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Translation Train Wreck
"My gift, can I use my own instincts as you?"
Sometimes translations are bad
. And sometimes they pass bad at warp speed and crash headlong into the wall around the galaxy
As seen on this page
, when a translation goes from odd word choices and stilted grammar that is still somewhat parseable into the realm of pure gibberish, you have a Translation Train Wreck. This is especially common in bootleg translations, where the "localization team" has little budget, less incentive, and may not even speak the language they're translating to. In the case of little or no knowledge of the target language, they may guess as to the meaning and structure of what they need or use a direct machine translation.
This often results in a Good Bad Translation
, although these tend to apply more to generally okay translations with a few funny mistranslations.
A Sister Trope
of "Blind Idiot" Translation
. Often caused by Recursive Translation
. May also include Translate the Loanwords Too
Compare Gag Sub
, a conscious choice usually made in fansubs
and the subtitled counterpart of a Gag Dub
Compare My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels
, Either World Domination or Something about Bananas
and Intentional Engrish for Funny
, where a fictional character manages to botch a language beyond all recognition. Also see Word Salad Humor
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Milking in Ambulance (Anime & Manga)
Fun Falconing (Films)
- A Chinese bootleg of "Bad Boys 2" has a lot of random "Damn"s scattered around, an instance of "Do Not Want", "I love your father", and many more hilarious butcheries of the original dialogue that don't belong in any sense of the movie.
- There is a bootleg copy of Revenge of the Sith with subtitles that skip bizarre and start off in the Twilight Zone. The dogfight dialogue appears to be about prostitution, a stolen piano, and a bath tub. It gets worse.
- In another bootleg of the same movie, pictured here, at least two instances of "no" were inexplicably rendered as "do not want", which is now a long-established meme. In fact, the original name of this article was "Do Not Want."
- In all Sinic languages there're no straight word for the Big "NO!"; they only have a negator that is used as an adverb. Since this is Hong Kong, let's use Cantonese as an example: the negator in this case is n̏g, but since it's an adverb, it has to be used with a verb, which is, in this case, "hóu" (to get, to need, to want). As a result, a Recursive Translation of the Big "NO!" would make into "Do Not Want."
- Interestingly, the most common, context-free "no" statement in Mandarin would literally translate as "not yes".
- "R2, do you is fucking" was another line from the bootleg which reached similar levels of infamy.
- Said bootleg also included such gems as "Allah Gold, you can not sit in Presbyterian Church" when referring to Anakin and the Jedi Council, and had the full title of Star War: The Third Gathers: Backstroke Of The West.
- The defining characteristic of Presbyterian churches is that each church is controlled by a council of elders, or presbyters. Jedi Elder Council -> Religious Council of Elders -> Presbyterian Church
- Somehow, Obi Wan's line "Don't try it!" became "Is!", and the Sith became "The West". Similarly, "Darth Vader" was translated as "Reaching the west of Reaches".
- The Sith are additionally called as "bigs" according the senator. (Backed up by Obi Wan saying "...we are for 'the big'.") "The West" refer to their ambitions as "becoming strong and big". Also, the "The West" can be killed by...their land, which apparently lets them go to bed.
- Funnily enough, Yoda's lines sound like things he actually would say.
- A few examples of the most spectacular nonsense lines:
Obi-Wan: Like, reach the man, good good good let us counterattacking.
Count Dooku: You are a sacrifice article that I cut up rough now.
Battle droid: Superior, they have escaped a day after the fair. ("General, we have found the Jedi.")
General Grievous: (responding) I should really feeds you all dog. ("Activate the ray shields")
Palpatine: They are just a flock of to fish for fame its person.
Obi-Wan: Disabled person must solve. ("Only a Sith deals in absolutes")
Obi-Wan: I was old. ("Always on the move...")
Anakin: Ratio Tile, the wish power are together with you. ("Obi-Wan, may the Force be with you.")
- "I have the high ground!" became "The geography that I stands compares you superior!"
- "You are already at full cock now."
- Obi-Wan and Anakin keep referring inexplicably to the "elephant", who apparently is good.
