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Poll: “Humor is the first gift to perish in a foreign language.”
Persoa que publicou o fío: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 01:24
PERSOAL DO SITIO
Jan 24

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "“Humor is the first gift to perish in a foreign language.”".

View the poll results »



 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 09:24
Membro (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Agree Jan 24

Humor doesn’t travel well among languages and is extremely difficult to translate. A joke in English for instance will not achieve the equivalent effect in Portuguese and vice-versa.

Angus Stewart
xanthippe
 

Justin Peterson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:24
Membro (2007)
Spanish to English
Not necessarily Jan 24

There is lots of humor that is universal, and translates just fine, jokes that work in Spanish and English, in Spain and the US, for example.

There are some jokes that contain cultural references that impede their cross-cultural transfer.

And there are some jokes that are funny to a certain people, from a certain country or nationality, that aren't funny in another, because of different sensibilities. This is very subjective, nuanced ... and interesting. After 20 year
... See more
There is lots of humor that is universal, and translates just fine, jokes that work in Spanish and English, in Spain and the US, for example.

There are some jokes that contain cultural references that impede their cross-cultural transfer.

And there are some jokes that are funny to a certain people, from a certain country or nationality, that aren't funny in another, because of different sensibilities. This is very subjective, nuanced ... and interesting. After 20 years here, my sense of humor is half-Spanish.
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Elke Fehling
Gibril Koroma
Katya Kesten
MollyRose
Vanda Nissen
Elizabeth Tamblin
Md. Tanjimul Islam Jiban
 

Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:24
Membro (2005)
English to German
+ ...


Posted via
ProZ.com Mobile


It doesn't translate well... Jan 24

... Or easily (oftentimes), but it doesn't necessarily perish in another language.

Who said that? I think that statement is a bit shallow, because translation rarely works by transferring words or sentences 1 to 1. Any experienced translator will know that...

[Bearbeitet am 2020-01-24 11:39 GMT]


Kaisa I
Giuliana Maltempo
Thayenga
Veronika Malíková
Katya Kesten
MollyRose
Yetta Jensen Bogarde
 

Angus Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:24
Membro (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Agree Jan 24

When I was living in France the thing I struggled most with was trying to understand their sense of humour as it doesn't translate well.

 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:24
Membro (2012)
French to English
Not sure Jan 24

Some excellent translators are clever enough to do it well. If done badly, it's at best cringeworthy, at worst incomprehensible.

Katya Kesten
 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 02:24
Membro (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree Jan 24

When I first came to Canada, I noticed how many humorous sayings and word plays we have in Dutch that sound totally wrong when translated. It's not surprising, really, because jokes are embedded in an entire culture, not only in the language.

Teresa Borges
 

Yetta Jensen Bogarde  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:24
Membro (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
I know what you mean Jan 24

Angus Stewart wrote:

When I was living in France the thing I struggled most with was trying to understand their sense of humour as it doesn't translate well.


First time I managed to make a joke that made the French laugh, it was a real victory.


Elizabeth Tamblin
Kay Denney
 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:24
Membro (2009)
German to Serbian
+ ...
That's quite rare. Jan 24

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

Some excellent translators are clever enough to do it well. If done badly, it's at best cringeworthy, at worst incomprehensible.


It depends on the type of humor as well. But if done well, it usually requires transcreation, not just translation.

As an example, a while ago I heard a joke from a French person, in French, and it involved word play / the humor was based on word play (moving different parts of a word around). While I automatically understood the word play, and what the joke was about, I did not feel it or connect to it. In other words, I got it on cognitive level, but not on emotional level, ie. it did not make me laugh. A few other jokes that I heard from the same person were funny and I did laugh.

Again, sometimes I don't find certain jokes funny in my language either. Or rather the way someone tells them is not funny/not engaging. It's a complex subject.


Elizabeth Tamblin
Katya Kesten
Kay Denney
 

Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 18:24
Membro (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
Exactly Jan 24

Justin Peterson wrote:

There is lots of humor that is universal, and translates just fine, jokes that work in Spanish and English, in Spain and the US, for example.

There are some jokes that contain cultural references that impede their cross-cultural transfer.

And there are some jokes that are funny to a certain people, from a certain country or nationality, that aren't funny in another, because of different sensibilities. This is very subjective, nuanced ... and interesting. After 20 years here, my sense of humor is half-Spanish.


Justin, I agree. Universal humour can be easily understood by all human beings (for example, "How to give a cat a pill" by Peter Egan), however some of the jokes heavily depend on the cultural background, like Russian political jokes.


MollyRose
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 09:24
Membro (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
@Elke Jan 24

Elke Fehling wrote:

Who said that? I think that statement is a bit shallow, because translation rarely works by transferring words or sentences 1 to 1. Any experienced translator will know that...

[Bearbeitet am 2020-01-24 11:39 GMT]


According to Google, it was said by Virginia Woolf.

https://www.foodfortranslators.com/2014/10/26/best-quotations-on-translation/


 

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 11:24
Membro (2008)
Greek to English
Disagree Jan 25

I don't think I'm any less funny (or more funny for that matter) when I'm speaking Greek than I am when I'm speaking English.

Greek humour and English humour are different, but have a large area of overlap. To be honest, I don't really understand the question, but "perish" certainly seems like an overstatement. If somebody wanted to ask how well humour translates from one language to another, then that's what they should have asked. (The answer is "sometimes well, sometimes badly").


Muriel Vasconcellos
Laura Kingdon
Mario Freitas
 

Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:24
Membro (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It depends Jan 25

Much humor is not translatable, even between countries speaking the same language, but on the other hand there are occasions when the translation actually works. I wrote an article about it, with examples, in Babel: http://www.murieltranslations.com/articles/linguistics_theory/a_functional_model_babel.pdf

The first pitfall is to atte
... See more
Much humor is not translatable, even between countries speaking the same language, but on the other hand there are occasions when the translation actually works. I wrote an article about it, with examples, in Babel: http://www.murieltranslations.com/articles/linguistics_theory/a_functional_model_babel.pdf

The first pitfall is to attempt a word-for-word translation and/or try to match the source syntax in the target language.

[Edited at 2020-01-25 06:49 GMT]
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Philip Lees
Mario Freitas
 

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 11:24
Membro (2008)
Greek to English
Jokes Jan 25

Muriel Vasconcellos wrote:

The first pitfall is to attempt a word-for-word translation and/or try to match the source syntax in the target language.

[Edited at 2020-01-25 06:49 GMT]


This applies to all translation, of course. Not just humour.

Translating humour is a bit like translating poetry, in that it appears to be a priori impossible, but sometimes you get lucky.

When I was a kid in the UK, there used to be a lot of Irish jokes going around. In all these, the Irishman was very stupid and that was the point of the joke. These things are not considered politically correct nowadays, but we used to find them funny.

I think most cultures have jokes aimed at such a "disadvantaged ethnic group". For Greeks, it's people from the Pontus region near the Black Sea. So in many cases you could take a UK Irish joke and translate it to a Greek Pontian joke and it would still work. In the US it's Polish people (or used to be); in France, the Belgians I think. It might be interesting to collect data on this from many countries and try to work out what the common factors are.


Lina Efthimiadou
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:24
Membro (2008)
Italian to English
Baby Jan 25

A while ago I tried out a new electric shaver when I was visiting from friends in Italy. When I came out of their bathroom they asked me how was my shave, and I replied, translating a very common English expression into Italian "smoother than a baby's bum". They looked at me with great concern, and nobody laughed.

 
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