Last night we had guests over to the house and viewed Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. We had all seen the movie before, but this viewing was special. About a year ago, we learned of a subtitles track to the movie that was so poorly translated as to warrant a full viewing. The title of this track is Backstroke of the West.
What is Backstroke of the West?
“It came with hilariously mangled subtitlies that ranged from somewhat close to what the actors were saying to far, far away.”
It all started in 2005, when Jeremy Winterson purchased a bootleg version of the movie in Shanghai. Winterson later blogged, “It came with hilariously mangled subtitles that ranged from somewhat close to what the actors were saying to far, far away.”
After discovering the state of the subtitles, Winterson shared screenshots online that quickly went viral amongst the Star Wars community. The script had been poorly translated from English to Chinese and then machine translated back again. Upon going viral, the movie was redubbed with English voice actors reading the garbled subtitles. Thus, Backstroke of the West was born.
As a result of all of these steps, the movie contains lots of Engrish and mistranslations! It is fun to try and figure out how these errors occurred, and it certainly makes for a unique way to practice Chinese. If you want to check it out, you can watch it on youtube:
Before you go check it out, let’s take a look at some of our favorite mistranslations that we found!
Memorable Moments in Backstroke of the West:
While watching the movie, we challenged ourselves to try and figure out how these mistranslations occurred. During this game, we had some success. However, there were many others that completely baffled us! Read on to find out some examples of both.
Mistranslations with explanations:
First, let’s start with some easy ones that we have explanations for:
Obi-wan: “Hello there!”
ratio .tile: “Everybody is good”
Here it was likely translated as 大家好 – dàjiāhǎo: “hello everyone”, but 好 then became “is good.”
They also translated “Mustafar system” as “wood method star,” first phonetically using 木 for “Mu” and 法 for “far” (out of order), and then reverse-phonetically pulling in 星 for “sta.”
Anakin: “What kind of nonsense is this, put me on the Council and not make me a Master?!”
Allah gold (Anakin): “I was just made by the Presbyterian Church.”
Explanation: “Jedi Council” -> 基督教 – Jīdūjiào: “Christianity” -> “Presbyterian Church.”
In other contexts, “Jedi” is translated as “hopeless situation.” You know, “hopeless situation warrior,” “hopeless situation elder.” Here “Jedi” -> 绝态 – Juétài: “desperate; hopeless” + “condition; situation” -> “hopeless situation.”
Of course, the final “NOOOOOO!” of Darth Vader (west host) becomes “Do not want” in a classic manner.
Continue reading to see some of the more complicated ones!
Mistranslations without explanations:
Now let’s look at some challenging ones. If you can figure them out, let us know in the comments:
General Grievous: “Ahhh, Jedi scum!”
Space general: “Smelly boy”
Padme -> “the plum of I”
C-3PO: “Is there anything I might do for you, my lady?”
Padme: “Yes, make sure all the security droids are working. Thank you, Threepio.”
-> “Lady, have what can I help of”
-> “Have no, thank, blow the skin.”
Obi-wan: “He is like my brother … I cannot do it.”
ratio .tile: “He the my brothers in elephant is similar”
“Anakin” is translated as “.gold,” “Allah gold,” and “the peaceful.”
Some of them were clearly impossible:
Count Dooku: “Good. Twice the pride, double the fall.”
the D: “You are a sacrifice article that I cut up rough now”
Anakin: “I don’t need his [Palpatine’s] help . . . Our baby is a blessing, not a problem.”
Allah gold: “I do not need the child’s help. Our baby blesses god’sly.”
These are all of the examples we have. Read on to find out about our Star Wars content that can help you talk about the movies in Chinese!
Study Star Wars on Skritter
If you made it this far, you must be a Star Wars fan! If so, check out our Star Wars video and study deck to prepare yourself to talk about the movies in Chinese.
Watch the video for free on Youtube:
Our premade study deck can be accessed with a premium Skritter subscription. In this deck, you can review the words learned in the video.
Are you new to Skritter? Sign up for your free 7-day trial today. New users can save 10% off their first purchase with the code INKREN. Sign up here.