Oct 7

Lost in translation

I have been writing on projects from several countries this year. Holland, Australia but most of my writing has been for Norway. I’m writing in English for what will ultimately be broadcast in Norwegian. And I don’t speak Norwegian so I must have faith in the translation.

Has this affected my approach to scripting?

Yes, absolutely. On two features I wrote so far this year, I began to realise that certain quirks were making translation more difficult. In English (and no doubt in other languages), we tend to use many different words to describe what is essentially the same thing. We condense actions and those much-maligned adverbs into more creative and sometimes subtle verbs. We play with our language.

But when your writing changes from one language to another, certain contractions and slang that require interpretation just won’t work. The more subtle distinctions become problematic. Words that rely on context can be mistranslated. And subtext is something that requires great care because your underlying subtleties could become underlying nothing at all once translated.

As I have mentioned here before, I tend to write out loud. I speak it and then write it down because written language is not the same as spoken language. So now, as odd as it may sound, I’m writing in an accent and that helps me find language that will translate more directly.

So yes, my approach to scripting has changed.

But what I’m realising now is that perhaps it shouldn’t have needed to change so much. Perhaps there are things I can learn from writing this way. Because the one thing this awareness of translation is always pointing me towards is clarity. Making every description clear. Making every line clear. So that there can be no misinterpretation about the intention. Gone is any flowery language. Gone are little language witticisms that will have me chuckling at my keyboard while having a translator scratching their heads. Back (strangely enough) are the adverbs – because that keeps your core verb clear and out in the open.

Simple, clear language. Language that works, both in the descriptions and the dialogue. Easy to translate. Easy to read. Just easy.

And you know what? That’s probably the way a script should be no matter what language you’re writing it in.

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