An Online Lecture on 'Subtitling & International Communication of Chinese Films'

Qin He 'Subtitling and International Communication of Chinese films' poster.

On the 21st March, Mr He Qin, a respected Chinese film subtitling expert, international film festival expert, and General Manager of A True Film & Culture Beijing Co Ltd presented a lecture on ‘Subtitling & International Communication of Chinese Films’ to Lancaster University students via Zoom. The lecture was hosted by Dr Amily Wang Guenier and was attended by over 120 students and others.

Mr He began with the origin of world films, the Chinese Shadow Play, and briefly introduced the development of Chinese films since China's accession to the WTO through three specific figures on box office, screen count and film production, pointing out that China is the most dynamic film market in the world.

During the lecture, Mr He showcased several instances of Chinese translations of classic British films, highlighting their value as a reference and guide for foreign translations of Chinese films.

Mr He emphasized that film subtitling involves much more than just translating dialogue subtitles. It is a comprehensive process that includes the subtitling of titles, opening and closing credits, and other important aspects of a film. He underscored the importance of post-translation production in fully comprehending and appreciating the quality of a film’s translation.

Drawing on compelling case studies, Mr He elucidated the fundamental principles and key considerations to be observed when translating the above sections. He emphasized the critical importance of taking into account the cultural background and customs of the target audience and adopting a cross-cultural mindset in the translation process.

During his lecture, Mr He drew insightful comparisons between his own translation into English of the film title ROAD TO THE SKY (Chinese title: "情比山高") he produced and the British-US co-production THE ENGLISHMAN WHO WENT UP A HILL BUT CAME DOWN A MOUNTAIN (also translated into Chinese as "情比山高"). He shared his thoughts on the ongoing debate in the translation community surrounding the English title of the Chinese Spring Festival blockbuster Full River Red, underscoring the crucial importance of accurately translating a film’s title in accordance with its content and the cultural background difference of the foreign audience. Drawing on his extensive experience, he offered his own translation of the film title as THE SECRET OF GENERAL YUE’S LAST WORDS.

According to Mr. He’s view, only when a translator understands the basic knowledge of the film industry, can he or she give professional and authentic translations of the positions in the opening and closing credits, such as Associate Producer, Production Designer, Catering Manager and Location Manager, instead of translating them literally.

To ensure accurate translation of the dialogue, it is imperative to watch the content of the film in order to create appropriate subtitles that reflect the age, identity, of the characters and scenes. Moreover, the subtitles of foreign language are supposed to be written in a corresponding font rather than in Chinese to maintain consistency and clarity. For bilingual subtitles, it is essential to pay attention to the ordering of the Chinese and foreign language, as well as to maintain a harmonious relationship between size and proportion for the limited space on screen. It is also important to show respect for the Chinese language.

Mr He holds that international film festivals and markets serve as significant platforms for the promotion of Chinese culture through film on a global stage. To participate in such events, it is necessary to prepare appropriate materials, which also should be professionally translated and produced.

Mr He concluded by emphasizing that film is the most efficient medium for cultural dissemination, and that film translation plays a crucial role in facilitating the global recognition of Chinese film. To achieve this, translators must possess a strong grasp of both their mother tongue and foreign languages, as well as a basic knowledge of the film industry’s intricacies and a firm understanding of cross-cultural nuances. Similarly, post- production staff should have a solid foundation in foreign languages, as well as a keen eye for aesthetics.

Both translators and post-producers are expected to exhibit a high level of responsibility and empathy to ensure the quality of the translation. Effective communication between these two parties is essential throughout the entire translation and subtitling process. To elevate the overall standard of translation and bridge the gap between translation and post-production, it is recommended to appoint a translation supervisor who possesses comprehensive knowledge of both the film and foreign language, and has an international perspective and sense of responsibility. Mr He recognizes that film subtitling is an interdisciplinary and highly practical profession. Therefore, students who are passionate about film subtitling are encouraged to participate in various aspects of film production, promotion, and distribution to gain valuable experience, since an excellent subtitling requires significant practice and skill refinement.

Prior to the conclusion of the lecture, Mr He graciously fielded questions from students regarding Chinese film and television translation norms, as well as subtitling practices. Following the lecture, the students expressed their admiration for the visually distinctive presentation, replete with insightful case studies, and found the overall experience to be highly rewarding.

Chinese version written by: 何钦 HE QIN

English version translated by: Michelle Zhou

Edited by: Haoqian Hu

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