Film title translation should follow some certain principles, catering to popular taste and being accepted by the public, that can realize the goal of cultural exchange. The film title translation does not belong to the traditional text translation, but the translation of advertisements, which filled with distinctive creativity and flexibility. Even though there always be just a few words, the same as brands, it is quite difficult to ensure a translated title to correspond with and mirror the theme of the film because of differences between eastern and western culture and the jagged receptivity and sense of art.
And film titles play an irreplaceable role in art appreciating and product advertising, guiding the audiences as well as promoting the film. And as we can see, with the deepening and expanding exchange of culture among countries, communication in film area is inevitable. More and more Chinese people are getting in touch with as well as being fond of English and American films. Meanwhile, as foreign movies flood in China, the quality of Chinese films is improving gradually, such as ??????? Riding Alone in Thousands of Miles) which premiered at the 18th Tokyo International Film Festival has achieved good results in Japanese market.  In order to hit a higher level in films exchange, choosing accordant movie titles are the most fundamental thing. Because whether the film title translation is good or not will affect the spread range of a movie. Meanwhile, a proper title of a movie can attract a lot of audiences directly. That is to say, in order to make a film resonate well in different areas, not only its origin title but also the translated one should be likable in general.
So, a well-translated title of a film will attract more audiences which is helpful for the country, where the movie comes from, to set sights on world level and be introduced to all the other nations around the world . The research on film title translation in our country started from 1990s and rapidly developed in later years. Traditional techniques of film title translation include literal translation, adding or deleting elements of the original title and combinative use of literal and free translation.
However, all these techniques are used on the basis of being faithful to the original ones, that is to say, faithfulness is the primary principle of traditional film title translation. Nevertheless, according to the statistics from the Southern Metropolis Daily at the end of 2001, the number of films whose titles were literally translated only accounted for 20% among all the Hollywood movies landed on Chinese film market that year, and the rest 60% were all in various degree of being modified and created.  As the way of combining literal and free translation become the most frequent one to be used, which doesn’t strictly dhere to traditional principles, numerous translators are questioning the present situation of film title translation. In the past two decades, though the level of translation on film and television has tremendously improved, as an important part of translation, it is far from the expectation. In addition, the research on Chinese film title translation is pretty rare with quite a few monographs. During the former decade, few translating theories on film and television, especially on film title translation, were published in key FLT academic journals.
So far, it seems that no one has put forward a relatively complete set of principles to guide film title translation. In this paper I am going to study film title translation under a famous theory called Functional Equivalence which was put forward by Nida, a famous American translation theorist, pointing out that in order to reach the ideal translation, it is necessary to find the closet natural equivalence. As a way of culture exchange, film title translation should put more emphasize on the correspondence between the audiences’ response both from source language and target language.
This paper starts from introducing basic informations about film title in Chapter 2, especially about functions of film titles. Proceeding to the next step, Chapter 3 analyses the present situation of American and Chinese film title translation, summarizing characteristics of these titles and then common laws of translation can easily to be seen. In Chapter 4 the paper elaborates and deeply evidences principles and techniques in the process of translating film titles, in which cultural differences, advertising effects and aesthetic standards also play an inconvenient role.
Besides, a lot of film titles that have been translated are under analysis using all the theories discussed above, particularly by using a theory called functional equivalence, which emphasizes to make target audiences generally feel the same with source audiences, sticking to the original meaning and spirits of the film instead of clinging to the former language structure. The combination of theory and practice is necessary to find out the most appropriate translated film title which can meet the need of the original work as well as appeal to the audiences.
