Fake Accents in Translating!!!

Too bad Paul Frees is dead. He could’ve done Boris Badenov voices for Russian Translations. Would that be more “appropriate” for Yeltsin?

I’m becoming more cynical about the US media with regard to the no doubt upcoming war.

I mean, what the hell? You get someone to read the translation, and ask him to put on a thick Arab accent? WHY?? To make Saddam’s words sound more… foreign? Menacing?

Compatible with the piece, my ass. Or do CBS narrators use a thick German accent when they dub over Gerhard Schröder? Do they do their best “Fetchez-la vache”-accent when translating Jaqcues Chirac?

I don’t suppose they do, huh?

What utter nonsense.

Utter nonsense isn’t the right word. Deceitful is better. Demeaning to those who take journalism seriously. Anything else I’d have to say about this would have to be in the Pit.

One time, I was watching Iron Chef, and one of the judges was Italian. Now, presumably this man spoke Japanese with an Italian accent, but I found it fascinating that the show’s producers chose to dub this man’s voice in English also with an Italian accent! Was this necessary? Would something have been lost if they just dubbed this guy in standard English? It ended up like “Mamma mia! Dees food, it’s-a so good!”

But that’s just entertainment. Translating hard news with a fake Arabic accent is offensive and insulting to our intelligence. Thumbs down.

It feels nice to live in a country where TV does not dub interviewee, but use subtitles instead (if only they could do it in feature programs as well). On the other hand it’s a bit ridiculous that they have started to translate Norwegian and Danish too.

Not translation, but I always thought it would be funny if folk who travelled to foreign countries to teach English adopted accents like John Wayne, Foghorn Leghorn, or somesuch.

OMG. I just posted in a GQ thread how intentionally using an accent in interpreting would be totally against any work ethics.
It´s ridiculous and totally unacceptable. It ridicules the original speaker.
I mean, people know the guy´s speaking a foreign language, you don´t have to dub him with an accent. In a film - fine, in an entertainment programme - ok. But in an interview? Give me a break.
“Compatible with the piece”, right.
The whole point of interpreting is getting the message across at the same stylistic level as the original speaker. And as Saddam speaks Arabic without an accent, the English version shouldn´t have an accent either (unless there wasn´t any English native speaker available - but this clearly wasn´t the case here).
What these guys are doing is manipulation of the public opinion.

I better go and calm down now before I have a heart attack… :wink:

I don’t see this as a big deal or an insult or anything else. When I hear an accented voice giving the translation of someone’s comments, I assume they’re native speakers of that language. How is that offensive or insulting? And personally, the accent is a way of “reminding” me that I’m hearing a translation.

Maybe it’s just me…

FCM, in this case, the Arabic accent was fake. Hell, I thought it was the voice of the translator too when I heard it. Turns out the guy who did the dub-over is an American, asked to put on an Arabic accent, “because it’s compatible with the piece”. THAT’s what makes it offensive.

…wondering how it would have sounded if they gave Saddam a thick Irish accent…

“Oh, fer fecks sake! I dunna think ay wanna go ta war. A toy, toy, toy!”

I did a rant on this some time ago. Drives me crazy! What the hell is the point?

Fagjunk Theology: Not just for sodomite propagandists anymore.

I saw that it was a fake accent. But if it was an accurate fake, I still don’t get the big deal. Same thing with having a woman’s voice translating for a woman - certainly a man could read the same words, but the match is better with a female voice.

I’d see more loss in credibility if Peter Jennings or Dan Rather switched into an accent when quoting a foreigner, but neither knowing nor seeing the person doing the voice, I personally don’t consider it something to get upset about. If the translation was accurate and the inflections were not editorial, to me it’s a non-issue. There are a lot of things about the news media that grate on me - this doesn’t come close to any of those. Not saying it’s professional, just saying it doesn’t strike me as something to fret about. <shrug> Just my point of view.

So a dub-over of Chirac in a thick French accent wouldn’t strike you as odd either, then?

