Translators Struggle with Translating Humor

by Matt Murray

The ability to tell stories that make others laugh is quite an art form. For some people, they can do this naturally. When others try and add humor to their stories, however, it just doesn't seem to work that well.

The majority of people appreciate humor, though. Funny adverts attract them and make them laugh. When adverts aren't funny, they simply don't have the same effect. Even though there are many comedians around the world, similar to companies and people, not all of them can make us laugh.

Comedy in a variety of languages

Cultures impact languages and even when used for business purposes, cultural aspects must be considered. Translators appreciate these nuances when applying useful phrases to difficult language aspects. When speaking to others in their own language, it is impossible not to learn something related to their values. This cultural element is even more relevant in business. When a business doesn't appreciate the cultural values in their target audiences, they fail to progress. If they wish to advance their interests in a foreign country, they need to adjust and respect their hosts. They can achieve this goal by respecting their cultures. To understand more about how it works in businesses, click here.

Translating Humor

Cultures also affect the humor used in languages across the world. Societies base humor on their belief systems, which is comedy varies throughout the world. Something funny in your language and culture may not be funny in another. At times, it may even be offensive. Always consider target audience belief systems when creating jokes in another language. You can only create comedy for them if you understand their values.

When generating funny advertising material, for example, it will be essential to conduct research to ensure that your content is not offensive in the host country.

Humor translation issues

How to learn languages or when making translations between languages can be complex. Cultural diversity must always be considered and the translator will need to be fluent in both languages.

Relevant terminology will be required, and knowledge of this is necessary when doing translations. Even simple translations contain elements of complexity but these do not even begin to compare to the complexity of translating humor. Many elements have to be accounted for during translation to avoid offense. This care is particularly important to protect company reputation when translating advertising material to ensure that it does not cause offense to large groups of people.

It is common knowledge in this field that humor translations are the most important element. People's beliefs are another aspect that is vital to consider. Not all audiences will understand culturally specific humor, so it won't be funny for them.

When advert humor is not understood across countries, the responsibility for this failure lies with the translator. It is their job to ensure the advert humor will be appreciated in the target country.

It may not be possible to translate a joke culturally, so it is then best to replace this with a culturally relevant joke. The translator must use their experience and initiative to achieve this aim.

If they are able to translate a joke to the target language, though, then they have been successful in their work. The fact is that this is not always simple to achieve as individual professionals in this field.

Translators battle with humor translations

The majority of translators find that humor is problematic to translate. It is only after years of experience that some have become successful in this area. Following cultural variations, translators find that wordplay is an additional complexity in translations. They almost have to create fictional alphabets to make the wordplay translations successful between languages.

The wordplay frequently needs to be changed to achieve a successful translation if the humor is to be retained. This requires artful application of translation skills but it is possible.

Sometimes it is sufficient to share the humor's essence rather than its accuracy in the target audience's language. This cannot be achieved if the focus remains on word for word accuracy, which often results in the loss of intended meaning


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