Translation of Hollywood film titles: Implications of Culture-Specific Items in Greater China


  • Ling Yu Tsoi MPhil



In view of the lack of updated analysis on film title translation in Greater China, the present study attempted to investigate translation of culture-specific items in Hollywood film titles among three regions of Greater China: Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. From 1989 to 2018, a film title database was built, comprising of 2472 source texts and over 7410 target texts. Culture-specific items were identified and classified into five themes, namely toponym; anthroponym and fictional character; forms of entertainment; means of transportation; and social taboos. Analysis was in two tiers: First, translation methods under each theme was compared within target regions. Second, corresponding cultural implications of the three target regions were discussed using the concept of glocalisation. In a translational perspective, adaptation was highly favoured by Hong Kong under film title translation, whereas transliterations and literal translations were preferred by Mainland China. In a cultural perspective, both Mainland China and Hong Kong were found to preserve local cultures via translation. While Mainland China attempted to protect the purity of Chinese language through using transliterations and literal translations, Hong Kong used Cantonese slangs and jargons to replace culture-specific items in source text. Different from the former regions, Taiwan adopted exotic and explicit translation of social taboos. The present research sheds new light on Translation Studies research by analyzing film title translation in a sociocultural perspective, and thus can offer stakeholders in the film industry to appreciate translation in another perspective.


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Author Biography

Ling Yu Tsoi, MPhil

Debbie Lingyu Tsoi’s research interests and education are cross-disciplinary. Graduated from the Education University of Hong Kong with Master of Philosophy in Translation Studies, she was formerly an English teacher. Having rewarded the best presentation award in an international conference, Debbie has also published articles in peer-reviewed journals, investigating topics like politics of translation, and community of translators. Debbie is now working in the Department of Social Work & Social Administration, the University of Hong Kong, with research interests including but not limited to sociology of translation, sociolinguistics, culture and computer-mediated communication.