what are some of the most glaring and significant mistranslations in movies? add spoiler tags if necessary, please.

I watch a lot of foreign language films, and read a lot of translated literature and I always try to imagine what I’m missing out on by not reading or taking in media in it’s original language.

In film, are there some significant mistranslations that has led non-native speakers of the language to interpret something different from the movie?



In John Wick, when he interrogates Francis the bouncer outside the Russian nightclub, John asks him if he’s lost weight. Francis responds, in Russian, “yes, 23 kilograms,” but the subtitle converts it to “over 60 pounds.” This completely destroys the fact that Francis was using code to tell John there were 23 guards inside.


Oh haha, that one’s great, thanks.

@canthidium@lemmy.world avatar

LMAO, that is quite funny. I mean it’s an accurate translation, but completely messes up the context.


It isnt though, 23kg is ~ 50lbs not 60

@canthidium@lemmy.world avatar

Oh, I didn’t check the math, but that’s even funnier.

@yessikg@lemmy.blahaj.zone avatar

Let The Right One In originally had horrible English subs


Oh I must have missed those, I really enjoyed that film


There was an episode of Homeland, where they hired a graffiti artist to paint some Arabic language slogans as set dressing. The slogans the artist chose? “Homeland is racist”, “Homeland is a joke, and it didn’t make us laugh”, “”, “Homeland is NOT a series”, “The situation is not to be trusted”, “This show does not represent the views of the artists”

@canthidium@lemmy.world avatar

LMAO, same vibes as those stories of Asian tattoo artists putting crazy sayings on white people wanting Asian lettering tattoos.


As that guy…I checked with 2 separate Asian folks I had connections with through work. And an image search online. I’m very confident that I still shouldn’t have got the kanji tats. 20 years afterwards.


Ho ho whaaaat! I didn’t hear about that, thanks. Did any crew realize that before filming or did those slogans make it on the screen?


Here’s the article I checked to refresh my memory; theguardian.com/…/homeland-is-racist-artists-subv… . The show runners never checked and it went to air uncensored.


Yes, just read it. Very cool of the artists,and i do like that the showrunners took it on the chin instead of denouncing the graffiti or the artists.

I think I only watched the first couple seasons of Homeland.


My toddler has been watching Moana a lot, and it’s got me to notice a deeply annoying phenomenon.

In the flashback vision scene, the voyagers are singing, and it’s subtitled “[SINGING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]”. Now, if we’re not meant to outright understand what they’re singing, it’s fine if they don’t add English subtitles, but I feel like it’s deeply disrespectful to not add subtitles in the language in which they are actually singing.

I’ve noticed versions of this in a few other places, where the subtitle just reads something like “[SPEAKING IN FRENCH]” instead of an actual French subtitle. If the viewer speaks French, then they would understand the audio, and if they were hard of hearing but could read French, then they would understand the subtitle, but they’re not going to get a bit of benefit out of SPEAKING IN FRENCH. It annoys the shit out of me.


I feel the same way every time I see that. It’s too common, and I think sometimes the writer or director is purposely not revealing something integral to the plot, but usually it’s just lazy production.

Someone was getting hanged yesterday in a TV show I was watching and he was desperately shouting his last words before being winched up, but the subs just said “speaking in French”


My favourite is in the tv show Keeping up appearances.

Hyacinth taking about someone: “She is out saving England or Wales”

The Swedish subtitles turned it into " Hon är utte och räddar England eller valar"

Which means " She is out saving England or whales "


Hahaha, awesome.



@canthidium@lemmy.world avatar

In ‘Parasite’, the “Ram-Don” scene.

Ram-Don was completely made up for the film for English speaking audiences. They actually say Jjapaguri (or Chapaguri) which is a portmanteau of two types of Korean instant noodles, Chapagetti and Neoguri. The subtitle translator found that Jjapaguri was difficult for English speakers to understand, but they would likely be familiar with the Japanese noodle dishes, Ramen and Udon, so she combined them into Ram-Don.

It’s doesn’t change the meaning too much, but I do take some issue with going from Korean to Japanese in the translation, kind of lumping different types of Asians under the same umbrella, especially since Jjapaguri is a uniquely Korean Dish. But I know people have differing opinions on this.

BONUS: That whole scene also subtlety illustrates the film’s theme of classism as well because Jjapaguri, is more of a cheap, comfort food. But Mrs. Park insists that sirloin is added, changing it into this fancy meal. There is another mistranslation here. Mrs. Park actually calls it “Hanu” (loosely meaning premium beef, similar to Japanese Wagyu in its reverence). Using sirloin, while not being a cheap cut of beef, doesn’t accurately reflect the significance of using such a high quality meat. The fact that the family can afford to use such premium beef in instant noodles so casually shows how wealthy they are. Jjapaguri is not an marker of wealth, but putting Hanu in it, definitely is.


Yeah, that’s a very interesting one also. Moving internationally because you don’t want to introduce Korean instant noodles to the audience.