- For the truly curious: "good elephant" (好象)is a homonym of the Chinese characters for "seems like" (好像). This is just one example of why word-for-word translation is an epically bad idea.
- And then there's a dubbed version.
- Darth Plagueis becomes "reaching the man cloth space", who could use the "original dint" to create life. He became more and more strong and big, until he lost his power and died. After teaching all skills whole only to [his] disciple, cloth space's land killed him to let him going to bed. Also, "Mr. Speaker" or "the D" (Palpatine) is both the speaker and prime minister of the senate, as well as the governor of the city of Coruscant (which is redundant) and a west. The Presbyterian Church seems to be behind the hopeless situation warriors (which are renamed heroes ground later on for no apparent reason) but they may or may not be using them to usurp the D. The D later goes on to form "The Empire of the First Choice." Evidently, the D gets the choice.
- In a minor quibble, everything from a starfighter to a giant space battleship is referred to as an airship. Even the Escape Pod, which becomes the "first aid airship."
- Somehow in the Indonesian subbed version of Live Free or Die Hard, there are always references to the non-existent soya-bean cakes. This is caused by the words 'know' and 'tofu' being a homonym (tahu) in Indonesian.
- Several bootlegged versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, again made famous through screenshots posted on the Internet — for instance, these taken from The Two Towers.
- The bootleg sub creates a Hilarious in Hindsight moment when Sam asks Frodo◊ "Why so serious?"
- "Bring your pussy face to my ass!"
- The bootleg subs for The Fellowship of the Ring are a little more coherent, but still contain plenty of errors. Most bafflingly, any mention of Isildur's name is erased, resulting in Sauron supposedly being killed by another guy who also happened to be called Sauron, and the person who failed to throw the One Ring into Mount Doom being variously said to be either Elrond or Legolas at various points in the film.
- The Hobbit managed to get its own rather interesting translation. One bootleg of The Desolation of Smaug managed to somehow make it that, rather than promising Azog Thorin's head, Sauron promises (to give) him head.
- A bootleg of Van Helsing translated "It's carnivorous... about 360 pounds, 8 and a half to 9 feet tall..." as "It has 360 feet. Go to carnival."
- "How long has it been? Two, four hundred years?" was rendered as "How long has it been since we fled Hambling Hills?"
- Parodied on the Special Edition DVD release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which has subtitle options in several languages, in addition to the fake-Swedish "mřřse" subtitles during the opening credits (which cannot be turned off, as it would ruin the gag). One set of subtitles is labelled "Subtitles For People Who Don't Like The Film" and consists entirely of lines from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2. It's occasionally thematically related to what happens on-screen... sort of.
- There is a Shrek bootleg that had subtitles that look like the movie had been run through William Shakespeare, in the writing style, anyway. And it was brilliant. As an example, the mentioned bootleg refers to Lord Farquad as "Lord Fire Squad" in almost every instance.
- There's a bootleg of the first Spider-Man movie that's full of horrible subtitles, but the most inexplicable was when Osborn's line "Forty thousand years of evolution and we've barely even tapped the vastness of human potential" was translated simply as the word "Change."
- Speaking of Spider-Man, there's also this bootleg of Spider-Man 3 with such characters as Peter Pa Gram and Admire Rui. "You is really a papaya," indeed.
- And he seems to want someone to take Zhao somewhere...
- And the cheering crowd saying "How do you do."
- "You are personal residue." "At once fuck off."
- "You of the clothes hurriedly take off."
- And of course, "Peter wants to kill us."
- This subtitle script of Home Alone 4. It seems almost Shakespearian.
- A bootleg copy of the musical Chicago had rather odd subtitles, such as "I will be a loaf" and "Some guys just can't hold their ass in it".
- In a Japanese edition of Sukeban Deka: Codename = Asamiya Saki (otherwise known in the West as Yo-Yo Girl Cop) the English subtitles seem to have been generated by attempting to translate the individual words directly into English, including the names. The seemingly meaningless phrase "of temple" keeps recurring in the dialogue — as a translation of Asamiya, the heroine's family name.
