Music is abstract. Music is emotional. Music is divine. Music is a lot of things. But is it translatable?

Concerts are an incomparable experience. They can touch us deeply. Or make us jump with joy. Overwhelm us with emotions. Or just let us enter a completely different world. The world looks different when you are listening to music. Colors become brighter. Rain becomes romantic. Trees become living creatures. Imagine now that you cannot hear. And that no sound exists in your world. Until now, the interpreters for the deaf have only indicated music with a “Music is being played” sign, which does not convey the content of music in any way. The hearing world has only recently become aware of how enriched the world of the deaf would be through the experience of music.

There is a group of sign language interpreters working on translations of music for the deaf. In people with impaired hearing, the possible frequency of residual hearing varies greatly. In the 125hz to 8,000hz range, some can only hear really deep tones like the ones bass guitar produces, while others only hear high notes like in singing. Deaf people feel rhythm as vibrations of the floor and walls. In this way, dance groups consisting of deaf participants manage to synchronize incredibly well with the music they dance to.

However, how can we convey the whole musical experience to people with impaired hearing? The first and probably most important question is: what is music made of? What triggers those strong emotions we have, when we hear music?

First of all, the rhythm of the music moves us. We feel it with our body and through it we understand the mood of the piece of music. As stated earlier, if there are strong beats (such as drums), the deaf will be able to feel the rhythm. Sometimes, for example when it comes to classical music, the rhythm is experienced primarily through the melody played by, let’s say, the violin. In that case it’s necessary for the interpreters to “feel” the music and not only indicate the “form” of the melody with their gestures, for example with wave-like movements, but also to indicate the length of the tones. If a singer holds a tone for a long time with a crescendo (the tone becoming louder) and abruptly interrupts it, the intensity of the moment will not be delivered in simply making one short movement for a long tone. The translator must reproduce the character of the tone through whole body posture and gestures.

Another aspect, in the case of a song, is the lyrics. The lyrics are expressed in sign language. Songs often include puns, which can be represented with a combination of more than one sign in one movement.

A pitch of a song is also one of the aspects of music that can give us goosebumps. This is an aspect that can be presented well with facial expressions. With guitar sounds, for example, we tend to contract facial muscles when miming high notes. Heavy, low tones, are symbolized with blown-up cheeks.

The challenge for interpreters when they “translate” music for the world of the deaf is that they have to “act out” music, which they feel with their whole bodies and minds, and to convey their experience and impression vividly. With that comes the problem of expressing thoughts and concepts quite differently in sign language than spoken/written language. For example, the phrase “Hungry like a wolf” expressed in sign language would not have the meaning intended in the song. Therefore, it is very important that the music interpreter for the deaf prepares the translation of the lyrics before the concert.

One of the most famous interpreters for the deaf is Amber Galloway Gallego, who has interpreted concerts for popular artists such as Kendrick Lamar and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Interpreters like her drew a lot of attention to interpretation for the deaf and made it a popular issue. However, there are music interpreters who are deaf themselves and who believe that the popularization of this topic has a downside: more and more translators who are not deaf themselves are hired for music interpreting. In the eyes of interpreter Shawn Vriezen, who himself suffers from severe hearing loss, the bridge built between the hearing world and the deaf community can never be as strong if the bridge builder is from the other side.

Whether able to hear or deaf, as in so many other situations, the physical, spiritual and emotional presence of the interpreter is the deciding factor that enables or disables the transfer of the musical experience from the hearing world to the world of the deaf. If interpreters do not include their whole being in the translation process, if they miss details such as the intensity and length of the tone (for example legato, smooth and connected, to staccato, short tones), or the change of rhythm and character of the music, the hearing-impaired person will remain in front of the locked door of the magical world of music.



When talking about translation problems, the first thing that comes to mind is usually technical terminology we are not familiar with in any language, idioms we are unable to make sense of even if we know the meaning of each of the constituents, the complex language of law and economy, etc. When translating literary texts or dialogues from movies or TV series, we generally expect fewer problems, until we come across a name of a famous person while translating. At first, we think: “Well, that’s easy!”, and happily go on to simply transcribe the name in accordance with the Serbian spelling and grammar rules. Then, we consider the target audience and the way we decided to solve this translation problem, and suddenly – we are not so sure any more.

