Translate the Loanwords Too
A subtrope of "Blind Idiot" Translation
and a relative of Recursive Translation
. This is when a work in one language uses a word from another language, but when the work is translated into the language which it borrowed that word from, the translators are thrown off and try to translate it (even though it's already in their language) instead of leaving it as is. There are a few possible outcomes;
- In the case of loanwords, they might remain untranslated, even if they're used differently in the work's original language.
- The phrase might be reworded either because the translator fails to realize that it's a word from their language or is determined to translate every part of the script whether necessary or not.
- If the word is a loanword or has roots in another language entirely (for example, French phrases like "coup de grace" or Greek and Latin suffixes like "phobia" are both used in English often enough to be treated as a part of the language), then it's translated from that (for example, phobia becomes "fears" and "coup de grace" becomes "blow of mercy"). This makes even less sense than the above, as it requires that the translator realise they're dealing with a word that's supposed to be foreign.
- Finally (and possibly more benevolently), the translator might translate words in the original script which are in the language being translated into the language of the original script to Keep It Foreign, or just apply a Translation Correction if the script's original implementation of the translator's language was badly done.
However, bear in mind that loanwords sometimes evolve into "false friends," acquiring a different meaning in the new language. While 'confetti' is borrowed from Italian, we haven't taken very good care of it: it means "sugared almonds" in its mother tongue. Conversely, a German might think that she doesn't need to tell an English speaker what 'handy' means... except that it's a noun meaning "mobile phone" in German.
When someone demands something be translated from a language they speak anyway, it's Completely Unnecessary Translator
; if they simply took something in the original language that would be too rude for native speakers
, it's Tactful Translation
; if the "same" language actually does need translating, it's Separated by a Common Language
. "El Niño" Is Spanish for "The Niño"
is the inverse
; when a phrase from the first language is left untranslated because it's a loanword in the second.
open/close all folders
Anime And Manga
- Some fansubs of the Soul Eater anime translate "Arachnophobia" (the name of the antagonists' organisation) from the Japanese script into "Fear of spiders" or "Fear of Arachne".
- A small one shows up in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. In one scene Kyon says a few words in Japanese, then in English. In the dub and some subs he does the opposite.
- Parodied in Excel Saga: At one point there's an English text scroll, so there are Japanese subtitles. The English version then provides a hilariously inaccurate translation of those subtitles.
- There is a fansub of Yu-Gi-Oh! which humorously translates duro/draw (as in draw a card) as "pick."
- The "Ripoff Church" from Black Lagoon was translated as the "Church of Violence" in several fansubs. The official subs (and dub) keep the name intact.
- In Sailor Moon:
- In general, foreign translations of Sailor Moon often translate the Calling Your Attacks incantations, even though in the original Japanese version they were in English — and thus meant to be in a different language.
- Some attack names mix Japanese loanwords from European languages with English words, which can get confusng quickly. Conflict often arises between those who want a literal translation of all non-Japanese dialogue and those who prefer to smooth things out to sound better in English. As a result, the same attack can easily have about three or four different names depending on who you ask. Take Sailor Mercury's シャボンスプレー, for example. Shabon Spray? Sabão Spray? Soap Bubble Spray ("soap" being the English translation of the loanword "shabon")? Who the hell knows?
- An infamous case in the original Tokyopop translation of the Sailor Moon manga in Act 39 of the Dream arc, which wasn't about a single word, but an entire English poem by W.B. Yeats. Portions of his "The Second Coming" were translated back into English without recognizing that it was originally an English poem. (This was fixed in later releases.)
- In the German dub of Sailor Moon (at least as seen on TV), the "make up" part of the Sailors' transformation invocation was overly literally translated to "mach(t) auf!", despite already being a perfectly fine loanword in German. It managed to not come across as entirely ridiculous on account of the translated phase in turn basically meaning "open!" or "unlock!" — which actually works pretty well in context, too.
- Even The Nineties english dub renamed them, and often gave the same attack multiple names...
- The translators who worked on Megaman NT Warrior somehow managed to mistranslate half the Gratuitous English. Not only was it in English to begin with, but the first two Mega Man Battle Network games had already been released in English without any of the same errors. Yet somehow, many instances of "punch" became "thump", and many a "bomb" became a "boomer". This was actually do to Executive Meddling on the part of Kids WB, which aired the English version of the show.
- Diablomon served as the villain of the Digimon Adventure movie Our War Game. When the film was dubbed as part of Digimon: The Movie, he became "Diaboromon", a possible pronunciation to a Japanese tongue. This doubled as avoiding mentioning the Devil.
- The same film also translates Cherubimon as "Kerpymon", possibly another way of dodging around religious references.
- In later appearances, Cherubimon is used as the name of the same Digimon, to keep in line with Seraphimon and Ophanimon.
- Also, "Arukeni" is the Japanese pronunciation of "Arachne," making calling her "Arukenimon" instead of "Arachnemon" another case of changing the name by not changing it. It does, however, serve to keep the secret of the fact that she turns into a Giant Spider. The card game has many such situations where the names are romanized and then left alone, making English words into non-words. The show usually corrects this.
- Similar to Diablomon/Diaboromon above, Bra from Dragonball GT became Bulla, likewise a technically possible pronunciation in Japanese, to avoid mentioning feminine undergarments.
- An early release of Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, released by Streamline Pictures, had a glaring example of this; throughout the movie, Lupin was named "Wolf".
- Adventures of Captain Vrungel used "obviously bowdlerized dub" gag (see above), including "cretino!" dubbed as "untranslatable wordplay".
- Jorge Luis Borges initially named one of the volumes of his collected works with the English The Maker, which he then translated into Spanish as El hacedor. The first English translators were unaware of Borge's intentions, and were unsure how to translate "hacedor" (which can mean either "maker" or "doer"), so they just sidestepped it and named the book Dreamtigers (after one of the stories from the book).
