Lost in translation
(Mis)translation of foreign film titles in Korea
This paper explores how translation of foreign film titles has been carried out in South Korea since foreign films first arrived in Korea following its emancipation from Japanese colonial rule. With reference to audiovisual translation in general and film or screen translation in particular, this paper discusses the extent of the mistakes made by Korean translators due to a lack of thorough contextual knowledge of the source language and culture. Most Korean translations of foreign films result in strange, surreal, and at best funny adaptations. Discussion regarding “bad,” total, or almost total mistranslations focuses on (1) words with multiple meanings (homonyms and heteronyms); (2) slang and colloquial expressions; (3) words with culturally specific features; and (4) proper nouns and common nouns. This paper concludes that in an era of globalization, film title translation in Korea increasingly shows a trend towards transliteration rather than translation – either literal or liberal.