A good catchphrase can be the most memorable part of a movie. These little sound bites get quoted and thrown around so much, even people who’ve never seen the movie are often able to recognize them. They can even become a permanent part of the language.
But translating them, whether for dubbing or subtitles, can be quite tricky for a number of reasons. Catchphrases can use slang or idioms that are difficult to translate, they can depend on cultural references that may not make sense to foreign audiences, and the translations have to work within the limitations imposed by dubbing or subtitling.
So sometimes, that catchy quote that we hear in English doesn’t come out quite the same in foreign-language versions of the movie. Here are 5 examples of famous movie quotes in other languages. See how they’ve changed in translation:
“Hasta la vista, baby!”
This quote comes from the 1991 film Terminator 2, Judgement Day (as if you didn’t know.) In the movie, teenage John Connor instructs Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s humorless cyborg character to talk more like a human. In this case, a foul-mouthed early 90s teen:
John Connor: No, no, no, no. You gotta listen to the way people talk. You don’t say “affirmative” or some sh* like that. You say “no problemo”. And if someone comes on to you with an attitude, you say “eat me”. And if you want to shine them on, it’s “hasta la vista, baby”.
The Terminator: Hasta la vista, baby.
The Terminator then uses it when he offs the T-1000.
But that’s not what Spanish-language audiences heard. “Hasta la vista” is a common Spanish-language farewell that roughly translates to “Until I see you.” To keep the same edgy vibe, translators used “Sayonara, baby” for the Spanish translation:
And in Japanese? Apparently, he terminated the T-1000 with a deadpan “Cheerio then, love”
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
It seems tame now, but this line from the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind contained controversially strong language for the time. And Rhett Butler’s blunt, almost vulgar goodbye to Scarlett O’Hara didn’t carry the same edge in some of the translated versions of the movie.
Here are a few foreign-language variations:
German: Translated back into English, the German version of this line becomes, “To be honest, I’m completely indifferent.”
Russian: Meanwhile, in Russia, Rhett says, “Straightforwardly, my dear, I would not give you a damn.”
French: French audiences heard“Franchement, ma chère, c’est le cadet de mes soucis, which translates to “Frankly, my dear, it’s the least of my worries.” Read more