- One bootleg of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom contained subtitling errors that, while pretty minor compared to other examples on this list, are still pretty amusing. For instance, the vase the Indy finds at the start of the film is referred to as being from "Mong's Dynasty," Short Round became "Shoot Ground" and the Kali-worshipping Thuggees became the "Sacky Cult," who we are told made human sacrifices in the name of "Colly."
- Screenshots from a Japanese bootleg of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Or, should we say, Harry Potter and Zahafuburaddopurinsu. The name "Hedwig" is always translated as "Angry Inch".
- And an equally hilarious Chinese bootleg of Goblet of Fire, featuring such oddly named characters as Khalifa, 61516, and Lunduidu Sha MA Maxim. And this one of Order of the Phoenix, likely from the same people. Both translate Azkaban as "marriage". Al Bundy would approve. The Phoenix one manages to translate "I" as either "France" or "the French" and "it" as "hypothermia", resulting in the line "Hypothermia should be fun."
- The Prisoner of Azkaban ended up with a perfectly accurate subtitle script... for the Dolph Lundgren movie Detention.
- Screenshots◊ from a bootleg version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets have popped up. In addition to butchering everyone's names horribly, the bootleg inexplicably renders the word "Muggle" as "Melon" and "Petrified" as "Stoned". Lord Voldemort's name is also turned into "Fodi," which would be bad enough by itself, but leads to an absolutely jaw-dropping moment later in the film when the phrase "I AM LORD VOLDEMORT" is written on-screen in huge letters, with a small caption reading "I am Fodi" underneath it. Clearly some translators don't know when to give up.
- In a Chinese bootleg of the film version of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the children are on a raft whilst leeches are approaching. However, the Chinese subs have them screaming "The Lychee Trees are coming!"
- A Chinese bootleg DVD of Ip Man 2 is flooded with subtitle errors, some of which are ridiculously bad. A few notable ones include calling Ip Man "Leaf Question" (The characters are "葉問" and do translate literally as such), and another scene where the subbers apparently just stopped caring and substituted "fubu fu" for another line. Of course, Hilarity Ensues.
- A Chinese bootleg of The Princess and the Frog, while not too bad compared to others, had difficulties with the accents of various characters - Ray's 'Y'all from Shreveport?' was subtitled as '1, 2, 3, 4'.
- A simple search of dialog online turned up a copy of X2: X-Men United made much more introspective by adding the subtitles to Amélie.
- Back before Avengers came out on DVD, there was a bootlegged copy floating around with wonderful gems such as Loki being renamed "Rocky" and the Tesseract being called a Rubix Cube. A favorite, however, is this one:
Loki: Tell me what you need.
Hawkeye: I need bait... and eyeliner.
- When Bollywood movies are given English subtitles, there often seems to be a tendency for the translators to write the subtitles in excessively formal English. Thus, the characters onscreen will be cool, casual young people who seem to be talking in the most formal way possible, when in fact they are actually talking casually. The relaxed, casualness of many characters' dialogue apparently gets lost in translation very often.
- The English subtitles of the South Korean Slasher Film Record give us gems like "You are nothing but a Hell kite!" and "Everybody die not long time".
- The same translator(s) responsible for Backstroke of the West got their hands on another two films in the summer of 2005:
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith had Jane Smith variously renamed as either "Chien" or "Jean." It also changed the codeword Jane uses with a contact (just before meeting John for the first time) to the rather more amusing "Do you fuck here?"
- War of the Worlds had a grinning Tom Cruise tell his son early in the film, "Play baseball with me, otherwise I will kill you." Cruise also reacted to his daughter's abduction by screaming "Not, not, not want!"
- The captioner for District 9 got a little confused by the Afrikaans words dropped into mostly-English dialog. When Wikus sees a prawn gnawing on a tire and yells "Voetsek!" ("Scram!"), the caption reads "Food sack!".
Limbness on the Darkness (Literature)
- Pedro Carolino's English As She Is Spoke. For those who have never heard of it, it's a Portuguese-to-English phrasebook that was written by someone who did not speak English, using a Portuguese-to-French phrasebook and a French-to-English dictionary. The result, needless to say, is quite unintelligible, and hilarious to English speakers.