Chapter 2 Profile of Film Titles When a new movie is going to be shown, the first thing we face is the title of the movie which somewhat transmits the theme of it. And we often decide whether to go to cinema watching a movie or not by our interesting in its title. So, how a title come from a film? 2. 1 Naming Approaches of Film Titles The outstanding prerequisite for correct title translation is comprehending film titles on the basis of original context. Specifically, most American and Chinese film titles are originated from their plots, settings, themes, heroes or heroines and clues. . 1. 1 According to Plot The way of naming a film according to its plot is the primary one of all approaches, which regard the content of the film as a chief source and a brief summarization, acting as a window of the film. In this category, there are several well-known films, such as Deep Impact, Kramer vs. Kramer, ??????? ,????????. 2. 1. 2 According to Setting Settings of movies are always of great significance to unfold the story, express the theme and as well as portray characters. For example, Titanic, Waterloo Bridge, ?????? ,?????? ,?????. 2. 1. 3 According to Theme
Many films just make their themes as the names to operate from a strategically advantageous position with far-teaching conceptions. In this type we can see films like Brave Heart, You Can’t Take It With You, ?????? ,???????. 2. 1. 4 According to Hero/ Heroine In some other films, heroes or heroines are the main part that the director is willing to introduce to the public. So this kind of movies are usually named after the chief characters, even just take the name of the hero/ heroine as the title. Among these titles the most renowned one may be Forest Gump.
Here are some other examples: Pretty Woman, The Third Man, Man in Black, Jane Eyre, The God Father, Tess, ????? ,?????? ,??????. 2. 1. 5 According to Clue The last kind of naming approaches is according to the clue for the development of the plot, which always run through the whole story. For instance, Schindler’s List, Piano, True Lies, ????? ,????. 2. 2 Different Kinds of Titles for Different Categories of Films Even though there are several approaches to name a film, just as we talked above, it doesn’t mean that movie producers are supposed to pick a title through one of these ways at will.
Because each movie has its own feature, in order to fully express its characteristics, its title should be proper to its content. That is to say, different categories of movies ought to be named by different ways. Generally speaking, films can be divided into three categories: documentary, popular science film and feature film, the most common one. 2. 2. 1 Titles of Documentaries and Popular Science Films It is well-known that the former two categories of films are aimed to deliver information and popularize scientific knowledges.
And due to their purpose or speciality their titles should be simple and unadorned with the use of formal words and expressions. Here are some typical ones: Industrial Britain, Three Songs about Lenin, Olympia, Space, ????? ,???? ,???????. 2. 2. 2 Titles of Feature Films Words in titles of feature films are always vivid and emotional, which can easily attract the audiences to raise interests in the films. As a result of the wide varieties of feature films, they are differentiated into four types. 1) Titles of Thrillers
This type of movies includes action movie, disaster film, dracula movie, crime film, spy movie and so on, whose titles try to highlight heartquake atmosphere, such as Triangle, The Island, Mission: Impossible, The Mummy, ?????? ,??????? ,???? :????? ,?????. 2) Titles of Fantasy Films Nowadays fantasy films mainly mean science fiction movies, so their titles usually announce the newfangled details in the movies with the intent to draw audiences’ attention. Star Trek, Inception, Source Code, Back To The Future, ?????? ,????? all belong to this class. 3) Titles of Comedies
Comedies are often with the purpose of bring happiness to their viewers, for this reason their titles send out a strong flavour of joy, like: Meet the Parents, Cop Out, Three Idiots, ?????? ,??????? ,????. 4) Titles of Lyric Films The last type of feature films is lyric film, including affectional films, ethical family films, story films, musicals and so on. Titles of this kind of films are in prosaic style. Words and expressions are natural while show a strong lyrical flavour. We can see these traits from following film titles. The Pursuit of Happyness, A Beautiful Mind, Phantom of the Opera, ?????? ?????? ,??????. 2. 3 Functions of Film Titles “ Function” is a topic largely discussed by the translation scholars. Vermeer defines function as “ what a text means or is intend to mean from the receiver’s point of view”.  According to this theory and as a material product as well as a spiritual product, film titles mainly have four functions: the informative function, the expressive function, the aesthetic function and the vocative function. 2. 3. 1 Informative Function As the first thing that audiences can learn of a movie, the title usually act as an introduction of the theme or content.
And by understanding titles of movies audiences can generally figure out what type those films are belonging to and whether they will be interested to or not. First, a film title may inform audiences of the theme and style of a movie. We can take some titles listed above into considerations. At first sight of the title The Mummy, audiences will easily recognize that it is a triller one. A film with the title of Catch Me If You Can seems to be a detective film. Back To The Future is undoubtedly a film full of fantasy and imagination.
