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I love English and was once good enough to become an English teacher at a Japanese junior high school. However, that was in the past and since then my knowledge of English has been declining rapidly. So, as part of my language learning, I decided to submit some simple questions and comments about English language that are not easy for me (and that I should ask on HiNative or Quora) to Newgrounds. I am not an expert in English and may be making elementary mistakes, but thank you for your patience.

Jokes | English Is Not So Easy 9

In my article, I mentioned that it is very difficult to translate swear words in American movies into Japanese. There are other things that are difficult to translate. Jokes.


Skipper: Leopard seals! Nature's snakes.
Kowalski: Aren't snakes nature's snakes?
Skipper: How should I know? I live on a flippin' frozen tundra!
             ―from "Penguins of Madagascar (2014)"


These kinds of gags are relatively easy to translate.


<My Translation>





But, this example is very difficult to translate:


Mike: What's the special prize, and who gets it?
Wonka: The best kind of prize is a surprise! Hahahahaha...
             ―from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)"


This is because the gag is formed by the similarity in pronunciation between "prize" and "surprise. In other words, when translating it into Japanese, it is necessary to prepare something similar in pronunciation to "keihin", which is the translation of "prize".


<My Translation>


ウォンカ:最高の景品(keihin)は自鳴琴(jimei kin; music box)!ははははは…


I don't think anyone would laugh because it is not very funny, but I think this is an appropriate translation because no one but Mr. Wonka laughed in the movie.


Now, I would like to ask you to experience the feelings of translators. The next example is a gag from the Japanese anime "Paranoia Agent (2004)", which I saw both subtitled and dubbed in English, and both were really great.



 (Middle-aged detective Ikari talks to Maromi, a stuffed animal held by a girl Sagi)


Ikari: "君はどうだい?犯人を見なかったかな?ずっと一緒にいたんでしょうね、マロミちゃん?ん?!(Sub: How about you? Did you see the attacker? I know you were there. Right, Maromi-chan! Huh?!; Dub: Well listen, so how about you? Did you see anybody suspicious? I know you were there wither. Isn't that right Maromi? Huh?!)"

Sagi: "大丈夫ですか? (Sub: Is he all right?; Dub: Is he brain damaged?)"


(Ikari blushes.)


Sagi: "川津さんの様態 (Sub: I meant, Mr. Kawazu's condition...; Dub: I mean Mr. Kawazu.)"

Ikari: "命に別状はないそうです (Sub: He's in stable condition, Miss.; Dub: He's in stable condition, thank you.)"



However, one compromise is seen in both sub and dub. In Japanese, Sagi's remark "大丈夫ですか?(be okay?) + 川津さんの様態 (Mr. Kawazu's condition)" is just a natural inversion that can be correct regardless of Ikari's reaction, implying that she is unaware of Ikari's feelings, but in English, "I meant … / I mean …" is added, making it more likely that Sagi is conscious of Ikari's reaction. This is a problem caused by the linguistic structural differences, but can we create an English that resolves the differences between the two? Is such a script possible?