Date of Award
Translating comedic material into another language presents challenges both in accurately representing specific words and idioms and in conveying social conventions and national temperament. As American television programs gain international popularity, there is a developing need for understanding these issues of translation.
Several American comedy television programs have gained popularity in Spain in recent years. Shows including The Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons have been translated into Spanish and dubbed by Spanish voice actors to air on television stations in Spain (Grandio). "Big Bang," the Spanish version of The Big Bang Theory has been on the air in Spain since 2008; "Los Simpson," the Spanish version of The Simpsons, has been running in Spain since 1991 ("The Simpsons 1989-"). These shows are classified as situation comedies, or sitcoms, which have been the "dominant form in American primetime television for over 50 years" (Sander 25). While some of the humor in sitcoms stems from the interaction between groups of recurring characters, both The Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons also often include references to American popular culture (Sander 25). Although the humor in these sitcoms is written for an American audience, many young Spaniards also enjoy these programs (Gonzalez 156). According to a demographic study, "Los Simpson" is one of the most watched television shows in Spain among 13-24 year olds ("Vertele").
The success of these comedy shows in Spain suggests that Spaniards are receptive to American television programs that were originally filmed in English. However, not all Spanish versions of American shows have experienced the same level of success. In 2009, a Spanish version of the show Saturday Night Live was launched to air in Spain. However, this program lasted only a few episodes before going off the air (Garrison). One possible explanation for its failure is that the translation method, more so than the content of the material, was at fault. The Spanish versions of shows such as The Big Theory and The Simpsons use the original video and dub over the audio, whereas the SNL remake completely re-filmed the show with Spanish actors. Many content elements were changed from the American version of the show. It is possible that had the show been translated using a different method, it may have received a more positive response. In order to determine if this theory is correct, I conducted research to determine the most effective method for the translation of cultural humor. Because much of the Spanish version of Saturday Night Live was translated with one type of translation technique, I translated two sketches from Saturday Night Live into Spanish using a different method and then sought feedback from both American and Spanish audiences. I then compared the reactions of Spaniards to the subtitled videos with the reactions of Americans to the original videos in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the translations.
Hosack, Megan, "Live from New York, it's the Translation of Cultural Humor!" (2015). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 263.