The English-speaking world is bursting at the seams with famous people. Their names are often mentioned in American and British novels, movies and TV series, to achieve a humorous effect or make a comparison. Those books, series and movies are primarily intended for the local audience, which means that an average American or Brit will not have any difficulties understanding who the author is referring to, since they are constantly reading about those people in the newspapers and seeing them on TV – not to mention all the websites buzzing about those celebrities. However, the translator has to consider whether an average Serbian citizen knows who the person mentioned is and if their name means anything to the target audience.

If the celebrity mentioned in the book, movie or TV series really is world-famous, the solution of transcribing their name is good enough – everyone will easily understand whom the character is referring to when saying: “I haven’t been this sad since princess Diana died”. However, if the celebrity mentioned is not (yet) as famous outside of the English-speaking world, or, in some cases, within the target age group, some other translation strategies might be necessary. One possible solution would be functional equivalency – replacing the name of the celebrity mentioned in the source material with a celebrity who shares some of the key characteristics with them, but is more widely known within the target culture.

An appropriate functional equivalent may be found within the Anglo-American culture, or – and this is usually the best solution – within the target culture. For example, in one British TV show, a father compares his fashionista daughter to Zandra Rhodes, a famous British fashion designer. She may be famous in the UK, but not in Serbia. The father’s words were translated into Serbian in the following way: “Who are you, Verica Rakočević?” This translation is somewhat adequate because the audience understands that he compared his daughter to a fashion designer. Nevertheless, the boundaries of the Anglo-American world as the setting of the TV show are transcended, which might ruin the viewer’s experience and make him/her wonder how an average London family could possibly know about Verica Rakočević! Perhaps it would be best to pick another, more famous British designer, someone that both Serbian and British audience are surely familiar with, such as Stella McCartney, or, better yet – Coco Chanel.

Another possibility when it comes to translating names of people who are “not quite famous enough” is the use of hypernyms, or, in this particular case, the emphasis of the characteristics that the person was mentioned for. For instance, the translation of the father’s words could have been: “Are you some kind of a fashion designer now?” If translated like this, the sentence would lose its comic effect, but the audience would not be confused by the name of a person they’ve never heard of before.

Another issue to be considered when dealing with names of celebrities in translation is the medium. When translating a book, functional equivalency works like a charm – the reader will probably never even find out that original text mentions another name. However, when it comes to movie and TV series subtitles, the person watching is typically able to tell that the name mentioned is either different from the one displayed on the screen, or that it is completely omitted. In that case, one can only hope that a discerning viewer will be able to tell why the translator chose that particular solution and be understanding of the section of the audience that is less familiar with the Anglo-American jet-set.



Companies mostly strive to translate their homepage into several languages.  Users take the provision of multilingual websites for granted, as we live in a globalized society. The question is why would companies invest their time, energy and money into translating website contents into several languages instead of publishing it in the one language spoken all over the world – English?

While traveling, we can often find ourselves smiling when we unexpectedly hear someone speak our native language. At home, we just want to hear and see something different, we want to go to exotic places and not under any circumstances meet other tourists of our own nationality. However, when spending a long time away from home, we are delighted when someone speaks our language; when we see the name of a cafe written down in our language; or when the waiter hands us the menu, which is obviously very much custom-tailored for tourists, in our language. It makes us feel connected and safe.

Well, in the virtual world, websites can be compared to foreign countries and the users with tourists. If we discover that the website we are visiting has content in our mother tongue, our interest increases, as well as our satisfaction due to the fact that the companies offering multilingual websites have recognized our needs. The more languages they offer, the better. On the surface level, it’s just about understanding the content. In that case, the source language and a translation into English would be enough. However, big companies provide their content in other languages as well and they have good reasons for doing so: except for the content itself, there is a surprising number of factors under the surface that influence the website’s effect.

Research has shown that our reactions are much more emotional when we are reading or listening to something in our native language compared to a foreign language. My Serbian teacher once told me, “Once you start arguing in Serbian, you have really acquired the language”. We are used to express our strongest emotions in our native language. It feels uncomfortable to swear, argue, love or express joy in another language you are not really fluent in. Even if we are fluent in the given foreign language, it is only the family context of learning our native language that carries the full range of human emotions, which is later mirrored by the difference in our emotional response to different languages.

