, No. 1 66-68, Jan. 2010. Web. May. 2013 Zhang, Fayong. “Translation of Movie Titles—from a functional perspective”, Journal of Guangxi University Wuzhou Branch, Vol. 12, No. 4 48-50, Oct. 2002, CNKI. Web. May. 2013