Jon Schnee

Lots of work, lots of rain and not much time to write this blog. But after two days break I thought it was about time to set pen to paper (or digit to key) again. Here is where I must confess to being a Game of Thrones fan. I normally don’t like “fantasy” films and have no desire to sit through, say, the Lord of the Rings or other such nonsense. My favourite films are all about real people in believable situations. So I have no idea why I like Game of Thrones – it is just high-quality nonsense. 

Why am I babbling on about “GoT”? If you watch it on German TV it is dubbed, and lots of the names are changed and it all sounds a bit silly. The best-known character, Jon Snow, is really called Jon Schnee on German TV. Even though the quality of the dubbing is much better than the Czech fairy-tale films I remember watching as a kid, I still think they made a mistake translating the names. So this got me thinking about how the German entertainment industry copes with making English language films fit their market. On the whole, they make an awful mess of it.

One of my pet hates is how they translate film titles. I think it’s OK to have a little ambiguity in an English film title. But the gnomes in charge of thinking up the German names of those films hate ambiguity. If you can’t tell what the film is about instantly, then it must be a bad title. For example, the 1980 comedy, Airplane!, is called “Die Unglaubliche Reise in einem verrückten Flugzeug” – the unbelievable journey in a crazy plane. The Deer Hunter is “Die durch die Hölle gehen” – those who walked through hell. And my personal favourite, Meet the Fockers is “Meine Frau, ihre Schwiegereltern und ich” – my wife, my parents-in-law and me. That title does at least give you a clear preview of the main roles. I could go on, the list is endless and it just hasn’t got any better in recent years.

It’s a shame, really. Fortunately now that TV-on-demand has come along, I can watch things in the original language – Ariane does too. Sometimes we turn on the subtitles. And if it’s a Quentin Tarantino film I need the subtitles because everyone is mumbling anyway. Everything on “normal” TV and 95% of the films shown here are, unfortunately, dubbed. In the Netherlands and Scandinavia it’s different – they show everything in the original language and use subtitles. That’s one of the main reasons that the Dutch speak such excellent English. Now the Germans speak reasonable English on the whole, but if only the state channels would show films with subtitles… it would be so good for the country. Of course the slight snag in my plan is that nobody would watch it. (I can’t even get my English-speaking kids to watch things in the original language without complaining).

In the interest of balance, I should point out that the Germans are certainly not the only ones guilty of mangling another language. I watched the England European Cup game with German commentary last weekend. The commentator made a fair fist of pronouncing the England Players’ names. Then I watched the German game with English commentary. Oh dear. I could understand who they were talking about, but there was not the faintest hint of a concession to German pronunciation. What made it even more irritating was the high degree of confidence that the commentators had. It was like saying “we know this sounds nothing like their names, but we don’t care.” Mind you, I shouldn’t pick on football commentators – they were once footballers.

Oh well, only a day to go until England play again and I will watch with an English commentary this time and see if they can get Raheem Sterling right.

Bis morgen!




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