Humor is an essential part of human culture. Humor is anything which makes us laugh or amuses us. It can take the form of speech, written material as well as visual form. Scientifically speaking, humor has no logic. If something is understandable, it is no longer funny. That is what makes it complex and simple at the same time. Well, some types of humor require a level of wit to understand them. But once understood, they often lose their comedic value. Humor is universal but every culture has its own type of humor. And it can be confusing to understand the humor of a different culture. Translation of languages from two different cultures has always been a complex job. Translation of humor is especially more complex.
Because what makes an Indian laugh may not make a Russian laugh as well. Translation of humor has its major use in T.V., films, and literature. Humor is only present in the written form in literature. But, it is present in all forms in audio-visual content.
Translation of humor
Some say that translation of humor in literature is easy because a translator only needs to deal with the textual material. While this logic makes some amount of sense but this is not completely true. In some cases, a translator may feel that it is very difficult to convey the comedic message in a book in written form alone. Translation of humor in novels may require a very skillful translator. To be honest, it depends upon the comic style and humor of the author.
Whereas, translation of humor in a video involves two methods of translation: Subtitling, and dubbing. Subtitling comedy in a video is somewhat similar to translating comedy in a book. But the video content plays a major role in the translation in this case. Simply translating the source language subtitles will not work in order to deliver the same comedic message. Dubbing also works on similar principles of translation as subtitling. But dubbing involves certain types of translation of humor which subtitling does not. There are various types of humor which make a person laugh.
So, let’s know more about the types of humor in general
This kind of humor does not depend on any language or culture. A literal translation of such kind of humor delivers the comedic message to people of any language. It may consist of jokes which makes fun of a person or entity, use of taboo or other absurd jokes and humor which make no sense.
This kind of humor makes the use of puns, allusions, homonyms, polysemy and other kinds of wordplay to deliver a joke. Since it involves the use of words specific to a language, a literal translation will usually not make any sense. Moreover, delivering the same comic message is quite difficult. And translators will need to use localization techniques to make the translation humorous or even meaningful. They will need to change many parts of a dialogue or use transcreation instead.
This kind of humor is popular in some cultures. It varies a little in different cultures and communities. Target language viewers may not be able to relate with the translation of such humor in case of literal translation. Although, a literal translation is not necessarily wrong as it will still convey the same message. Translation becomes easier if both the source language and target language cultures are similar. Many a time, a joke or a scene in the original video may consist of contents which may hurt the sentiments or contradict the beliefs of the target audience. In such cases, it is wise to skip or omit that content and make a neutral translation. This may not render the comic message but it does not cause any damage either.
Paralinguistics based humor:
This kind of humor which uses foreign accents, voice tones, imitation, and sounds made by characters to convey a joke. It becomes almost impossible to translate such humor in subtitling whereas, dubbing has its fair share of challenges. It can make the source content better or worse.
Graphic and audio based humor:
Graphic humor is any written text or picture which appears on the screen. And audio based humor can be any sound effects added to the video to make it funny.
However, there can always be different ways to interpret a joke or onscreen humor from the source language to the target language. But it depends upon the skill of a translator and the amount of time available for a particular translation work.
Why Is Humor Translation So Difficult?
Humor has an impact on many aspects of our lives. From entertainment to advertisements to business relationships, there is something for everyone. Because movies, products, video games, and educational tools can have a global audience, humor translation is frequently required.
Humor is difficult to define because it is often associated with very specific cultural and linguistic contexts. Some humor is universal, while others are highly culturally dependent. This can put translators in the position of having to translate humor that is impossible to translate without diluting the intended meaning of a joke.
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