Three Idiots arouses the thought of funny story and The Pursuit of Happyness is supposed to be a lyric film. Second, titles may tell viewers the hero or heroine and background of the story. To list some, Man in Black, Jane Eyre, The God Father, Tess, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Waterloo Bridge and 2012. Third, they arouse people’s interest by using some confusing nones, such as The Mummy, The Island, Speed and Seven pounds. These titles always make audiences fell puzzled because of their abstraction, but we have to admit that they can quickly attract people’s attention. 2. 3. 2 Expressive Function
This function of film title indicates that audiences can feel the fundamental key of the movie and attempt to use these strong emotions like lyric, breathtaking or funny atmosphere to affect their audiences. Viewers are often influenced by lyric flavour like The Pursuit of Happyness and have a feeling of fun by seeing the title like Three Idiots. 2. 3. 3 Aesthetic Function The aesthetic function points out that film titles are able to impress the public by means of the charm of a language such as lucidity, grace, smoothness and vividness, bringing about esthetical vicarious pleasure to audiences.
For the sake of achieving that goal, the rhythm, balance, sound effects, the colour words and different rhetoric devices are used to add the artistic appeal of the titles. To name a lot, Gone With the Wind, Crystal Heart, Dance with Wolves, Pride and Prejudice, ??????? ,????????? ,??????. 2. 3. 4 Vocative Function The core of the vocative function of language is the readership, the addressees.  Here the “ addressees” means the audiences, the moviegoers. The term “ vocative” means to draw sympathetic reaction, leading the viewers to act, think or feel in the way intended by the text.
To realize the function, film titles must be comprehensible enough to attract moviegoers’ attention, trigger them into going to the cinema and consequently make an end with a box-office hit. Example. You Can’t Take It with You ?????? The film named You Can’t Take It with You tells a story about a Wall Street giant, Kirby, who expands his plant to the living quarters in order to make more money regardless of bad effects on lives of the local residents, so that family Vanderhoff raise great dissatisfaction with Kirby.
Finally, thanks to the mediation by the well respected grandfather, conflicts between the two families are resolved and Kirby becomes a benevolent philanthropist.  The title of the movie reminds people of considering what is the most important thing in our whole lives and it still warns audiences that no matter how much money you own, you can’t take it with you all the life. Actually many people have the same idea with this opinion, so the title will appeal to them fast. Chapter 3 Present Situation of Film Title Translation Film title translation, as a cultural medium, has the same function with dubbed film.
After the resounding success in Chinese market of an American film called Titanic, Chinese people raised a great mass fervour in watching foreign movies. Meanwhile, Chinese films catch eyes of other countries recent years. However, the present situation of film title translation comes under question by a great majority of Chinese translators, who consider the current market of film title translation is quite disordered with less good translation but more arbitrary ones which just run in the opposite direction against traditional principles of translation. 3. 1 Present Situation of American Film Title Translation 3. 1. Traditional Principles of English-Chinese Film Title Translation Film title translation has always been regarded as belonging to the literary translation. Therefore it usually adopts the following principles: Literal Translation As a result of reserving the most out of form and sense of the original title, literal translation is regarded by the traditional translation circle as the best method for translating a film title. Sometimes they even copy the original word order. For instance, The Mummy(????? ), The Princess Diaries(?????? ), Back To The Future(?????? ) and The Hunger Games( ?????? ). Adding/ Deleting Elements
Adding or deleting elements is the second mean of American film title translation that accepted by the traditional translation circle. At many times literal translation of a title will mislead the audiences making them feel confused and have no idea about the content owing to differences of culture between east and west. On this occasion, to make the translated title more accessible to the public as well as show the theme of the movie, adding or deleting elements of the original one seems to be reasonable and acceptable. As a film we all know, Titanic was translated as ??????? , adding a Chinese character “ ? . Because if Titanic is mentioned, the westerns can easily figure out the historic and cultural information about this luxury cruise which most Chinese audiences are not able to understand. For this reason, its Chinese title adds some information to help audiences comprehend. Combination of Literal and Free Translation In the traditional translation circle this kind of method is considered as a bad plan in the third class, which falls in between literal translation and free translation. Titles translated by using this way retain some parts of the original ones and add a summarization of contents.