- Actually, it's a bit funnier than that even. Not only did he translate from Portuguese to English by way of French, while not knowing English; he apparently had an extremely limited knowledge of French, as well.
- Similar to the above is the book How to Correctly English in Hundred Days, from the Correctly English Society of Singapore.
- There is a book for sale on Amazon entitled How to Good-bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?. The only intelligible English in it is the stunned responses from the author's equally word-blender Usenet posts.
Long-Gasping Afrongs (Live-Action TV)
- In-Universe: Monty Python'sFlyingCircus has the infamous 'My Hover Craft Is Full Of Eels' Dirty Hungarian Phrase Book
- This rather hilarious collection of screencaps from a Stargate Atlantis bootleg. "Defendoofs"!
- An infamous one in the tokusatsu fandom is the Hong Kong subs of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger The Movie: Full Blast Action, which rendered a villainess' "Scorpion Whip" attack as "Scorpion Penis". The phrase instantly became a minor meme within the fandom.
- On this subject, the HK subs for Hurricaneger vs. Gaoranger translated the name of Gao Red's Gao Mane Buster as "Gao Main Bastard". It's become a joking insult in the fandom.
- An HK sub of Kamen Rider Black RX has the villains searching for "the strongest queer guy" and the eponymous Rider referred to as "Black Superman."
- And nearly a decade later, we had Coolguy!
- Really, when it comes to tokusatsu, and especially Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, HK subs can always be counted on to provide enough laughs and Drinking Games to last for years.
- One of the episodes of the 1994 season of Catch Phrase when it airs on Challenge airs with a subtitle track taken from another episode. As you can imagine, none of the answers match up, as well as the subtitles being horribly out of place with the actual dialogue
- An in-universe example of this occurred in the Christmas 2010 episode of Only Fools and Horses prequel Rock and Chips, "Five Gold Rings". Freddie Robdal told Joanie Trotter a French phrase roughly meaning "I am enjoying this food" while driving her home. Joanie then repeats this at the Trotters' dinner, and while it remains vaguely recognisable, she totally butchers the grammar and syntax of the phrase. The young Del Boy overhears this and thinks he'll impress his new girlfriend's parents by telling them the phrase, but mangles it even more and instead ends up telling them about how he enjoys a certain sexual position.
- The Japanese automotive video magazine Best Motoring was released in Hong Kong around 1999-2000, with butchered English subtitles.
Mars Riding Cocks (Merchandise)
- If you know where to look, you can buy 150 Yu-Gi-Oh! CCG cards, including rare ones, for around $1.50. Unfortunately, the Winged Dragon of Ra might read "Magic Dragon with Wings [Legend beast junta] Fairy is sing. Powerful strength is charging the world that means all the life, ghost so much as skeleton." And let's not forget "Black cows magician" instead of "Magician of Black Chaos".
Malnutrition Longing (Music)
- The Engrish Eurobeat cover of TM Revolution's Hot Limit (We Drink Ritalin). As with most English-language covers of J-Pop.
- Although to be fair Eurobeat songs rarely makes sense, even when they are originally in English.
- The Japanese vinyl of the single "Stranger In a Strange Land" by Iron Maiden has hilarious translation errors on the lyric sheet, especially the rap part of "The Sherriff of Huddersfield".
Vark Long New Sex (Video Games)
- Keitai Denjuu Telefang was only ever released in English as a pair of bootleg games known as Pokémon Diamond (not to be confused with the authentic Pokémon game called Pokémon Diamond released alongside Pokémon Pearl) and Pokémon Jade. The translation leaves quite a bit to be desired. For just two examples:
- One character, apropos of nothing, shouts out "It must be sedge!" in the midst of a dialogue due to the translator confusing sugei (awesome) with suge (sedge).
- A character originally known as "T-Fanger" is translated into "T-Mildew"; the translator apparently having mistaken "fanger" for "fungus".
- There is evidence that Telefang was first bootlegged from Japanese to Chinese first, then from Chinese to English, which accounts for the horrid translation.
- Final Fantasy Tactics skirts on this trope, especially in the tutorials: "Select the Job command that bundles up the Action Ability by the Job in the unit's sub-command". It also introduces creatures named "Cuar" (coeurl) and a dance named "Wiznaibus" (with knives).
