Translating humour

Published 27th September 2011
post thumbnail

Translating Humour – less than humorous!

Pick one of your favourite jokes in your own language. Now try to recount it in another language you know without modifying the humorous elements. Having problems? Don’t worry; humour is notoriously hard to translate. In fact, it’s said that humour, along with poetry, is one of the most difficult genres to translate. This is because of the complexity when transferring the required humorous elements from one language to another, especially between languages ​​that belong to very different cultures.

Sometimes a joke is simply impossible to translate since it completely loses its meaning out of context. This would be the case with jokes referring to any typical aspect of a community, or using words with several meanings in the language of origin, or word games. All we can do in these cases is to look for something at some point that will make a similar impact on the TL audience.

But humour is especially tricky to translate not only because languages work in different ways, but also because of the fact that different people and different cultures find different things funny.

At this point, we must be especially careful when it comes to cultural differences, particularly those topics or aspects of life that are funny in some countries and /or cultures, but that might be considered inappropriate, or even distasteful in others, which would meant that the joke completely loses its appeal. A clear example of this is the case of religions. In Western cultures it is common to make jokes in which God is named, while any kind of joke related to this issue would be considered as a grave offence in Islamic countries.

So, how should we translate jokes? If we choose to remain as faithful as possible to the original, we risk losing the element of humour. Another solution could be the use of an explanation, but it is likely to ‘kill’ the joke. If we decide to create a new joke, then the original comic’s voice might be lost. Is it actually possible to create an equivalent phrase in the target language that conveys the same original meaning whilst remaining humorous?

There are numerous studies about this issue, which generally all come to the conclusion that, when translating humour, it’s vital to first study the culture of comedy or humorous jokes in different countries. More importantly, however, they also demonstrate that the quality of this type of translation depends on the creativity of the translator. What’s sure is that translating humour is a very challenging task that definitely tests the research skills, understanding and interpretation of any good translator.

disney-institute-lingua-translations 178 × 75
amazon-lingua-translations 120 × 28
procter-gamble - Lingua Translations 114 × 92
london-partners-lingua-translations 154 × 101
Swansea City | Lingua Translations 154 x 146
Man City | Lingua Translations 154 × 154
FC_Barcelona_(crest) 154 × 156
Star_Wars_Logo.svg_-1 1280 × 773
FiFA | lingua Translations 154 × 86
The-Score 232x120
M & S 271 × 186
Walmart-Lingua Translations 232 × 65
Welsh Government & Lingua Translations 400 × 400
Costco & Lingua Translations 232 × 155

 

TUI-Group Testimonial 205 × 46 EN

Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

“Lingua Translations provides instant multi-lingual options for TUI’s 24/7 Holidayline, so 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year TUI’s customers are connected to an interpreter instantaneously. This service is designed to help holidaymakers who find themselves in difficulty and require non-English language assistance.

The service offered by Lingua Translations provides us with instant translation for every destination we travel to, and has proved invaluable.”

Roland Garros 2018- Useful Vocab!

The French open 2018 Roland Garros is almost here!     On the 21st May, some of the best will take to the clay courts to compete for the French Grand Slam title. Now, when it comes to clay, we’re always going to think it will be Rafael Nadal, but this year, who knows! Could …

Read More

Signing up a birth

Signing up a birth You might’ve seen my blog a few weeks ago about an Iranian couple who required an interpreter for the birth of their child. I’m sure anyone who has given birth or been a birth partner will say it is a scary and traumatic experience. You are hoping that everything runs as …

Read More
Get a quote today