Exercise 1

Now listen to each part of the interview with Beverly Johnson, a professional translator working in Spain. Choose a, b, or c.

Part 1

1   One of the reasons Beverly decided to become a translator was that…

      a   she thought teaching English was boring.

      b   she really enjoyed the postgraduate course that she took.

      c   she wanted to be self-employed.

2   Which of these does she mention as one of the drawbacks of being a freelance translator?

      a   A low salary.

      b   No paid holidays.

      c   Time pressure.

3   Beverly’s advice to would-be translators is to…

      a   specialize.

      b   study abroad.

      c   take a translation course.

Part 2

4   Most people who translate novels into English…

      a   don’t do any other kind of translation work.

      b   prefer translating authors who are no longer alive.

      c   often concentrate mainly on one particular writer.

5   She mentions the advertising slogan for Coca-Cola as an example of…

      a   how difficult it is to convey humor in another language.

      b   how you cannot always translate something word for word.

      c   how different cultures may not have the same attitude to advertising.

Part 3

6   The Sound of Music was translated into German as…

      a   “All dreaming together.”

      b   “Tears and dreams.”

      c   “My songs, my dreams.”

7   Which of these is not mentioned as a problem when translating movie scripts?

      a   Having enough room on the screen.

      b   Conveying the personality of the speaker.

      c   Misunderstanding the actors’ words.

8   The problem with translating swear words in a movie script is that…

      a   they may be more shocking in other languages.

      b   they may not be translatable.

      c   you can’t use taboo words in some countries.


1  2 c   3 a

4 c   5 b

6 c   7 b   8 a


I = Interviewer, B = Beverly Johnson

(Part 1)

I   What made you want to be a translator?

B   It was something that I’d done when I was in college and when I moved to Spain it was difficult to get a job that wasn’t teaching English, so I went back home and I took a postgraduate course in translation. After taking the course I swore that I would never be a translator, I thought it would be too boring, but I kept doing the odd translation, and eventually I, I came round to the idea because I liked the idea of working for myself, and it didn’t require too much investment to get started. And, and actually, I enjoy working with words, and it’s, it’s very satisfying when you feel that you’ve produced a reasonable translation of the original text.


I   What are the pros and cons of being a translator?

B   Well, um, it’s a lonely job I guess, you know, you’re on your own most of the time, it’s hard work, you’re sitting there and, you know, you’re working long hours, and you can’t schedule things because you don’t know when more work is going to come in, and people always have tight deadlines. You know, it’s really rare that somebody’ll, call you and say “I want this translation in three months.” You know, that, that just doesn’t really happen.

I   And the pros?

B   The pros are that it, it gives you freedom, because you can do it anywhere if you’ve got an internet connection and electricity, and I guess you can organize your time, ’cause you’re freelance, you know, you’re your own boss, which is good. I, I like that.


I   What advice would you give someone who is thinking of going into translation?

B   I’d say that–I’d say, in addition to the language, get a speciality. Take another course in anything that interests you, like economics, law, history, art, because you really need to know about the subjects that you’re translating into.

(Part 2)

I   What do you think is the most difficult kind of text to translate?

B   Literary texts, like novels, poetry, or drama because you have to give a lot of consideration to the author, and to the way it’s been written in the original language.

I   In order to translate a novel well, do you think you need to be a novelist yourself?

B   I think that’s true ideally, yes.

I   And is that the case? I mean are most of the well-known translators of novels, generally speaking, novelists in their own right?

B   Yes, I think in English anyway, people who translate into English tend to be published authors, and they tend to specialize in a particular author in the other language. And of course if it’s a living author, then it’s so much easier because you can actually communicate with the author and say, you know, like What did you really mean here.


 Another thing I’ve heard that is very hard to translate is advertising, for example slogans.

B   Yeah, well, with advertising, the problem is that it has to be something punchy, and it’s very difficult to translate that. For example, one of the Coca-Cola ads, the slogan in English was “the real thing,” but you just couldn’t translate that literally into Spanish – it, it just wouldn’t have had the same power. In fact, it became Sensación de vivir, which is “sensation of living,” which sounds, sounds really good in Spanish, but it, it would sound weird in English.

(Part 3)

I   What about movie titles?

 Ah, they’re horrific, too. People always complain that they’ve not been translated accurately, but of course it’s impossible because sometimes a literal translation just doesn’t work.

 For example?

B   OK, well, think of, you know, the Julie Andrews film, The Sound of Music. That works in English because it’s a phrase that you know, you know like “I can hear the sound of music.” But it doesn’t work at all in other languages, and in Spanish it was called Sonrisas y Lágrimas, which means “Smiles and tears.” Now let me see, in German it was called Meine Lieder – Meine Träume, which means “My songs, my dreams,” and in Italian it was Tutti in sieme appassionatamente, which means I think “All together passionately” or, I don’t know, something like that. In fact, I think it was translated differently all over the world.


