Polish film titles

Or to be more precise, the official translation into Polish of English language film titles. A subject that has always been unfathomable and probably always will be. The question being, why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, does the Urząd responsible for agreeing what the translation should be get it so very wrong 75% of the time?

This one struck me today and does perhaps provide a fine example of the matter. There is a film called in English “Bad Teacher” starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Slumberlake and others. It scores 5.9 on the IMDb richter scale so is almost certainly crap. Anyway, it is called BAD TEACHER, here’s the poster in English:

Alright. Now let’s look at how best to translate this for the Polish audience. We have two simple words, BAD and TEACHER and there is not really any funky stuff to consider so a straight translation to Zła Nauczycielka would seem to be the best and only way to handle this.

Apparently not. In Poland the film is called BAD WOMAN, Zła Kobieta. Why? I have no bloody idea. Perhaps it is far more acceptable to call a woman bad than a teacher. Or perhaps it is far more common to find bad women in Poland than bad teachers. Or the other way, perhaps bad teachers are everywhere and so it would be a boring title whereas bad women are very rare. Lastly, it might just be that the Urząd of Film Titles employees are a bunch of idiots!

Here’s the Polish poster in case you find all this hard to believe:

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17 thoughts on “Polish film titles

  1. I don’t get that sort of thing either. It almost feels as if, sometimes, Polish doesn’t allow for a lot of subtlety …or Poles don’t. I have a very hard time believing that but there are an awful lot of things that quite simply named. It’s odd. We should do a Polandian post.

  2. I don’t think it’s anything specifically about woman of teacher being more probably to be bad :).

    There is huge amount of strangely translated movie titles in Poland:

    “Fight club” – “Podziemny krąg”(literaly “underground circle”)
    “Lord of War” – “Pan życia i śmierci” (literaly Lord of the life and death)
    “American History X” – “Więzień nienawiści” (literaly “The prisoner of the hate”)
    “Aliens” – “Obcy – decydujące starcie” (literaly “Alien – the deciding battle”)
    “Die Hard” – “Szklana pułapka” (literaly “Glass trap”)
    “Bucket List, The” – “Choć goni nas czas” (literaly “Even if time’s pursuing us”)
    “Brokeback Mountain” – “Tajemnica Brokeback Mountain” (literaly “Mistery of the Brookberry montain”)
    “Final Destination” – “Oszukać przeznaczenie” (lit. “To lie to the destiny”)
    and many many more.

    It almost seems translators are bored and they feel they need to add something to the movie. Or maybe they thought their title better suits the movie?

  3. A quick look at Wiki shows the Poles were the only nation that felt the need to screw with this movie’s title. The only other non-conformists were the Ukrainians, who went with “Uchilka”, which apparently is a colloquial and pejorative variant of “vchitelka” (teacher), but at least it does not pervert the title like the Polish “translation” does.

    It’s most likely the fault of the Polish distributor. Any Polish translator would agree with Scatts’s “Zła Nauczycielka”. If for some reason a misogynous title was absolutely necessary, “Zła Pani” would be better as “pani” is used both in the sense of “woman” and of “female teacher”.

    Why do Polish releases of foreign movies have to be cringe-worthy so often, beats the hell out of me. I sure wouldn’t want to be in the position of a translator who had this kind of dumb decision forced on him.

    @Brad: “We should do a Polandian post.” – Please do. I’d be tempted to write an essay on the state of translation and language awareness in Poland, but it’s late and i can’t afford to sob all night.

  4. So late, in fact, that I neglected to capitalize “I” in the last sentence… :-( Why doesn’t WordPress allow previewing posts and editing them afterwards?

  5. LOL……….I am not sure about the other films but maybe in this case they are reading the picture rather than translating the words. (and they are not even close) Low ratings here too…but then what do you expect from Diaz and Slumberlake. Maybe translators don’t get our slang.

  6. odzrut, there are definitely times that they try to convey the essence of the film rather than the title it was given, that’s true and slightly more acceptable – aside from treating Poles like idiots.

  7. Hadn’t thought of Pani but you’re right, that would probably be the best Polish version because of the double meaning.

    By the way, your use of “guerrilla mail” is a pain the arse because it creates a new address every time and so your comments always need approving. With others who have stable mail address the system recognises you and once approved you are approved forever. Just in case you were wondering why the delay in your comments appearing! ;)

  8. I don’t know but I’ll take a look back-stage and see if that’s even an option.

    OKAY – not an option using the web based version, as I do. If I had downloaded the .org version and was using that, for example on my own server, then there’s a plug-in that “might” work. Polandian has the .org version, it allows more customisation but I’m not techy enough to bother with that.

    There are many people asking for this ability though so perhaps the next upgrade would include it!

  9. I notice two other differences with the posters now. The Polish version gives no credit to Slumberlake or the other guy, also removes the tag line She doesn’t give an “F”. Was it too hard to translate, too rude, or what?

  10. I’ve given this some thought and it’s true it’s hard to translate if you want to keep the double-entendre. One might perhaps try “Ona ma wszystko w D” (as in “dziennik”, har har) or something like that, although it would probably be better to come up with something different altogether. On second thought, why bother with a tagline? Translation costs money! Doing a Photoshop imitation of writing on a blackboard also apparently requires a lot of time and effort…

  11. Okay, latest comments were with consistent address so let’s see if your next one is automatically approved.

    Assuming I post something worth commenting on that is!

  12. Scatts,

    The translation may refer to a widely recognised film dialog “bo to zła kobieta była” from a well known Polish film starring Bogusław Linda, who says this line. Your wife will translate you nuances.
    This post and comments ensure me even more, that hiring expats, who don’t understand local culture well, but are supposed to win business and grow companies, is in many cases a waste of money.

    AND, there is no “Urząd of film titles”, each distributor does this at his discretion and responsibility.

    Best regards,
    Zzyzzy

  13. Thanks for the possible explanation zzzyyyxxxzzzy.

    Not sure how you extrapolate expats not being able to run businesses nor understand culture from this, unless it’s a film title translation business of course. I think you should leave your chips behind before you comment on here.

    There’s no Urząd of film titles??!! Gosh! I suppose that means English humour/sarcasm is lost on you then?

  14. Well, I’m Polish (born and half-bred) and I’d never have thought of the movie “Psy”. Even if most Poles knew this line (and I doubt it), I still wouldn’t understand the point of referencing “Psy” in the title of a foreign movie whose plot, actors and setting have nothing in common with it.

  15. Scatts I use a real email address and each time I post I must “confirm subscription”. That is a big PINTA, I agree.

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