Websites serve as an advertising tool for a specific product, company, or goal. Therefore, it serves not only to convey descriptions, explanations and background information, but to move us emotionally, thus creating a connection that will make us return, buy, call, and support. The different website sections represent little hotels on our journey through this “foreign country”, attracting our attention and tempting us to stay a little longer and visit them again if they manage to make us feel at home. This is what makes the emotional effect of a website the key factor of its success.

A research project by Puntoni et al. (2009) showed that advertising slogans were rated as much more emotional when they were written in the native language of the reader/spectator/listener. The emotional response of the audience was much higher. This is the effect we want to achieve with websites as well.

Another important finding is that 75 percent of customers do not make important purchase decisions unless the product description is in a language they can speak well. This is logical, but rarely comes to mind when setting up a website. Obviously, the buyer wants to understand every detail, not only the price and the “Enter credit card number” field.

The greatest problem, of course, is the financial aspect of having your website translated into as many languages as possible. This aspect cannot be denied. However, the immense advantages of doing so should be kept in mind. Namely, the profit is increased drastically when a website is available in just one extra language, which alone justifies the company’s initial investment.

What about websites with exclusively informative content? Websites about historical facts, for example. Well, sites like that also depend on the size of their audience, and the audience tends to remain interested and in a good mood when the site is also emotionally engaging. Websites are part of marketing and marketing is connected to our psyche and emotions.

So, instead of focusing primarily on the costs, working hours and statistics – why not look at our websites as “foreign countries”? Imagine how happy the tourists traveling through “your” country would be discovering the attractions and beauties that it has to offer in their own language.



Neologisms, i.e. new words, or new meanings of existing words of a language, pose one of the greatest translation challenges. Given the fact that a certain period of time must pass for the newly created words to become integrated in a language and to be accepted by its speakers, the translators will obviously not be able to find them in a dictionary, at least not for a while.

Neologisms probably emerge most frequently in literature, comedy TV shows and movies, where they are, above all, a product of author’s creativity. The Serbian language very much enables this kind of linguistic expression, for example, in the works of Laza Kostić, various one-time neologisms can be found, such as neodvaj (lit. inseparateness, “a hug that a person does not want to be over“) or sevotina (lit. fulguration, “flash of lightning“). The English language is also full of such neologisms which sometimes leave the TV screen and enter everyday language; for example, omnishambles (“a situation, especially a political one, that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations”) which originated from a satirical British TV show The Thick of It, and which was elected the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2012.

There are several different ways to translate a new word – by finding an equivalent word or a word with a fairly similar meaning in the target language, by means of transcription or transliteration (adopting the word in its original form, with or without adjusting it to the pronunciation of the target language), by creating calques (by translating the elements of the word literally) or by means of description. However, in order to successfully translate a neologism, the translators must first understand the word in question, and in order to understand it, they must pay attention to the context in which the new word is found. In addition, neologisms tend to emerge from existing words and morphemes, so a morphological analysis may be helpful in understanding their meanings, and later in translating as well.

In literary works, movies, TV shows, and other contexts in which linguistic creativity has a great role, a general rule is that neologisms should be translated, while in other, professional contexts, in which experts recognize the new word only in the source language, neologisms should be adopted in their original form or transcribed. An exception to this rule are cases in which the translators have a high level of expertise in a certain field, so that they can translate the term from the source language and thus create a new term in the target language by using morphemes of Greek, Latin, and target language origin which are more integrated and closer to the target audience.

Translating a neologism is sometimes quite simple – when there are words with similar forms in the target language, for example, the name of the American TV show Californication (a blend word from “California” and “fornication”), whose name is a symbol of the plot itself, has been translated quite simply as Kalifornikacija (a blend word from “Kalifornija” (“California”) and “fornikacija” (“fornication”)). However, if the word “fornikacija” had not existed in the target language, the blend would have had to be translated differently, for example Blud u Kaliforniji (Lust in California), as was the case with the aforementioned compound omnishambles (from the Latin prefix “omni-” and the English word “shambles”), which was translated into Serbian as opšte rasulo (complete mess). Nevertheless, translators often fail to translate the meaning of a neologism, which can both jeopardize the author’s style and rob a reader who does not speak the source language of understanding a certain expression. For example, in the official translation of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X, his linguistic creation McDead (a synthetic, programmed culture) has been translated as mekmrtvilo (lit. McDeadness), which may be justified because the readers are familiar with the restaurant chain McDonald’s, which was the author’s inspiration. However, there is another compound in the same novel – McJob (an underpaid job which does not require education or experience), which the translator has transliterated as mekdžob, instead of applying the same strategy as in the previous example.

