Translating Is No Joke . . . or Is It?

A few weeks ago, we talked about the difficulty inherent in the translation of poetry. Along with poetry, another category of communication that is difficult to translate is humor. As translators, we probably come across more jokes than poems in our day-to-day, given that humor is a resource that is frequently used in marketing.

Just as in the translation of poetry or song, when it comes to translating humor, creative freedom is of the essence. In practice, what usually happens is that a joke will undergo a complete change going from one language to another. What’s important, then, is to convey the basic idea.

We know that such elements as the style of the joke, its play on words or its double entendre are what make a joke what it is. When faced with the translation we must take these details into consideration and attempt to adapt the original sense of humor or idea to our language.

Leo Hickey, in his essay entitled “A Pragmalinguistic Approach to Translating Humor,” affirms that “It’s a well-known fact that humor doesn’t travel well; it tends to wilt across the shortest of spans, arriving unraveled, if not deceased, when moving from one language to another.” When translating a joke, we must be ever mindful not to produce a literal translation. The key is to carry the joke to the target culture of the particular translation. Not even within the same language, take Spanish for instance, can a joke be translated the same way from one country to another.

“The Funniest Joke in the World,” the famed Monty Python sketch, summarizes the point nicely. The premise of the sketch is that someone invents a joke so funny that people literally die laughing the moment they hear it. However, at the end, the Germans translate a joke from German into English, which results in: “There were zwei peanuts walking down the straße, und one was ‘assaulted’… peanut.” Luckily the joke lies buried under a monument bearing the inscription “To the Unknown Joke”!

Thus, if we are not familiar with the linguistic turns and the inside jokes of a particular country, it’s best we contact a translator who specializes in the local language. At Trusted Translations, for instance, we strive to have a team of translators from different regions so as to be able to solve these kinds of “problems” that may arise when it comes to a translation.

To read original article go to La traducción de chistes