But now there are some classical translated film titles transcribed through this way, which have been approved by traditional translators, like Waterloo Bridge(?????? ). Example. Waterloo Bridge ?????? It keeps the image “Bridge”(“? ”) and take its fundamental key of sorrowful into consideration, adding two Chinese characters “?? ”. But its main purpose is to avoid the ambiguous meaning by being translated into ??????. Because this story has nothing to do with Chinese conventional picture of the Waterloo bridge where Napoleon was defeated. 3. 1. 2 Mistranslation
Due to the translators’ carelessness, lack of cultural knowledge or improper pursuit of commercial profits, mistranslation sometimes occurs. And mistranslation can be concluded into three categories. • Misunderstanding of Words A word or phrase may have more than one meaning, especially it is used in different context. In this case, translators should be more careful during the process of translating and learn the content of a movie if it necessary to work out a proper translated title. Example. First Wives Club ????????? The phrase “ first wife” means the first woman that a man married with.
But the title was mistranslated into ???????? , which mistakes “ first wife” for the wife of a man with concubine. And according to the content of the film it tells a story about three girls who are all abandoned by their husbands. So we can clearly see that on this occasion, “ first wife” means the original wife of a man. • Misunderstanding of Culture Information Because of differences of cultural and lack of adequate knowledge, mistranslation occurs, particularly when idioms or allusions appear in a film title. Example. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest ???????
This film was translated as ???????  in Taiwan, which made people feel at loss when they saw the title. Actually the English phrase “ Cuckoo’s Nest” implies the madhouse and the film also tells a story about a man’s experiences in a madhouse. • Purposeful Mistranslation Even though the translators have all the information and adequate knowledge required, they may still spoil their works by using vulgar or indign words and that is because they just want to attract people’s attention and raise their interest to pursue huge commercial profits. Example. Made in America ??????
A widow gives birth to a girl with the help of sperm bank and this film tells a story about the widow, her daughter and the subscriber of the sperm. So in Taiwan it is given a title named ??????? which seems too vulgar and indign to displayed in public. The other translation ?????? seems much better. 3. 1. 3 Different Renderings for One and the Same Film Sometimes we will realize that one film has several different renderings of its title, bringing inconvenience to audiences. Then why comes across the phenomenon? Here are some causes : Caused by Transliteration
It is known that China is a vast country with several regions and different region has its own codes of language, which often differ from other regions. This difference usually show up in transliterated film titles, like Schindler’s List. It is called ??????? in the Mainland and Taiwan while it entitled???????  in Hong Kong. Caused by Regional Culture Discrepancy Compared with the Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong always be more open-minded for their culture especially presented in entertainment industry. Take film title translation for example.
In the Mainland translators prefer to literal translation, showing full respect of the original title. However in Hong Kong they usually would like to create a new one according to their local culture. Example. Hong Kong Mainland Pretty Woman ??????? ?????? 3 Men and a Little Lady ? BB???? ??????????? The Unbearable Lightness of Being ??????? ??????????? Caused by Individual Creativity In order to make the Chinese title perfect for the story told by the movie, translators will show their individual creativity in translating.
And it sometimes makes good effect on promoting the film, nevertheless, it doesn’t work or even has side-effects. For example, Catch Me If You Can, a Hollywood blockbuster in 2003, got a box-office bomb in China.  It must be related to its translated title ???????? , which is too strange for the audiences to suppose it as a detective film. 3. 2 Present Situation of Chinese Film Title Translation As the same with the American film title translation, there are some differences in Chinese film title translation among regions of China. Besides the diversity there are certain characteristics in common.