Finally, when translating neologisms, translators should check if the word has already been translated, as well as if the new word will be useful to the target audience, i.e. if they will find it interesting, if it could become integrated in the language, if translating it would jeopardize the author’s style, etc.



Translating is often seen as an intuitive profession – you know two languages well, so what’s the big deal with simply transferring one into the other? It’s a very big deal. Not only on a linguistic, but on a personal and interpersonal level as well.

“You are studying English? But why, you already know the language, don’t you?” This was one of the most frequent comments on my studies of English language and literature. It seems to be a widespread thought that studying a language means merely to acquire its vocabulary and grammar and then to speak and write it. Well, it’s not. There are such a variety of concepts, contexts, and social and historical backgrounds to be considered in order to really understand a language and its structure. It’s not only linguistic forms, it’s the whole mindset and the way we structure our thinking that build the language.

According to that, translation is, or should be, a complex process requiring a lot of consideration and background knowledge. There are many who call themselves translators just because they know two languages. They completed the B2-level of a language in a language school and take on “easy texts” that seemingly anyone can translate. The truth is there are no easy texts. Even the easiest text requires a certain level of understanding of the context, idioms, and metaphors in the target language and the mindset of the audience. Otherwise, in the launderette we will get advice such as “Please don’t die here” or we will admire the “cream milk with coconut humans” description in the menu of a restaurant.

Not only is the prior knowledge required for translation underestimated, but also the translator’s responsibility. Of course, there is a gradation in the weight of responsibility – a mistake in a restaurant’s menu probably won’t hurt anyone (except if someone has an allergy and didn’t recognize the ingredient).  A mistake in legal translation on the other hand can have far-reaching consequences. For example, a candidate applying for a job position in a foreign country who had his title translated in the wrong way might be turned down just because of a “little mistake”. One wrongly placed word can completely change the implications of a contract. Not to mention wrongly copied numbers in official documents might double a selling amount, raise the age of an applicant, or reduce grade averages.

One deterrent example of the consequences of a wrong translation is the case of Dolet, a translator in the 16th century. He added only three words in his translation of Plato’s text that were not present in the original – “rien du tout” which meant that after death there was “absolutely nothing”. This questioned the immortality of the soul and he received the death penalty for heresy. Of course, this is something that could not happen today, but still, the translator can lose a huge amount of money and reputation if a mistake in the translation has serious consequences for the client. And of course, it is also a matter of conscience and a peaceful sleep.

It has been proven that during translation, translators often take on the role of a third conversational partner instead of merely conveying the message. It has been pointed out by researchers that in official hearings, where absolute accuracy is of crucial importance, translators happen to leave out words that they don’t deem important or slightly change the tone of the message. In such contexts it is utterly important that the translator completely refrains from adding or removing parts of the text based solely on his/her own judgment. Similarly for example, conversations in the field of social service are influenced and messages are distorted by a translator that follows a principle of liberty in his translation. The translator is again obliged to convey every single word and thought in a precise manner and to comply with his function as a neutral medium.

In the business world, a flawed translation might lead to a miscommunication between companies and their clients that could hinder further collaboration and customer loyalty. In this case, the company will be at a loss. A well-known example is the Parker Pen advert, which was supposed to mean “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”.  The translation said “You will not get pregnant while losing ink in your pocket”.  Not exactly a catchy and attractive slogan.

The reason why untrained translators are so successful lies partly in the misjudgment of clients. Like some translators, they are not aware of the consequences a bad translation might have for their business. They are also unaware that a person knowing both languages might not be able to translate a text correctly, including all connotations and implications, tone, and meaning.

