Latest update date: February 07, 06

Translating movie and video subtitles is an important part of accessing multilingual content. However, not all subtitle translations are done accurately and professionally. Some subtitle translations may contain many grammatical or vocabulary errors, or may not reflect the true meaning of the original content.

These errors are called “bad subtitle translations”. Common errors include: incorrect translation, lack of cultural support, failure to comply with translation standards, or failure to ensure synchronization with images and sounds. Using such poor quality subtitle translations can make viewers feel confused and lose interest in the content. Therefore, subtitle service providers need to improve translation quality to optimize the movie and video viewing experience for multilingual users.

1. Roma

Roma is a film produced in 2018 by Alfonso Cuarón, writer, director and film co-editor. It is a semi-autobiographical work about the author's life growing up in Mexico City. The film's dialogue is Spanish and Mixtec. It may not be one of the worst movie translations ever, but it is at the center of a scandal. The film attracted this negative attention as a film that did not win a British Academy Award.


Netflix has been criticized for adding Castilian Spanish subtitles to the film, which the author-director found offensive to Mexican-Spanish speakers. Netflix immediately removed the subtitles.

Next, the Association des Traducteurs/Adaptateurs de l'Audiovisuel (ATAA) stated that the French subtitles are full of mistranslations, typos and grammatical errors. The association also says that the English subtitles are wrong. The translators did not consider what is considered an accurate translation. For example, use “Let's go!” for “¡Vamos!” instead of using “Come on!”.

2. The Avengers: Age of Ultron

People are often familiar with many mistranslations from Chinese to English and vice versa such as menus, signs and warnings. There are a lot of mistranslations in Chinese, including English movies. A ludicrous or humorous mistranslation can really hinder an audience from understanding and enjoying the film, grabbing their attention and pulling them out of the story.

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron

For example, in the 2015 film Revenge: Age of Ultron, reviewers pointed out the following errors in the Chinese subtitles:

  • "I'm home" (spoken by Captain America) has turned into "I'm good".
  • “You get hurt, hurt 'em back. You get killed… walk it off” (advice from Captain America) to “Run fast if someone tries to kill you.”
  • “SOB” (a typical American idiom) is translated as “My old familiar partner.”
  • “We may not make it out of this” is translated as “Let’s back off now”.

3. Beetlejuice

The Hungarian dub of the film Beetlejuice was done in Hong Kong. You can take it as an example of poor quality translation because lip-syncing was turned off. The choice of voice actors did not match the characters. Some voice actors speak fast or their voices are small, so it is difficult to understand the movie.

The subtitle version is also translated in poor quality. In many scenes, the characters are talking but no subtitles are shown. Some of the actor's lines were omitted. When a character is giving a toast, the translator interprets it as "giving a bread toast", making the Hungarian Beetlejuice a clear and disastrous case of mistake.


4. Transformers

The Hungarian version of Transformers suffered the same fate. Although the translators kept the original names of the characters, the translation showed that the voice team was lazy and cheap.

Some of the worst and most obvious mistakes have been with the mis-broadcasting of the voice actors, with Lennox and Sam already having young voice talents whose voices are too high-pitched for the ages of the characters. . The missing lines, muted words, and real-life boredom of voice talents, like the voice of Ironhide, caught the eye.


5. Star Wars

The dubbing providers in France weren't careful enough and used verbatim translations of Star Wars characters' names. So the Tusken raiders became sand people, the fighting robots were translated into battle robots, and Darth Vader was renamed Dark Vador. These names are easy for French speakers to understand, but they have lost the nuances associated with the film's original narration.

Star Wars
Star Wars


The Polish version of Shrek could be one of the worst translated films ever, if viewed by someone fluent in English. Although some of the stories mentioned in Shrek are unfamiliar to Polish audiences, the translation team has done something quite well. In one of the scenes, Shrek says he dragged Donkey to the butcher's house, which seems brutal. The translation, however, resonated with a Polish audience, being a reference to a local folktale.


7. Sudden Impact

The most notable line in Sudden Impact, part of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry series, is, "Go ahead and make me happy." This very famous line, however, lost its influence when it was translated as “Go on and make me happy” in the Italian version of the film.

From these examples, you can see the value of high-quality movie translation, helping the audience fully understand and appreciate the film, and that the original intention and message of the film will not be lost but enjoyed. adapt to the local culture. Moreover, quality translation goes hand in hand with box office success.

Sudden Impact
Sudden Impact

Frequently asked questions

Why is accurate subtitle translation important?

Accurately translating subtitles helps viewers understand the content and meaning of the film, avoiding misunderstandings or losing important nuances and implications. A good subtitle translation will respect the original intentions of the director and screenwriter. You can refer to these Video and clip subtitle translation tool today.

What are the standards for evaluating subtitle translation quality?

To evaluate the quality of subtitle translation, you need to:

  • Accurate translation, conveying the true meaning and nuance of the original
  • Minimize spelling, grammar, and word usage errors
  • Ensure synchronization between subtitles and images and sounds
  • Suitable for target culture and language

What is the impact of mistranslating a character's name in a movie?

Mistranslating a character's name can cause viewers to fail to recognize the connections and hidden meanings behind the name. For example, in Star Wars, the name Darth Vader is translated into Dark Vador in French, losing the association with "Dark Father".

What are the challenges in translating funny movie subtitles?

Translating subtitles for comedy movies requires the translator to grasp specific cultural and linguistic elements to convey humor and sarcasm. At the same time, it is necessary to avoid translating too literally, causing the humorous spirit of the original to be lost.

What are the most common subtitle translation errors?

The most common subtitle translation errors today:

  • Wrong translation, omitting important information
  • Spelling, grammar, and inappropriate word usage errors
  • Lack of synchronization with images and sounds
  • Not suitable for target culture and language

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Subtitles or dubbing, which form is better?

Subtitles help preserve the original actor's voice and emotions but require viewers to read. Dubbing helps viewers focus on the image, but it is difficult to fully convey the original acting features. Choosing subtitles or dubbing depends on the viewer's preferences and foreign language ability.

Can automatic subtitle translation using AI replace humans?

Currently, automatic translation technology has made many advances, but it still cannot completely replace professional translators. Automatic translation can greatly support the translation process but still requires human editing and censorship.

Can I make money translating movie and video subtitles?

Subtitle translation can be a freelance or full-time job, depending on the needs of the content providers. Compensation for subtitle translation ranges from 1-10 USD per minute of video, depending on difficulty and quality requirements.

Why do some famous movies have poor subtitle translations?

The reason may be because the manufacturer wants to save costs and time so it hires an unreliable translation service. Or due to irresponsibility and lack of professional knowledge of the team in charge of translation and editing.

How to detect a poor quality subtitle translation?

Viewers can recognize poor subtitle translation through signs such as:

  • Many spelling and grammar errors
  • Wrong translation, causing confusion and loss of logic
  • Omitting or adding unnecessary information
  • Subtitles run too fast or too slow compared to the dialogue
  • Subtitles obscure important images

CShould we trust subtitle translations shared by the community?

Subtitle translations made by the community for non-profit purposes are often of uneven quality. Viewers should consider, compare and only refer to reputable sources with positive feedback from a large number of users.

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