The greatest difficulty of translating a Chinese film title is the hardship of translating words with Chinese cultural elements, including ancient Chinese names and some abstract words in China. If confronted with a Chinese title with these elements, translators often use three ways to deal with it. 3. 2. 1 Transliteration It is the easiest way to do a film title translation and sometimes it can also retain the functions of the original title, that will be regarded as killing two birds with one stone. For instance, ???? ( Wing Chun), ???? ( Ju Dou), ?????? ( Genghis Khan). 3. 2. Adding elements To avoid misunderstandings, translators will add some elements to help the foreign audiences understand the film. A Chinese film ????? was translated as Lady General Hua Mulan, because most foreigners are unfamiliar with the ancient celebrity of China. 3. 2. 3 Adoption of a new title Sometimes it will be too puzzled to foreigners if a Chinese title is literally translated. Under this circumstance, translators will adopt a new title linked with the content of the film, such as ????? ( Once Upon a Time in China), ???? ( The Promise), ?????? ( Family Portrait).
Chapter 4 Exploring Film Title Translation: From Theory to Practice In consideration of the disordered situation of film title translation, it is obvious that the combination of theory and practice is significant for translators. As far as functions and features of film title concerned, the most practical theory is “ One main idea with four basic points”. 4. 1 One Main Idea: Functional Equivalence Like Newmark’s communicative translation, the functional equivalence theory by Eugene A. Nida is oriented towards readership. It stresses a dynamic way of equivalence between the SL and the TL in designative and associative meanings.
In his book of Language and Culture —Contexts in Translating, functional equivalence also deals with culture, which exerts a profound influence on adjustment of translation procedures.  When the theory is used in film title translation, the original meanings and spirits of the title are the most important things instead of forms and structures. Using the theory of functional equivalence in translating film titles means three points. Firstly, audiences first. Translator must use words that the audiences are familiar with and can easily accept. Secondly, bring the superiority of target language into full play.
Creativity is encouraged in translation in order to gain a properest translated title. Finally, realize functional equivalence in film titles. Since a film title has four functions that talked in Chapter 2, the translated title should implement the functions as well. 4. 2 Four Basic Points Combining the functional equivalence theory with functions of film title we can summarize four basic points to guide the translation of film title. 4. 2. 1 Informative Value Considering the informative function of film titles, the translated title should reflect this function as well.
Because different audiences can choose their favourite by the titles. And it will have great influences on the box-office of a movie. I’ll take the film Catch Me If You Can, which has been discussed above for two times, for example. Its English title does show the informative function, because most Americans can figure out that it is a film telling about something about a criminal and the police or FBI. But its Chinese title is ???????? , which drops the function of guiding moviegoers, making people have few idea about what type the film is. 4. 2. 2 Cultural Value
Translation is not only a simple process of language transformation but also exchange of culture. So the translators are required to have a multicultural perspective for getting perfect translated titles. Here are some good models in film title translation: The Wedding Night is entitled as ??????? which is full of Chinese characteristics and also to Chinese people’s taste. 4. 2. 3 Aesthetic Value Now that film title also has function of aesthetics, the aesthetic value for the translated one is still necessary. So translated titles are supposed to be as elegant as possible on the basis of implement other functions.
Example. A You Can’t Take It With You ??????? / ?????? Example. B ????????? Wearing Golden Armor Across the City/ Curse of the Golden Flower It is obvious to see that the latter renderings in each example are much beautiful than the former ones, that will resonate the audiences in aesthetics. 4. 2. 4 Commercial Value Film is one form of art with both cultural and commercial property so that commercial factors should also be taken into consideration during translating process. To catch eyes of moviegoers, translators must know well about the cultural features and aesthetic tastes in target language circles. ????? ( It Happens One Night), ??????? ( Sister Act) and ?????? ( The Net) are all good examples with appealing titles. However, as i mentioned in Chapter 3, some film titles like ??????? ( Made in America) are quite vulgar just because of the aim at pursuing profits. 4. 3 Probing into Film Title Translation Methods and Techniques In accordance with the four principles above, methods of film title translation can be divided into four categories. 4. 3. 1 Transliteration Transliteration is to present the pronunciation of some words or phrases by another language.