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The translation of English idioms in the Lithuanian subtitle

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Edita Niauriene

on 18 November 2014

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Transcript of The translation of English idioms in the Lithuanian subtitle

The translation of English idioms in the Lithuanian subtitles of the film “Juno”
Presentation outline
1. Introduce a theoretical framework for the analysis:
a) definition of an idiom
b) types of idioms
c) problems of translating idioms
d) strategies used to translate idioms
2. Briefly comment on the movie Juno: its plot, reasons for choosing it
3. Analyse the translation of idioms in the Lithuanian subtitles of Juno
4. Draw conclusions
Defining an idiom
Classification of Idioms
Problems of Translating Idioms
Idiom Translation strategies
A 2007 comedy-drama film about Juno MacGuff, a 16-year-old high-school junior;
discovers she's pregnant after one event with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker;
makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child - to place the baby with an adoptive couple, Mark and Vanessa Loring.
- “a string of words whose meaning is different from the meaning conveyed by the individual words” (Larson, 1984, quoted in Adelnia)

- “frozen patterns of language” that have neither flexible patterns nor transparent meaning and cannot be deduced from their individual components. (Baker, 1992)
typology proposed by Fernando according to the level of idiomaticity (1996, p.35-36)
1. Pure Idioms - conventionalized, non-literal multiword expressions that cannot be understood by adding up the meanings of the words that make up the phrase.

2. Semi-idioms - partially opaque: have at least one literal element and one with a non-literal meaning.

3. Literal idioms - semantically less complex and easier to understand. They are transparent i.e. can be interpreted on the basis of their parts.

difficulties in distinguishing semi-idioms and literal idioms
1. A SL idiom may have no equivalent in the TL.
2. A SL idiom may have a similar counterpart in the TL, but is used in different contexts and have different connotations.
3. A SL idiom may have both literal and idiomatic meaning at the same time.
based on Baker (1992)
1. a number of instances of idiomatic expressions can be found;
2. well-known for Lithuanian audience (played in cinemas)
3. received different awards: Oscar, BAFTA Film Award, AFI Awards etc.


1) using an idiom with the same meaning and form,
2) using an idiom with the similar meaning but different form,
3) by paraphrase,
4) by literal translation,
5) by omission.
as proposed by Baker, 1992
English master subtitles - 1220
Lithuanian subtitles - 1002
Rationale for condensation:
- lack of equivalence;
- constrained by technical requirements of subtitling;
- unnoticed / ignored because of translator's incompetence and carelessness.

1. Watching the film in the SL (the English master subtitles used for idiom extraction)
2. Focus on the Lithuanian subtitles (idiomatic instances)
3. Comparison of SL idiomatic expressions in dialogues / master subtitles with the equivalents in the TL subtitles
subtitled into Lithuanian by an amateur subtitler Blink (e-mail provided)
master subtitles downloaded from www.opensubtitles.org
Total number of idioms analysed: 47
31 (66%) pure idioms
12 (25%) semi-pure idioms
4 (9%) literal idioms
Translating by paraphrase
English dialogue: You know I mean can't we just like kick this old school?
Meaning: to do sth in a way that is more in line with a traditional style
dialogue: And don't skip the hairy details we need to know about every score and every sore.
meaning: Every time she had sex and any STD she has.
dialogue: I think you definitely bring something to the table.
meaning: provide sth that will be a benefit
Using an idiom with similar meaning but dissimilar form
Translating by paraphrase
result: SL idiom retains its idiomatic aspect and expressive function through the use of simile.
result: an attempt to reveal the stylistic function
result: denotative aspect (direct meaning) of the SL idiom is rendered
Translating by paraphrase
dialogue: she is not the brightest bulb in the tanning bed.
meaning: having comparatively diminished capacities, especially in reference to intelligence
result: focus on direct meaning, loss of the stylistic function
Literal translation
dialogue: You're just a kid. I don't want you to get ripped off.
meaning: to be cheated or deceived by someone.
result: the denotative aspect is rendered, loss of the stylistic function
Literal translation
dialogue: What? I'm not made of stone.
meaning: having no emotions and not being affected much by the things that happen to them
result: loss of vividness, seems unnatural in the TL
Literal translation
dialogue: Don't you usually get all that stuff like at a baby shower?
meaning: a party given for a pregnant woman, to which guests bring presents for the baby
result: inaccurate rendering of a SL dialogue, clear example of mistranslation
Literal translation
dialogue: Juno, don't listen to him. He's just got cold feet.
meaning: to suddenly become too frightened to do something you had planned to do.
result: mistranslation because of inability to recognize the SL idiom.
Cases of omission
dialogue: As boyfriends go, Paulie Bleeker is totally boss. He is the cheese to my macaroni.
Translating by paraphrase
meaning: He completes me.
result: the stylistic function is not retained.
dialogue: you have no reason to be mad at me. I mean you broke my heart
result: same stylistic effect maintained by the TL equivalent.
Elimination of the idiom, usually slang, due to the lack of equivalence on the idiom level;
References to sexuality considered as taboo.
Table 1. Strategies used for translation of idioms in Lithuanian subtitles of the movie JUNO
Table 2. Some instances where omission strategy is used for translation of idioms in Lithuanian subtitles of the movie JUNO
- Translating idioms itself is a demanding task in terms of recognition and rendering in the TL;
- Translation for subtitling has formal constraints that require certain limitations.
1. Very few idiomatic expressions in the SL maintained their idiomaticity in the Lithuanian subtitles. The most common strategy used was paraphrase. Although there were instances where idiom retention was possible, the translator opted for the reduction of expressive function.

2. Literal (word for word) translation was frequently applied in translating idioms but resulted in mistranslation in most of the cases. This can be explained by the fact that the subtitler was not a professional and lacked necessary competence.
3. Translation by omission was common mostly due to the lack of equivalence on the idiom level. In the majority of cases idioms belonged to the category of slang, which is very culture-specific and is often treated as taboo language.
Adelnia, Amineh, 2011. Translation of Idioms: A Hard Task for the Translator. In Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol. 1, 7, 879-883.
Baker, Mona, 1992. In Other Words: A Course Book on Translation. London and New York: Routledge.
Fernando, C., 1994. Idioms and Idiomaticity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Judickaitė-Pašvenskienė, Ligita, 2013a. Subtitled cartoon in foreign language teaching and learning context: possible dangers. In Darnioji Daugiakalbystė / Sustainable Multilingualism, 2, 161–171.
Judickaitė-Pašvenskienė, Ligita, 2013b. The translation of idioms in children’s cartoons: a comparative analysis of English dialogues and Lithuanian subtitles. In Eesti rakenduslingvistika ühingu aastaraamat 10, 125–138.
Oxford Dictionary of Idioms. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Challenges encountered while rendering idioms in the TL:
Using an idiom with similar meaning and form
based on Judickaitė-Pašvenskienė (2013b)
adapted from imdb.com
Full transcript