Blog – It’s All About Language

Christmas is a time of joy, love and togetherness, celebrated across the globe. It transcends cultural boundaries and brings people closer, irrespective of their backgrounds. Movies and television shows play a significant role in fostering the Christmas spirit, showcasing heartwarming stories that resonate with audiences worldwide.

Every year, countless Christmas-themed movies are released, capturing the essence of the holiday season. However, these films are often created in a specific language, primarily targeting a particular audience. By translating these movies into different languages, we can bridge the gap between diverse cultures, enabling families and friends to come together and enjoy these uplifting stories regardless of their linguistic backgrounds.
Thanks to globalisation and the rapid growth of streaming platforms, Christmas entertainment is now readily accessible wherever you are. As more countries embrace the enchantment of Christmas, the demand for culturally diverse and inclusive content has surged. Audiences crave stories that resonate with their cultural experiences while providing insight into other traditions and festivities celebrated worldwide.

Behind the Scenes: Translating the Christmas Magic

The translation of Christmas movies and shows involves two principal techniques – subtitling and dubbing. Subtitles allow viewers to hear the original audio while reading the translated text simultaneously. This method retains the original performances and maintains the authenticity of the actors’ voices, expressions and emotions. Subtitling is often preferred when preserving the cultural nuances and originality of the material is crucial.

Dubbing involves replacing the original language dialogue with translated voice-overs in the target language. This method is more immersive as the viewers can hear the translated dialogue spoken by voice actors in their native language. Dubbing often requires meticulous synchronising to match the lip movements of the actors on screen. While it allows for a seamless viewing experience, it may affect the authenticity of the original performances and facial expressions.

Subtitling is generally less resource-intensive and time-consuming since it primarily involves translating textual content. It is well-suited when cultural references, jokes or wordplay need to be maintained. Dubbing, on the other hand, is typically more expensive and requires a team of professional voice actors to match the emotions and delivery of the original performances. It can be beneficial for audiences who prefer a more immersive experience or for young children or other people who may struggle to read subtitles.

´Tis the Season of Translations: Challenges

The translation of Christmas movies and shows presents several challenges for translators due to the cultural differences and specific references embedded within these films. One of the primary concerns is maintaining the intended festive atmosphere and encapsulating the holiday spirit in different languages. Translators must find equivalent expressions and capture the essence of the original dialogue to ensure the translated version resonates with viewers from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Additionally, Christmas movies often feature cultural traditions and customs that may not exist in other countries. Translators must find creative ways to adapt these traditions, ensuring they are appropriately conveyed to the target audience, who may be unfamiliar with the original references.

For example, explaining the concept of stockings hung by the fireplace or the role of Santa Claus in bringing gifts. These may require contextual explanations or adaptations for cultures that don’t celebrate Christmas in the same way. This challenge involves striking a balance between maintaining authenticity while making the film accessible and relatable to a wider audience. By using skilled translators, these movies need to be localised to retain both authenticity and cultural relevance.

We only have to look at film titles for a glimpse of the immense challenges and workload faced by translators. Despite consisting of only a few words, these titles often require translation across various regions, as the original meaning may not be comprehensible otherwise. Some examples of Christmas movie titles translated in different languages are:

  • In Russia, the Disney movie Frozen was called Kholodnoye Serdtse (Cold Heart)
  • The 1996 movie Jingle All The Way was called Mission: Julegave (Mission: Christmas Present) in Denmark
  • In Spain, Die Hard was called Jungla de Cristal (Crystal Jungle)
  • In Italy, Home Alone is known as Mamma, ho perso l´aereo (Mum, I Missed The Plane)
  • National Lampoon´s Christmas Vacation is called Le sapin a les boules (The Tree Has The Balls) in France
The Sleigh-full of Effort Behind Christmas Movie Translations

While watching your favourite Christmas movies, spare a thought for the important work of translators, subtitlers and dubbers in ensuring that these productions are accessible and relatable to diverse cultures. Through translation, the enchantment and warmth of the holiday season can be shared with audiences worldwide, fostering a sense of unity and celebration in the global Christmas spirit.

So, as the snowflakes fall (well, in some destinations at least) and the festive season approaches, let us embrace the magic of translated Christmas movies and shows, allowing them to bring joy and cheer to audiences far and wide.

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