FIREFLY CHINESE TRANSLATIONS

Inconsistent Language in Firefly and Serenity

POSTED BY: MADRIK
UPDATED: Saturday, February 23, 2008 11:16
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 12:22 PM

MADRIK


My girlfriend is Chinese native and fluent in English. I got her hooked on Firefly and she was able to translate some phrases in Chinese.

She wasn't able to translate all of it. Some of it was something she's never heard before, others were different dialects of Mandarin and others are Cantonese.

I'm sure this is an old topic but she's new to Firefly and thought I'd clarify that in the 'verse of Firefly, I suppose all of China as the superpower converged into one dialect.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 12:36 PM

WHITESILENCE


My mom and I have the same problem with the Chinese in Firefly/Serenity. I chalk a lot of it up to it just being Hollywood and give them a star for trying.

The actor's pronunciation of 'gou shi' is sort of a cross between Mandarin and Cantonese and if I remember correctly, there's one part where the ship's computer speaks Mandarin with a Cantonese accent or something weird like that.

One thing bothers me, if they meant to use Mandarin and they hired someone to teach the actors how to say it, why didn't they just have the actors learn pin yin?


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Thursday, December 13, 2007 9:18 PM

QUIXOTE13


Remember that this show is set 500 years into the future--who knows what's happened to the language, if it's converged, or--given that China managed to unify itself under one national dialect--that everybody speaks Mandarin (maybe poorly, maybe well), no matter if they're Chinese or non-Chinese (hence the accents of the actors).

In the real world, though, I have to agree with Hollywood giving it a shot--I've heard that Joss thought it was all one dialect so he didn't know the computer spoke Cantonese while the actors spoke Mandarin.

Can anyone verify this?

Take care,

I.

Invite Beauty: Ivan Chan Studio: www.ivanchan.com

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Thursday, December 13, 2007 11:38 PM

CITIZEN


Quote:

Originally posted by whitesilence:
The actor's pronunciation of 'gou shi' is sort of a cross between Mandarin and Cantonese and if I remember correctly, there's one part where the ship's computer speaks Mandarin with a Cantonese accent or something weird like that.

One thing bothers me, if they meant to use Mandarin and they hired someone to teach the actors how to say it, why didn't they just have the actors learn pin yin?

It's few off hand phrases here and there, that were meant to give the feeling of Chinese, rather than actual Chinese. It's westerners who can't speak Chinese, speaking Chinese for dumb Westerners who can't speak Chinese, I think the language was more of a prop than a anything.

What they did is record the Chinese for the actors to listen and parrot, but even then it's hard for people used to western languages where intonation is used at the sentence level to properly pronounce words that rely on intonation for meaning.

They did their best, but it's like the "where are all the Asians in the 'Verse" question. They're just behind that wall with the properly pronounced Chinese, best to suspend your disbelief .



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Friday, December 14, 2007 12:03 AM

WHITESILENCE


As I said, I chalk it up to Hollywood trying and not quite making it.

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Friday, December 14, 2007 12:09 AM

WHITESILENCE


Everyone always says that and I'd take it as an excuse if that was what they actually intended, if Joss actually said this in a recorded format somewhere. But it wasn't, he didn't and so I don't.

Given the things I've seen and read, I highly doubt Joss thought Chinese was all one dialect. If he really did as much research I've been told he did (someone told me his wife was Chinese?) and still thought it was all one big language, he must be some kind of moron. Which he is quite obviously not.

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Friday, December 14, 2007 12:50 AM

CITIZEN


Quote:

Originally posted by whitesilence:
As I said, I chalk it up to Hollywood trying and not quite making it.

And I was telling you why they didn't just have the actors learn pin yin, i.e. really not worth the effort.



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Friday, December 14, 2007 1:45 AM

HIXIE129


Wo tong yi


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Friday, December 14, 2007 11:40 AM

QUIXOTE13


He's obviously not a moron, but even smart folk can be ignorant of certain things.

Perhaps he didn't think it was one big dialect (which, I guess, would just be called a language, har har), but perhaps he could not tell them apart as he's not used to listening to Chinese.

In sci-fi scripts, oftentimes there's the direction from writers to "put in techno-speak here" or something. The writers could have made the same order without much more thought about how what they wanted said, said. It follows the idea of a previous poster that the language is more of a prop (like background Asians in Firefly).

Overall, I appreciate the world that Joss created. As an Asian person, I've read comics, watched movies, etc. where so much is made up (like street signs) when it could have easily been researched. (Avatar: The Last Airbender is an excellent example of very respectful and well-researched world creating and storytelling). So with Firefly, I really give a lot of leeway because there's a lot of heart in it.

Did anybody watch Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle? There's this part where they translate, "Bring it on, bitch!" into Chinese--and it's translated literally, "Lai ba, mu gou." It sounds ridiculous because it has no cultural context. (But I still think it's funny and interesting--I mean, if you've ever been to Japan, you can see how they slaughter English there because it's a cool and exotic language to them).

The thing I appreciate about Firefly (and Avatar) is that these are not only alternate worlds, they're worlds that have fused East-West into something new, with its own context (and in the case of Firefly, Joss-speak).

Right, I'm rambling.

Take care,

I.

Ivan Chan Studio: Invite Beauty: www.ivanchan.com

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Saturday, February 23, 2008 11:16 AM

FFYING2


Quote:

Originally posted by whitesilence:
The actor's pronunciation of 'gou shi' is sort of a cross between Mandarin and Cantonese



That's probably because it's a cross between Standard Mandarin and Taiwan Mandarin--Mandarin influenced by Canton-bordering-Fujianese/Southern Min (and possibly a little Cantonese-influenced as well).

Ying

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