The chances that an english speaking person from the us can interpret Arabic is unlikely. I would say very few. Now the chances of an Arabic person speaking English, is very likely. So it’s understandable that an interpreter from an Arabic country speaking english over and Arabic speaking person would have an accent. It’s their native language.

Coldfire, honestly, if it’s accurate and non-editorial, no, it wouldn’t bother me. It’s not like the news guys are doing re-enactments of the interviews with handpuppets. Or Chirac’s translation being done like Pepe LePew.

Again, just my opinion. And we all know what opinions are worth…

Several things to be said against using a fake accent in a news broadcast:

  • an accent distracts the listener - not much, but it does. You may laugh or you may just notice “hey that guy´s speaking with an accent, I wonder how well he actually kows English”. The listener may not be able to concentrate on the message as they otherwise would, either because they´re amused or because they have to concentrate on understanding the words.

  • an accent triggers associations, be they positive or negative.
    These may be from personal experience or - very often - from movies. If I´m watching a US film and some guy (possibly tall and lean with a hard face, but not necessarily so) comes and speaks with a German accent, I know he´s the Nazi bad guy. If someone speaks with a French accent, he´s the slightly hysterical cook/interior designer. If someone has a moustache and a dark complexion and a thick Arabic (or Mexican/Colombian etc.) accent, he´s the bad guy (terrorist, drug dealer, whatever). - This is not my personal opinion, but that´s how they are mostly (not always) stereotyped in films. And you subconsciously associate it like that.

Yes, had he spoken English himself or had there been an actual interpreter with an accent because that was his native language, fine. It would have been a bit harder to understand, it would have triggered the same associations, but there wouldn´t have been much you could do about it.
Note that it is standard procedure to interpret into one´s native language, and that if you are able to interpret into a foreign language, you usually speak it extremely well. Your basic Iraqi English interpreter probably has less of an accent than that actor had.

  • intentionally using an accent is not at all what interpreting is about. Using an interpreter of the same sex is a good idea, because you do not distract the audience by hearing a male voice and seeing a female speaker or vice versa. There is no reason to “remind” them they´re hearing a translation. They know that, and if they forget about it, it means you´ve done a good job.
    Interpreters try to keep their own local accent in check, too. They try to speak a mutually intelligible “Standard” version of the language. An Irish interpreter will speak so that any English speaker can understand them, and when I´m interpreting you can´t tell I normally speak a variety of German many people have trouble understanding.
    If a non-native speaker holds a speech in English, you don´t try to reproduce their accent in the target language.
    So there´s even less reason to give an accented interpretation when the original actually didn´t have an accent.
    If the original speaker stutters, or has a lisp, you certainly shouldn´t lisp or stutter.

In a normal interpreting situation, that just makes the interpreter look incompetent, plus it looks as though you´re trying to make fun of the speaker.

Now this wasn´t even an interpretation, they got someone to read a prepared translation as a voice-over.
And the fact that they used the accent intentionally is disrespectful and manipulative - if they did it with everyone, I´d say they´re just plain stupid or trying to be funny (no excuse), but in this particular case I´d say they knew exactly what they were doing, and they were up to no good, I think.

Count me among the people who were appalled by this news item. It sounds like something out of a Monty Python skit. Did someone at CBS News really think this was a good idea? Did it go something like this?:

Voice-over guy:“So you want me to read this translation in, like, my regular voice”

CBS News Flak: “Yeah, that could work. Or, wait, I have a better idea! Why don’t you read it in a cartoonish funny furine-type accent? Pulitzer Prize, here we come!”?

If you ask me, it really isn’t that far removed from reenacting the interview with hand puppets.

“And now, just for the hrell of it, we’ll do voice-overs o Dan Rather interviewing Saddam Hussein as if it were Daffy Duck interviewing Elmer Fudd.”

“Tho tell me, mithter Huththein, how you feel about the builup of Troopth.”

“Well, it makes me vewwy vewwy outwaged.”
Can we take this idea of fake accents at all seriously? Why would a news agency do this?