Friday, December 19, 2014

The Plight of the Mockingjay: Translating Film Titles

Throughout our recent trip around Europe, we were frequently reminded of our interest in translation, particularly in relation to film titles. As we slowly made our way from the Netherlands to Spain, we encountered numerous film posters in various European languages. However, the one promotional poster we saw everywhere was for the latest addition to The Hunger Games series. We found the translation of its title in various European languages particularly fascinating, so today we've decided to look into a few of the many ways it was translated worldwide.

For those of you who don't know what film I'm referring to, it's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, which is based on and named after the final book in the extremely popular series The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins.

A mockingbird, or sinsonte in Spanish.
If you haven't read the books, then you might be wondering what on earth a "mockingjay" is. (Don't worry, no spoilers!) It is a fictional bird in the novel which is said to be a cross between a mockingbird and a "jabberjay", a fictional bird that can memorize and repeat human conversations.

While in Spain, we saw posters for Los juegos del hambre: Sinsajo - Parte 1 everywhere, and I kept wondering what the term sinsajo meant since I'd never seen it before. After doing some research upon my return home, I discovered that the Spanish translator had actually translated the fictional term "mockingjay"! They arrived at the word sinsajo by combining sinsonte and arrendajo, the Spanish words for "mockingbird" and "blue jay". Without doubt, this is my favorite foreign title for the film since the translator took the initiative to create a new term just as Collins had instead of merely borrowing the term "mockingjay" into Spanish.

However, most other translators seemed to take a different route to translating the title. The French, Italian, and Portuguese titles all refer not to the fictional bird, but instead to a "revolt" or "rebellion". The English title, Mockingjay, refers to the symbolism of the mockingjay as a sign of rebellion, so this decision does make sense... it is just a far more direct reference to the plot of the book/film than the more subtle original title.

In French, the film is known as Hunger Games: La révolte - 1ère partie, in Portuguese it is called The Hunger Games: A Revolta - Parte 1, and in Italian it is named Hunger Games: Il canto della rivolta - Parte I. Interestingly, while the French and Portuguese versions translate literally as "The Revolt" or "The Rebellion", the Italian version is slightly more complex and creative, referring to the "call" or "song" of said rebellion.

If any other translators can provide insight into other interesting translations of this film's title (some foreign titles for the film can be found here), please let us know! We'd also love to hear about other film titles you know of that have been translated into other languages in a particularly fascinating way.