Another aspect of the required depth and sensitivity in translation are interpersonal relationships. Whether translating a book or an article, contact with the author and an understanding of his/her personality plays a crucial role in the translation process. It is important to be aware of the author’s personal mindset as well in order to grasp all the tiny nuances of the delivered messages. If the communication between author and translator becomes very intense, it can even happen that bonds are created that carry far beyond the translation process. A translator from Equatorial Guinea, for example, became the close confidante to his author, when the author himself was in danger.

Considering all the pitfalls and consequences translation bears, it seems like a pretty serious issue. After all, language is not just “language”.  Extensive knowledge is necessary in order to avoid getting “lost in translation”.



There is no doubt that the development of machine translation, both written and oral, has reached an impressive level and it is safe to say that this trend shall continue in the future. Despite the growing number of applications and devices enabling us to communicate with people who do not speak our language, it seems that this type of communication usually boils down to the most basic and simplest forms of communication. Even though devices can be connected to one another quickly and easily, connecting people from different parts of the world is still not as easy, due to  language barriers persisting despite all available assets.

The difficulties in translation performed by artificial intelligence are most obvious in machine translation services, i.e. GoogleTranslate and Facebook’s automatic translation service, which is used in 4.5 billion translations each day. These difficulties are most often reflected in harmless mistakes that are usually easy to recognize and represent nothing more than a short-lived source of humor and fun. However, such errors are occasionally found in a broader context where they can have serious legal, economic, and other consequences. The Israeli newspapers Haaretz published a story about a Palestinian construction worker who was arrested near Jerusalem after posting a picture of himself standing next to a bulldozer on Facebook accompanied by a status in Arabian that read “يصبحهم”. Facebook’s automatic translation service translated his status as “Attack them” in Hebrew and “Hurt them” in English. The police was alarmed and the worker was soon arrested on suspicion of plotting to commit a terrorist attack using the vehicle. He was released a couple of hours later, once the police noticed the error: the original status in Arabian simply said “Good morning”. Errors of this kind point to deep-seated issues with machine translation services. It is known that random substitutions of toponyms and personal names (London becomes Amsterdam, Samsung becomes Motorola) are a frequent occurrence in machine translation. However, if a quite common phrase (“Good morning”) is translated incorrectly not in one, but in two languages and due to the particular sequence of circumstances compromises the safety of several people, to what extent can we rely on these services for the translation of more complex phrases and sentences?

The ideal scenario for machine learning and artificial intelligence would be one with a clear set of rules and precise indicators of success and failure. Chess is a great example, which is illustrated by the fact that artificial intelligence managed to beat the best human chess players much faster than expected. On the other hand, language and its unlimited possibilities are a much more difficult task. For this reason, global markets are still waiting on reliable machine translation. Despite recent advancements and the fact that machine translation is capable of processing whole sentences as units and not only translate individual words, translation errors are still common and we are still waiting for a time when automatic translation will be capable of consistently providing an accurate translation of the source text. The problem is that it is not enough to look at sentence as a whole. Just as the meaning of a word depends on the rest of the sentence, the meaning of the sentence depends on the remainder of the chapter and the text while the meaning of the text depends on the broader context, the speaker’s/writer’s intentions, etc. Idioms, irony, and sarcasm, for example, only make sense in a broader context, and understanding a text involves a variety of intertwined activities that we perform without thinking and that, for now, cannot be replicated by a machine.

Nevertheless, machine translation available today has undisputedly proven to be an extremely useful tool being applied in various contexts. For example, the translation of web browsers or orders when shopping online. The most important thing to keep in mind is that for the time being machine translation should only be used as a tool in specific environments and not as a substitute for translators. That day is still in the distant future and it is uncertain if it will ever come. We don’t know what the future holds, but many experts agree that further development of machine translation will greatly transform and facilitate the work of human translators without actually replacing them.



Unlike standard language, i.e. its regulated and normative variant, non-standard language encompasses a vast spectrum of language variants that include dialects. In the literary-artistic discourse, deviations from language norms are considered literary dialects which enable writers to place their characters and narrators in the desired socio-cultural context. In combination with the sociological, ideological, and cultural connotations, translating dialects is one of the biggest challenges that the translators of literary works can face.

