Translating cultural and humorous elements
Back in 2007, when I worked on my final paper, I came across this question – whether to localize cultural and humorous elements in subtitles (in this case the Danish comedy “Flickering Lights”).
It can be hard to decide, whether to localize a text or not – in some cases its advisable and others not. If you read a book that you know has its setup in a certain country – then localization of places, persons and so on would be wrong in most cases. Instead you should try adding a small explanatory text, which helps the reader understand and leaves him/her with the attended meaning.
In cases like “Flickering Lights” (Blinkende Lygter) and subtitles you do not have the option to add extra information, due to the certain restrictions and rules that are to subtitling. Here its advisable to actually find a good translation that carries over the meaning of the words.
Especially when it comes to translating humor – then a localization is a ‘must’ otherwise your audience won’t get the same experience as is intended by the author.
In this case for instance (Flickering Lights) – a well-know Danish author “Tove Ditlevsen” and some well-known amusement parks “Bakken” & “Tivoli” were referred to – well-known for Danes that is – but for Americans for instance these wouldn’t be recognized. Why a localization is necessary to carry over the meaning.
The two amusement parks stands for two different values and feelings – which needed to be carried over in the translation, why the translator had found two amusements parks in USA, which stood for the same values and feelings.
One must always take in to consideration, every time starting on a new text, whether to localize a text or not and be consistent throughout the text.