 Do you think there are special problems translating movie scripts, for the subtitles?

B   Yes, a lot. There are special constraints, for example the translation has to fit on the screen as the actor is speaking, and so sometimes the translation is a paraphrase rather than a direct translation, and of course, well, going back to untranslatable things, really the big problems are cultural, and humor, because they’re, they’re just not the same. You can get across the idea, but you might need pages to explain it, and, you know, by that time the movie has moved on. I also sometimes think that the translators are given the movie on DVD, I mean, you know, rather than a written script, and that sometimes they’ve simply misheard or they didn’t understand what the people said. And that’s the only explanation I can come up with for some of the mistranslations that I’ve seen. Although sometimes it might be that some things like humor and jokes, especially ones which depend on wordplay are just, you know, they’re simply untranslatable. And often it’s very difficult to get the right register, for example with slang and swear words, because if you literally translate taboo words or swear words, even if they exist in the other language they may well be far more offensive.

Exercise 2

A. Listen to a radio program about movie adaptations of books. According to Lindsey, are these book-to-movie adaptations successful or not?

1   The Lord of the Rings ______

2   The Hunger Games ______

B. Listen again and mark the sentences T (true) or F (false).

1   According to Lindsey, a good movie adaptation is exactly the same as the book.

2   A good adaptation has to get the timing right.

3   Choosing the right cast can make a big difference to the success of a movie adaptation.

4   The main reason for the success of The Lord of the Rings series is its setting.

5   Special effects were used extensively in the creation of the character Gollum.

6   The main reason why Lindsey doesn’t like The Hunger Games movies is the casting.



1 successful   2 not successful


1 F   2 T   3 T   4 F   5 T   6 F


Host   If you’re a regular movie-goer, you may have noticed the long list of movies that have been shown recently that are based on books. Yet it can’t be easy to turn literature into film successfully. Today we’re going to take a look at the subject of movie adaptations and we’ve invited movie buff Lindsey into the studio to share her views with us. Hello, Lindsey.

Lindsey   Hi, there.

Host   Lindsey, what is it that makes a good movie adaptation?

Lindsey   Basically, it’s finding the right balance between telling the original story while at the same time adding something new to it. If there are too many changes to the plot, the fans will get upset, but if the movie is too faithful to the original, they’ll go away wondering why they bothered to see it in the first place.

Host   Are you suggesting that the movie adaptation doesn’t have to be 100% faithful to the book?

Lindsey   It isn’t really a question of being faithful to the book; it’s more a question of capturing the spirit of the original story. A good screenplay writer is one who understands the material and is able to pick out the themes, characters, and scenes that are most important. After that, it’s a question of timing – deciding how much or how little emphasis to place on each of these things.

Host   Apart from the balance and the timing, is there anything else that contributes to a good movie adaptation?

Lindsey   Well, once you’ve got the screenplay right, you obviously have to find the right actors for all the different roles. Casting is fundamental when it comes to movie adaptations, since readers will already have an idea in their minds of what the characters are like.

Host   Lindsey, now that we’ve established what makes a good movie adaptation, can you give us an example?

Lindsey   Um, actually, I can give you more: the three movies that make up The Lord of the Rings series. All of them have an exceptional cast including renowned actors such as Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, and Cate Blanchett. And the makers have been faithful to the J.R.R. Tolkien novels; at times parts of the original narrative are read over the images that appear on the screen. At the same time, the timing is impeccable as the movie focuses on what is truly important in the story. But the key to the movie’s success is Peter Jackson’s use of special effects, some of which had never been seen in film before.

Host   What kind of special effects?

Lindsey   Take, for example, the character of Gollum, a creature created almost entirely by computer generated images. You believe he’s really there next to the real actors on the screen.

Host   That’s very true. How about giving us an example of a bad movie adaptation, Lindsey?

Lindsey   Again, I’m going to give you three movies: The Hunger Games series. The movies are hugely popular and have won several different awards. I think the casting is certainly excellent, and Jennifer Lawrence is superb as the central character, Katniss Everdeen. But I feel that the filmmakers have been a little too faithful to the books. Each movie tells the story in the exact order that it happens in the original, which, to me, makes the plot seem flat. There is little use of timing, so the key scenes aren’t given enough emphasis. On top of this, I don’t think there’s really anything new for the readers – even the color and flamboyance of the Capitol comes as no surprise because it is depicted just as it is in the book, which I found disappointing.

Host   That’s a shame because all three of the books were excellent. Lindsey Wallace, thank you for joining us today.

Lindsey   My pleasure.

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