Non-standard lexis, grammar, and pronunciation not only make a text seemingly impossible to translate, but also hard to understand, making the work of translators even more difficult. The general rule is that a source text written in standard language is translated with the standard variant of the target language. When it comes to non-standard language, i.e. dialects, translators have the following strategies: replacing the source dialect with a target dialect, replacing the source dialect with standard language, or combining these two strategies.

The first strategy proposes replacing the source dialect, for example urban Edinburgh speech used frequently by the famous Scottish author Irvine Welsh, with a corresponding dialect of the target language. However, this option usually comes with a lot of problems. Imagine yourself reading Welsh’s cult-status novel Trainspotting which takes place in Edinburgh where the narrators speak with a Scottish dialect represented by the author’s use of non-standard orthography, but in the translated version of the novel, Mark Renton and Francis Begbie are using Belgrade jargon and instead of the Edinburgh district Leith, they are hanging out in Belgrade’s Block 22. This would be inevitable if this translation technique were to be used, since the change of dialect would have to be accompanied by transposing the narrative to the target background. Unlike theatrical adaptations, which can withstand this type of localization fairly well, the novel would become almost unrecognizable. Can you even imagine a translation where the characters were still in Edinburgh, but were using Belgrade slang?

The second strategy implies standardization, i.e. replacing the source dialect with the standard target language. However, it is clear that the use of dialect in a work of literature serves a purpose and accomplishes a certain goal, whether it is placing the characters in a specific spatial and temporal context, indicating differences in status between those who use the standard and those who use the non-standard language variant, or for other reasons. A certain level of standardization within the translation is usually inevitable, but translators should always try to recognize the importance of non-standard language elements, and then try to transfer them to the translation in a way that is most appropriate.

The third strategy combines the elements of the previous two and entails using both the standard language and the elements of dialect in the target text. The best solution here would be to use neutral standard language which is altered in a way that creates a made up, surreal dialect. For example, using non-standard forms (lessgo, heya, ‘sup instead of let’s go, hey you, what’s up) combined with, for instance, changes in the established word order (Didn’t there you go? instead of You didn’t go there?). This type of change in standard language should help the reader recognize the dialectal nature of the language, whereas the translator would avoid all the problems caused by using the existing dialect of the target language. Still, translators should be careful not to go too far when choosing this option, meaning they shouldn’t go overboard and translate the text using an imaginary, barely understandable language.

Every language has its own distinctions and variants, and with the addition of the cultural dimension, it becomes evident that there is no universal, generally accepted solution for translating dialects. None of these strategies are perfect nor can they be used in every situation, but dialect should never be omitted in a translation. When coming face to face with dialect, a translator should choose the most practical strategy for the given situation, consider the context, the specific situation, and the text itself.



Translators are usually seen as mediators between two languages and their work as rewriting texts in another language. However, they are actually much more than that: translators are mediators between two groups of people, two mindsets, and two cultures. The cultures of groups of people speaking different languages, such as English and Serbian, can be quite distant, which can sometimes lead to certain complications in translation arising as a consequence of a lexical or even conceptual gap.

Lexical gap occurs when there is no word in the target language whose form, function and content corresponds to the word from the source language that is to be translated. An example of this is the English word sibling, which refers to a brother or a sister. In case of a lexical gap, the foreign word is translated using the linguistic material of the target language whose function and content correspond to the original word; in this case, brat or sestra (brother or sister).

A more complicated situation arises when the lexical gap stems from a conceptual gap, which occurs when the target culture does not recognize the meaning of the foreign word, and therefore has no word or a linguistic mechanism which can be used to translate the subject word. Such conceptual gaps are usually the consequence of the differences between the source and the target culture, and that constitutes the case of culture-specific words. This problem has three possible solutions.

The first solution is the transcription or the transliteration of foreign culture-specific words. In this way, new words enter the target language as loanwords. For example, the word sari was borrowed from Hindi and it refers to a special type of Indian dress which is not present in English and Serbian cultures, and therefore these languages have no word to describe it. Haggis and porridge are the names of a Scottish and an English dish which do not really exist in Serbian culture; these words were transcribed and they worked their way into the Serbian language as hegis and poridž. This process also occurs vice versa: slava is a custom specific for Serbian culture and does not exist in the Anglo-American culture, so the English language had to adopt this word in its original form.

