Awful translating a Chinese TV drama for US audiences

2013-01-31 01:47:46 GMT2013-01-31 09:47:46(Beijing Time)
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The sale of a popular Chinese TV series to a US network has left many internet users wondering how some of the more difficult Chinese names and phrases in the historical drama Empresses in the Palace may be translated into English for an American audience.

The series, which depicts the politics and scheming of consorts in the Forbidden City during the Qing Dynasty, is set to be screened in a miniseries format in the United States after being reportedly sold to a major network for US$7 million.

China's netizens have already begun sharing their concerns over how translators will handle the show's complex period dialogue, much of which employs a formal and old-fashioned mode of speech littered with flowery and poetic phrases that speakers of contemporary Chinese even find difficult to understand at times.

Some netizens have posted their own interpretations of how they think the translations will turn out, which has usually resulted in amusing examples of "Chinglish."

One netizen posted that the names of some of the central characters in the series could be translated as "Real Ring," "Leaf Agree" and "Safety Always Here."

An American-born Chinese translator named Kara, who recently worked on English subtitles for Chinese blockbusters such as Let the Bullets Fly and The Great Magician, says translating Chinese period dramas can be tricky but is not impossible.

A popular phrase in the show which has been translated by netizens as "Bitch is so bitch," for example, may be rendered "Once a bitch, always a bitch," Kara said.

It is not clear at this stage, however, whether some of the favorite lines from the series will even be heard on American screens. The Shanghai-based Jiefang Daily has reported that the 76 episodes of the show will be edited into a six-part miniseries and paired with a brand new soundtrack. Names of characters will also be transliterations rather than direct literal translations, the paper added.


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