And then saying sirloin instead of hanu or wagyu(which would have the same international problem) is also bizarre…

Thanks. You’re right, those are more subtle mistranslations, but I think they’re both great answers here.

@canthidium@lemmy.world avatar

I did read that they regretted using sirloin because it doesn’t have the same effect, but I do kinda wish they had done something other than ram-don. I mean, just call it instant noodles. I feel like most English speaking audiences would understand that, probably moreso than even Ramen or Udon, and especially making up a word.


Agreed, since the joke is such low class noodles mixed with high class beef, calling it instant noodles would make a lot more sense for a broader audience than a different new portmanteau that they’re not any more likely to understand.

ch00f, (edited )

In Akita Akira , didn’t the English dub totally change the gender of one of the characters?


Alita or Akira? I’m not familiar with an Akita


Autocorrect. Akira


Ah, thanks. My AI assistant says that in the Japanese movie, Kay was a transgender woman, but in the English dub, Kei was a cisgender woman.

But I don’t trust ai on complicated questions like this and can’t find any corroborating evidence for that.

That sound like what you were talking about?


While I don’t know about this specific example, that is quite a common practice.


I was thinking of Lady Miyako I think. I’m not a super big anime fan, I just remember a friend telling me about that when we saw it during a theater showing. In one of the American dubs, she has a man’s voice.


One of my favorites is in Volver. The woman murders her husband and had to come to the door when a neighbor knocks. She has blood splattered on her face.

The English translation has her explain “I cut myself,” while the original Spanish is a much funnier “women’s troubles,” which better explains the confused look on the neighbor’s face.


Hahaha! I saw volver!

The original translation is way funnier, thanks.


There’s the one in Shang Chi where his dad says something like “Be careful how you speak to me. I’ve lived ten of your lifetimes.” in Chinese to another high ranking person, but what he really said was, “I’ve eaten more salt than you have eaten rice.” which sounds much cooler IMO.


Oh yeah that’s very cool. So the line" I’ve lived tens of your lifetimes" is the subtitled translation?


Yeah, they went with that one for the official subtitles.


Good share, the line he actually says is much more poetic.

Do you know if that has an analog Chinese saying?

Or is that a Chinese saying?

@CorrodedCranium@leminal.space avatar

This makes me think of Pokémon and Sailor Moon. The jelly donut and calling a lesbian couple cousins respectively. I wonder what, in movies, has been edited to either make it recognizable to western viewers or to avoid controversy?


I’m not familiar with either of those incidents, can you elaborate?

Yes, I can’t imagine how many countless times mistranslations have occurred and audiences in one country think something means something it just doesn’t mean.


It was a common issue with anime localization in the 90s, especially when it came to media for children.

The “jelly donuts” from pokemon were actually onigiri, but the translators thought that American children wouldn’t know what a rice ball was, so they just called them jelly donuts.

In Sailor Moon’s case, the network would not let them show a full-out lesbian couple in a cartoon for children, so they were rewritten in the dub to be cousins instead. Standard 90s homophobia aside, that one was especially egregious because you could very clearly tell they had a romantic relationship, so it just made them look like incestuous lesbians instead.


Haha, oh awesome. Thanks.

I’ve only watched a couple episodes of pokémon and just a few clips of sailor Moon, but now I’ll have to dive into the American incestuous cousins, that’s pretty hilarious. “Don’t make them lesbians, just make them cousins that hook up. Americans understand that.”

Although I’m also surprised that Japanese anime had an openly gay couple. It seems like they give their artists broad license with respect to government and popular cultural sentiment , but it’s still such a conservative country, especially in terms of homosexuality, that I wouldn’t have thought Japanese networks would’ve allowed a lesbian couple to appear on popular anime.


Oh yeah, Japan is a bit weird that way, or it might be more accurate to say that the west is weird.

The anti-gay sentiment you see in conservatives in the west largely stems from Judeo-Christian doctrine.

In Japan, Abrahamic religions are in the extreme minority so oftentimes homosexuality isn’t seen as a sin but rather just something that differs from the norm.

However, Japanese society is also more intolerant to differences, so instead homosexuality ends up in this weird grey area where it’s used mostly for drama or humor in the media, but in real life it’s very much a case of “don’t ask, don’t tell”


That’s what I meant by how conservative Japan was, they appear to give more license to caricatures and stereotypes in their arts than they would allow in society, but that does not leak into day-to-day life, the government and the public are extremely intolerant of the other in general.


I don’t have any specific examples, but the things that don’t translate well are usually either jokes relying on an understanding of the culture or wordplay.

This is typically either solved with a TL note explaining the situation, or the whole joke is replaced with something else.


You also have the method of translateing the joke even when it doesn’t work.

@canthidium@lemmy.world avatar

I really wish they would just put a note in more often. I find it interesting and you learn a little about the culture when they show little jokes or sayings unique to them.

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