The second solution would be to find a functional equivalent, i.e. a word or a phrase in the target language that has a similar meaning as the subject culture-specific word, if such a word or a phrase exists. For example, if someone from the English speaking world says that they are having casserole for dinner, it must not be translated with the word kaserola, even though this word exists in the Serbian language. While in both languages this word refers to a type of a deep pan used in cooking, in the English language it also refers to a dish made of meat, different vegetables and cheese which is prepared in such a pan. Therefore, it would be much more appropriate to use a similar dish in the translation, for example musaka (moussaka).

The third solution, usually the simplest one, is to use a hypernym, i.e. a more general term, to convey the meaning of a culture-specific word. For example, Americans might talk about going to Hawaii and drinking Mai Tais. Since this kind of drink is not that common in the Serbian culture, it can simply be said that they would like to drink cocktails. Furthermore, in the Anglo-American justice system, there are several terms for different kinds of lawyers (attorney, lawyer, barrister…). If someone is said to be a barrister, it would be best to translate this word as advokat (refers to any type of lawyer) and not go into specifics of their job.

When deciding on which technique is to be applied in the translation of culture-specific words, the medium and the context in which the subject word occurs must be taken into account. If the word is a part of a legal document or a book, this leaves us with enough room to explain its meaning in detail. The term itself can be more closely defined, a functional equivalent with additional explanation can be used, and there is even a possibility of using footnotes. However, if the word occurs in a movie or a TV show, the temporal and spatial limitations of this medium must be taken into account, so the use of hypernyms or transcription may be much more favorable.

In addition, the context in which the culture-specific word occurs, as well as its significance within that context must be considered. If this word is crucial to the entire text or if it is repeated many times, a hypernym is not an option. Moreover, if the word is mentioned in the movie, functional equivalents might not be an option if the visual part of the movie shows objects different from the ones mentioned in the translation.



Translating movies is surely one of the most interesting types of translation. However, it can under no circumstances be considered a simple process which can be carried out with ease. The translator is very much responsible for the success and popularity of the movie amongst the target audience, and this audience must primarily be drawn to see the movie and convinced to give it a chance. Some people choose to see a movie because their favorite actors star in it, some will choose it because it is the most recent work of a director they like, and some will simply like the poster. Nevertheless, a large number of people will watch a movie if they are intrigued by its title.

The translation of the title can sometimes turn out to be the most difficult part of the entire movie translation project. The original movie title is usually a short and compelling phrase (although there are movie titles which are quite lengthy for comedic purposes, e.g. Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking your Juice in the Hood) that only hints at the plot of the movie in such a way that it’s intriguing for the potential audience. Therefore, the translator usually must not provide the literal translation of the title and consider the job well done. What is much more important than the translation being faithful to the original title is its effect. In this case, the translators must engage all of their creative skills, as well as their knowledge of the mindset and passions of the target audience. In addition, the translators must cover the plot of the movie (which can be more than two hours long!) in just a few words, and at the same time they must not reveal too much so as not to affect the entire movie experience or spoil the twists and the overall feeling of suspense that the movie may contain.

One of the more favorable translations is the translation of the title The Silence of the Lambs. Namely, the title of this exciting thriller which follows a police investigation in which an FBI Academy student interviews the vicious killer and cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter, is Kad jaganjci utihnu in Serbia. This translation is quite faithful to the original, but the careful choice of words successfully embodies the chilling and slightly uncomfortable feeling that the movie itself creates in its audience. Furthermore, the title of the movie Pulp Fiction posed a particular conundrum for translators. The expression pulp fiction refers to sensationalist low-quality literature which was popular in the early 20th century. The title of this movie in Serbian is Petparačke priče (lit. Cheap Stories) which is a great match for this expression in the sense of denoting something that is not worth much (which does not refer to the quality of the movie itself). Another successful translation worth mentioning, which is considered by many to perhaps be even better than the original, is Prohujalo s vihorom (Eng. Gone with the Wind).

