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Bad German to English subtitles

Hi :) I'm looking for clips from German movies/programmes that have been subtitled in English, but badly! I'm working on a project at university about the "theory" of subtitling and so would like to show an example of things that haven't been executed so well. For instance inaccurate/literal translation, lost meanings, sentences are too wordy/too distracting from the movie. I'm hoping that maybe something springs to the mind of someone here as to where I could look and/or has a specific example as google is failing me at the moment!

Thanks in advance :)

April 24, 2018




Seems a pity no one has answered you, as this is an. Interesting question.

I can’t offer any specific help as I don’t watch many films but I have been reading books translated into German from English, and specifically some old favourites i know very well.

What strikes me is that whilst the translations are very good (and in particular I’ve been reading some John le Carre who speaks excellent German) some of the nuance is lost or altered. By being too wordy, or over explaining.

One that really stuck out (and not a le Carre) is a line in The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. In English it is something along the lines of ‚‘this night will be bad and tomorrow will be beyond imaginatining‘. Whereas the German version says something more like ‚‘the night will be bad and tomorrow will be more terrible still‘ (i forget the actual wording and CBA to go look)

I was always sure the author had left the ambiguity in deliberately, the next day wasn’t terrible it was just unimaginable to the character at that point.

Anyway, not t he answers you were after but I’d be interested if you or anybody else has any thoughts on that.


Your question intrigued me and I tried to find some examples, but nothing really bad came my way.

Obviously, accents (and the information they carry about the speaker) are lost. In Inglorious Basterds that was used intentionally.

Also, I feel some information gets lost if you do not know whether someone addresses someone else with "Sie" or "du", especially if it changes in the course of the acquaintance.

In this movie clip the pun at the end is lost:


aufhängen means both hang-up and hang neu wählen means both dial again and elect again


Sorry, I just noticed I pasted the wrong clip. In that version the pun is cut. Here is the full clip.



Oh well, this is a real problem sometimes and I believe the reason is idiomatic. In Germany in our high level courses for English we shall see English films in our freetimes with and without subtitles, read English books ... and still there is the idiomatic problem. I hope for books and seminars that look why English say "someone gets a black eye" while we in Germany say "jemand bekommt ein blaues Auge verpasst". The teachers often say the only help is to read a lot and to go abroad for a while. Maybe you will find something else that helps to figure out the gaps and differencies to transport the sense in translations. I am not sure if it was possible to bring my message to you. My biggest problem is that I think German and try to cope with a construction out of English words that seem to fit.

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