Making Thai Subtitles: Culture, Slang, and Curse Words [Season 3, Episode 77]

2019-09-16T22:19:01+07:00September 18th, 2019|Bangkok Podcast Season 3, Interviews|0 Comments

Greg interviews Palm, a professional translator of English to Thai, but in a very specific context: subtitles for film and television. Palm begins by explaining that she literally learned English by being a couch potato and watching a lot of Western TV shows and movies, surviving by figuring out the subtitles word by word. This led naturally to an interest in doing it for a living, and lo and behold, her dream came to when she got a job translating for MTV Thailand. Eventually, this led to translating for a major video distribution company (which shall remain anonymous). 

Greg quizzes Palm on the difficulties of her job and how she can possibly find Thai equivalents for all the weird expressions and slang in English. Palm notes that this in fact makes her job fun, as she often has to do research to first make sure she has the proper understanding in her own head before she can determine the best Thai equivalent. Unsurprisingly, curse words are quite difficult, and Greg and Palm discuss some rude expressions and how Palm approaches translating them. 

They also discuss the difference between simply translating a word, and translating intentions, concepts, and context. Apply this to, say, hip-hop culture, or RuPaul’s show “Drag Race”, and you can see where it becomes difficult! 

Palm concludes with some advice for wannabe subtitlers, so listen in for some excellent career guidance if you are so inclined. 

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