On the other hand, translators sometimes try so hard to make the movie title appealing to the target audience that they end up with translations which sound strange, to say the least. For example, the title of the first movie from the popular movie series American Pie was translated as Mangupi overavaju maturu (lit. Rascals Do Prom) in Serbia. Although this title successfully sums up the plot of the movie, it takes the focus away from the now infamous scene involving the traditional American apple pie. In addition, this translation proved to be quite problematic when, after the success of the first movie, the sequels were released in which the main characters, although still rascals, were not high school seniors anymore, and therefore did not go to prom. Nevertheless, probably one of the most questionable title translations is Bekstvo iz Šošenka (lit. The Escape from the Shawshank, original title: Shawshank Redemption). At first glance, this seems like a perfectly fine translation that is quite faithful to the original and sums up the plot quite nicely – and that exactly is the problem: it reveals too much. Namely, the literal translation would be Spasenje iz Šošenka (lit. Salvation from the Shawshank) or Iskupljenje u Šošenku (lit. Redemption in the Shawshank), which wouldn’t exactly reveal whether the salvation is actualized (i.e. leaving the prison after serving the entire sentence or by escaping) or it refers to the salvation and redemption of the prisoner’s soul. However, the official title of this movie in Serbian leaves no room for interpretation and it actually reveals the main plot twist, which ruins the experience for the audience.

As much as translating movies seems like an interesting and simple task, the challenges of this kind of translation must not be overlooked. The responsibilities of the translators are immense: they are responsible not only for providing a positive experience to the entire target audience, but also have their part in advertising the movie, because the translation (and especially the translation of the title) is an important factor which can affect the popularity and the success of a movie, as well as, of course, the profit it brings.



Translation is, or at least should be, a regulated and standardized process that results in a product, i.e. translation, of the highest quality. Although the quality of the target text depends on a number of different factors such as the quality of the source text, the deadline, the price, how focused the translator is etc., there are three basic steps – translation, revision, and proofreading – that should be taken in the translation process in order to always guarantee the satisfactory quality of the translation.

The first step, i.e. the translation, is a step that is implied and the step for which the client is always willing to pay. The following two steps – revision and proofreading – are just as important in the translation process. If these steps are skipped, there will almost certainly be errors in the target text that the translator has overlooked. Revision is the process of reviewing the text by comparing, or reading the original and the translation side-by-side. The person in charge of this step should have equal qualifications to the translator. In this way, the person reviewing the translation identifies errors made by the translator such as typos, wrong numbers, omitted words or sentence elements, word choice errors, and so on. This step is crucial for producing a high-quality translation. Without it, the client may end up with a translation of an invoice that says that they have to pay EUR 300 instead of EUR 300 thousand because the translator was not focused. The third, and often the final step, is proofreading. Depending on the source and target text, the task of proofreading, i.e. the final check of the translation without consulting the source text will be entrusted to a native speaker of the target language. Thus if the translation is, let’s say, from Serbian into English, proofreading will be done by a native speaker of English. Another reason why this step is so important is because even after the revision process, the target text might contain some syntactic and stylistic errors that the translator and the person in charge of revision simply fail to notice because their linguistic intuition is not on the same level as the intuition of a native speaker. If this step is omitted, the client will get an accurate and high-quality final product, yet it will probably not be 100% natural and adequate in terms of style.

In addition to these basic steps, there is another important segment to be considered in the process of checking the quality of the translation. If more than one translator is working on a large-scale project, in addition to revision and proofreading, it is also necessary that the translators agree on the terminology that they will be using, which is done either before or during the translation process. This step is necessary in order for the terminology and the style of the target text to be consistent and uniform after the translation process had been completed. If the translators are provided with a term base, they should stick to the existing terminology. In addition to accuracy, this guarantees terminological uniformity, which is crucial because translating the same concepts differently throughout the same text would cause confusion.

Finally, it should be noted that there are quality assurance tools that make this process not only easier, but also much more precise. These tools help identify inconsistencies, perform spellcheck, detect double spacing and formatting errors, etc. Such tools are very useful when one project is delegated to not only several translators, but also several people in charge of revision.

Therefore, quality assurance is just as important as the translation itself. It guarantees consistency, coherence, and accuracy of the target text, which is certainly what the client expects. With that in mind, it is clear that quality assurance, as a key element in the translation process, should never be omitted and disregarded, regardless of the length and complexity of the text.



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