- In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Professor Aronnax recalls an expedition to the Nebraska badlands, which he gives in the original French as les mauvaises terres du Nebraska. Some English translators have failed to recognise the term, resulting in translations like "the disagreeable territory of Nebraska".
- In the short story "The Chief Designer", Russian spacecraft names usually left in Russian when being discussed in English (Vostok, Mir) are translated into English as well ("The East", "The Peace").
- In a Russian translation of The Road to Oz from the Land of Oz cycle, the character name Polychrome was translated into Russian, into something like "Manycoloria".
- In Otherland, a German-speaking character is in a virtual reality simulation with an automatic and near-instantaneous language translator. When she attempts to use the word "doppelganger", the software insists on rendering it in English as "double-goer", despite "doppelganger" being a loanword.
- A background character in one of E. M. Delafield's Provincial Lady novels is overheard asking how to say "charabanc" in French. Her friend replies that it is "autobus".
- Near the end of The Guns of the South, a manifesto for the AWB recovered from the raid on their offices in Richmond, after they've turned on the Confederacy contains a reference to Adolf Hitler and Mein Kampf. The problem is that the book is written entirely in Afrikaans, and Afrikaans didn't exist in 1868 (It did, by the way.), so the translator the Confederates bring in is left to translate it from his knowledge of German and Dutch, as well as his own guesswork. Since Mein Kampf didn't exist yet either, the translator translates it as My Struggle when reading the reference back to Lee.
Live Action Television
- Doctor Who: In-universe example in "The Fires of Pompeii" - a running gag is that while the TARDIS allows the Romans to hear English as Latin, they interpret The Doctor's and Donna's Latin phrases and loanwords as "Celtic" (although it's never made clear if Donna's "veni, vidi, vici" was translated into period Celtic or into modern English and/or gibberish that the merchant simply assumed was Celtic).
- Another in-universe example, in Only Fools and Horses: Delboy knows the French for "duck", but can't figure out how to translate the "a l'orange" bit of his favourite meal.
- Spoofed in the liner notes for P.D.Q. Bach's composition "Capriccio 'La Pucelle de New Orleans'", which at one point "translates" the lyrics, "Hinky dinky do you speak."
- Yu-Gi-Oh! does a fantastic job of this with one class of cards. In the original Japanese, the class is called 'Ritua', a corruption of the English 'Ritual', because the set focuses on ritual summoning. In English, it is called 'Gishki', a corruption of the Japanese word for ritual, 'Gishiki'. Needless to say, the fanbase was actually rather impressed.
- Another one was the Karakuri, a series of machines who all have a given model number. The English version had the idea of keeping the model number, but to emphasize the Japanese-ness of the series, they added a second identifier consisting of the Karakuri's model number as pronounced in Japanese - so "Karakuri Soldier 236" became "Karakuri Soldier mdl 236 'Nisamu'" - 'ni-sa-mu', of course, meaning '2-3-6.'
- There are some straighter examples, as well - probably the most famous is Sangan. Its English name is Japanese for "three eye", given that Sangan has three eyes... but its Japanese name was simply "Kuritta"... or "Critter."
- A subset of Transformers fans, particularly prior to 2000 or so, was fervent about referring to characters by their "Japanese" names when talking about Japanese G1 series. You know, where the leader was actually "Comboi", not that crazy "Convoy" term other fans would use when talking about Optimus Prime's Japanese name. Another notable one is insisting on using "Minelba" instead of "Minerva".
- The Other Wiki does occasionally; for example, their article on Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater gives the Japanese "name" in katakana, and then romanizes it to "Metaru Gia Soriddo Suri Suneku Ita".
- IMDB has similar issues sometimes. It used to be far worse, but has been cleaned up considerably in the past few years... yet there are still the likes of "Bîsuto uôzu chô seimeitai Toransufômâ supesharu" or rather "Beast Wars: Super Life Form Transformers Special".
- This quote from X-Play reviewing Gladiator the game:
Young Augustus Ceasar (thinking): "'Et tu, Brute...' And you, Brutus...."
Morgan: "That's right: He's translating Latin — to himself!"
- Good translations, fan and official, often do this because of the Gratuitous English trope, and the fact that many loanwords aren't used by the borrower in the same manner as in the original language. Chances are, you've probably never heard 'diamond' shortened to 'dia,' ice cream merely called 'ice,' or a two-person team called a 'combi' if you're a native English speaker. In the same vein, there are even terms that are not immediately recognizable as English (such as portmanteaus of two words' katakana spellings. Dekotora = decorated truck.note ) You can get even more confusing with "tension" - which can mean excitement. Think of an upcoming game, battle, Cooking Duel, or somesuch. Leaving it turns the character's feelings of "Oh, yeah!" into "Oh, Crap!" - the exact opposite of what the writer intended the speaker to be feeling. There's more where those examples came from, in each category.
- This extends to names, too. When you're translating something that uses loanwords from literature, it can get a little draining. Like the Sailor Moon-Yeats example above, entire themes can be missed because someone didn't read Othello.
- Brazilian former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso saw fit to explain to an English speaker interviewing him what French loanword "malaise" meant. All of that in a horrible pronunciation of English.
- A joke on Mock the Week went: "I don't know why they insist on calling it a putsch when we have a perfectly adequate English word: coup d'état." Which is French. The actual English is probably mutiny or overhaul, but the foreign ones are so much better.
- George W Bush's complaint that the French have no word in their language for "entrepreneur."
- James Fallows of The Atlantic recalls a time when a Japanese person once asked if there was an English counterpart for the Japanese concept of ニュアンス, or nyuansu. That is, "nuance."