- Dragons attacking with "Fire Bracelet" deserve a mention.
- "I didn't think the God made holy stones but... more evil... well... Lucavi made them to land in this world." Sorry, what?
- "No DRG for party, camp spot site with 30 dmg, but is it for 20 like 30 dmg when you no hit be it for dd, for 30 dmg instead? or half is 10 for 20 dmg?" This question was asked on an English Final Fantasy XI forum by a presumably Japanese poster, years ago. It has since taken on a life of its own, with recurring parodies and even short movies around the catch-phrase. (DRG is the abbreviation of the Dragoon job, but the rest makes no sense.)
- Someone once bought a supposedly undub version of Final Fantasy X on ebay, but ended up with a So Bad, It's Good bootleg version. Some examples:
I think Walter* is a good egg.
I am happy that Walter wants to arouse me.
Oh no. How can we be so free at the very time? hey!
Oh, at last we know nothing.
Hey grandpa, are you a chick?*
You are a romping guy.
I, Simon Chubby* am here as an individual.
- This LP of a bootleg version of Pokemon Crystal Version.
- This translation of Pokemon Green
Aochider: It's our first meeting!
Welcome to the world of pocket monster! My name is Aochider I was called. Dr PET was loved and esteemed by us all! Mother:
Oh yes!...Boys should go out to travel whenever he likes! H'm! It is said in TV! Dr. Aochider living in next door came to call you!
- A Youtuber known as 'Kevinhend' is posting a co-commentary Let's Play along with another Youtuber known as 'Catydoll409' on a badly translated pirated version of Pokemon Sapphire (Nicknamed Pokemon Crapphire). Watch it here.
- "My name is Odd! People call me Dr. Monster!" "Poke monster is mon!"
- "Pi dog drilled out!"
- "Yes! Mon Ball!"
- There's also a bootleg translation of Pokemon Emerald with similar lines, also done in a Pokemon Marathon by Extralives, along with various other bootleg translations.
- Pokémon Quartz was written by a teenage Spanish otaku in Gratuitous English, which he didn't speak fluently, with parts in Gratuitous Japanese, which he didn't speak at all. To top it off, the bulk of his jokes are either mocking cliches, or things that are taken for granted in Spain but unknown to English-speaking audiences.
- A Taiwanese unlicensed developer known as Vast Fame made some surprisingly good, if obscure, bootleg games for Game Boy. Unfortunately, though their programming may have been good, their English proficiency left much to be desired, as is evident in the following:
- Digimon Sapphire (GBC)
- "Want to do not be this imbecile to can't harm you also to is stayed come down."
- "I and Chiar is from small grow up together of greengage bamboo hobby horse!"
- Pokemon Ruby (GBC):
- "However become a basic term that grow the teacher, Is to acquire incumbent grow the approbation of the teacher"
- "My Simuda reachsed to enjoy your this type of person most. However light meeting top the hero is nothing doing!" (said by Simuda)
- Digimon Ruby (GBA):
- "Live in the human and digimon of this place to support mutually, each other it have no power, did war, to us, the figures world probably to is we many the year make track forto look for of fantasy paradise!"
- "What select inside of child I regardless!! Do you have method let me can return the original world??"
- Advance Guardian Heroes is wrought with odd and overly literal translations. The opening, in particular, will make absolutely no sense to anyone who hadn't played the original.
- Pathologic has a notoriously bad Russian to English translation, but the one for the game itself doesn't rise to the level of this trope. It can be confusing and bizarrely worded, but you can make out enough to play and at least somewhat follow the story; moreso for the Bachelor than the other two, but you still won't be utterly lost. The one for the manual on the other hand... well, the first paragraph is :
According to the world statistics quantity of population on the planet comes to 6 bln. It witnesses of an extreme density of population and as a result of natural resources shortage. At critical point there turn on natural mechanism of population limitation. Natural cataclysms and outrages of new, unknown before diseases prove the said above.
- It doesn't get any better from there.
- "How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us." Zero Wing was revived from obscurity by its incredibly Engrishy intro cutscene (which can be seen on the game's page), creating some persistent gaming catchphrases and still benefiting form the Watch It for the Meme effect. For Great Justice!
- Pump It Up NX Absolute's World Max mode. For example:
Select the biggest Velocity at last and Do Not step the Misses more than 10.
- Go buy a Shoddy Knockoff Product. Check the manual. Either this or "Blind Idiot" Translation is guaranteed.
- Stuart Ashen reviewed a particularly hilarious and incomprehensible LCD handheld called "Retieval Mankind's Batman."
- He also mentions something called Chanticleer Hegemony, which actually has him burst out in giggles upon finding it on the back of a knockoff handheld games console. God only knows what it was trying to say in the first place, but apparently it was a variation of the game known as Street Overlord...with chickens. Logically, the designers were trying to join the idea of a game about fighting chickens with the name of Street Overlord, and got Chanticleer (the name of a famous rooster) Hegemony (a concept of leadership or dominance, tangentially related to the concept of control, much like the word "overlord"). Doubles as a Word Salad Title.
- The Ace Attorney eroge doujin game Phoenix Drive is more famous for its bad translation than its erotic content in Western countries:
Oh snap!!! I do not hear such a truth!?
I will beat a rod till...a tank empties.
- The Spanish localization of Final Fantasy VII seems to have been done by people who had never seen a Spanish word in their lives before, using Babelfish. It includes awkward cut-and-paste translations from English ("partido" for "party" instead of the correct word, "equipo"), stupid censoring (Tifa owns a "storage room" instead of a pub), brain-melting statements ("Flowers don't grow in Midgar, but, for some reason, flowers do"), grammar errors a 5-year-old wouldn't make (such as simultaneously referring to Aeris as a boy AND a girl- "eres una nińo muy especial") and plain They Just Didn't Care spelling errors ("menç" instead of "menú"). And no, it's not a fan translation, it's the one Sony officially sold in Spain. Screenshots can be seen here.
- SNK's Arcade Game Athena had a flyer◊ with both Japanese and English text. The one complicated sentence was garbled into English as: "Knock down Cat's paw of Monarch Dante with weapons appearing one after another."
- The Civilization V expansion Gods and Kings apparently suffered an unusual case of a train wreck translation. The leaders in the game generally speak in their native language or a modern day relative. The leader Attila of the Huns is supposed to speak the Chuvash language (one theory being that it's the nearest extant relative of Hunnic) but whoever did the translation into Chuvash clearly didn't speak the language fluently which resulted in nonsensical grammar. This is exasperated by the fact that the voice actor seems to be even more unfamiliar with the language, using very odd pacing and pronunciation. The fact he was supposed to be speaking Chuvash wasn't even obvious to Chuvash speakers and it took a bit of time for them to decipher the intended meaning behind his speech.
- Dedactive Eventa 1, a Point-and-Click Visual Novel-type... "thing" made by an Iraqi dev team. Yes, that Iraqi. You click on revoltingly MSPainted globs of pixels which supposedly represent objects and people to try to somehow advance in the, erm, "game" only to be treated to dialogue that is completely and utterly incomprehensible. Words cannot describe it, you must see for yourself. It's so messed up that, as the video link shows, it singlehandedly brought Lowtax's Let's Play channel out of retirement.
Cowboys Moving Hardcore (Western Animation)
Top Is Table Doing Sex (Tabletop Games)
- Warhammer 40,000's official material often features exceptionally badly translated or declined Latin. This possibly moves into being a Justified Trope, as the various forms of the Imperial Language ("Gothic") may not actually be Latin ("High Gothic"), English ("Low Gothic") and Old English ("Proto-Gothic"), this is simply how Studio materials "render them". Certainly, in the game world, Low Gothic is essentially a linguistic splodge of real life languages, principally Spanish, English, Hindi, and Mandarin, and "Proto-Gothic" is simply a different form of Gothic to the one that is in widespread use where the story is set (ten thousand years worth of background includes linguistic shifts, after all). It is ambiguous whether or not High Gothic is supposed to be Latin, however, and the Imperium still apparently uses the Latin alphabet.
Ordinal Fabrication (Other)
Living Blood Real Long Time (Real Life)