I haven’t seen Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith yet, and I’m not sure I need to now that I’ve seen these screenshots of a bootleg DVD with English subtitles retranslating the Chinese translation used in the version copied. As jeremy (who bought the DVD and posted the screenshots) says, “amazingly enough, the beginning scroll is mistranslated even though the words are right there on the screen.” And the title Revenge of the Sith becomes “The backstroke of the west” (I can only assume that Sith got rendered as xi ‘west’). I’ll let you discover the rest yourself, but I can’t resist noting that “Jedi Council” becomes “Presbyterian Church.” (Via MetaFilter.)

Addendum. This seems a good place to mention that I just found a site that has an accurate translation of “All your base are belong to us” (which, it turns out, should really be “Thanks to the cooperation of the UN forces, all of your bases now belong to CATS”).


  1. Round 3 of Star Wars made some sense to me. However, its supposed intergalactic language remains obtuse, being invariably bound by the incoherent oral cheeps of tellurian anatomy (with subtitles for geeks who can actually articulate this crap). It’s only sci-fi, but will alter-intelligence be harnessed to our limits of glottal athleticism or be supra-anatomically adept at seventh sense dialogue? Who knows. I guess in the meantime, we Klingon to what we know?

  2. “English subtitles retranslating the Chinese translation used in the version copied”? I’m not sure I get this. Was the backtranslation done for the humorous effect? Why is it surprising that the opening scroll is mistranslated? Or was the series of translations back and forth necessary to avoid the wait before the official DVD releases? Or is this how non-Chinese-speaking Chinese residents get to partake in the goodness of pirated videos? So many questions…

  3. I presume the back-translation was done for the benefit of those who don’t understand Mandarin Chinese. Video pirates, like all businessmen, want to broaden their customer base.
    Why is it surprising that the opening scroll is mistranslated?
    It’s not surprising that it’s mistranslated (if in fact it is) — it’s surprising that a back-translation is added in subtitles when the original is right there on the screen.

  4. aldiboronti says

    “I am the Pusher Robot
    I am here to protect you
    I am here to protect you from the Terrible Secret of Space.”
    “I am the Shover Robot
    Please go and stand by the stairs.
    I am here to protect you from the Terrible Secret of Space.”
    There’s something of sheer genius in this song and Flash animation from The Laziest Men on Mars. It has an hypnotic quality and I just couldn’t stop watching it when I first came across it. Now you’ve reminded me of it and I’m addicted to it all over again!

  5. ‘This site is temporarily unavailable.’ Since yesterday. 🙁

  6. xiaolongnu says

    You know, it occurs to me that the presence of English subtitles in a pirated DVD that could only be expected to sell in East Asia can perhaps also be explained by the fact that most legitimate imported DVDs commonly have multiple-language subtitling — it may be seen as a necessary feature of “real” DVDs.
    Another possibility: it is common for Chinese-language movies to be subtitled in Chinese, because of the many dialects in China. The locus classicus for this practice is, I believe, Hong Kong films in Cantonese that are subtitled for non-Cantonese speakers; interestingly, they’re sometimes subtitled using the special characters that are used to render Cantonese, rather than translating what people say into standard Mandarin idioms. Thus what little I know about Cantonese idioms comes from these kinds of movies. Also, on TV in mainland China, people with strong accents are also subtitled, even when they are speaking Mandarin. But anyway, the point here is that it might not seem odd to a Chinese audience that a movie would be subtitled in its original language.

  7. There’s quite a community of illicit subtitlers out there in the arthouse movie swapping online world, and it’s not unusual for someone to do a rough job, release it and have a native speaker clean it up subsequently – often painstakingly. Other people do prank subtitles, add their own comments about the movies and so on. It’s all surprisingly lively: I had no idea, until I spent an evening with a chap who was active on the scene.

  8. sorry about the site being down- i put all the pics on my server figuring it’d be the usual gang of suspects visiting. totally underestimated how spread around this would be and my bandwidth was crushed by the ‘forces of the west’.
    as for the translation, there’s no script for the bootleggers to work from so they will listen to the movie and transcribe (in chinese) the meaning. this isn’t an accurate process as the movie is not in their primary language and the quality of the copies can be poor. from there the captions are created in other languages, from the original transcript, not from someone else watching the movie again. hence it’s a real-life version of the chinese whispers school game.

  9. Is there a site that is available with the original screen caps? I’ve seen people add ‘fake’ ones or ones that weren’t on jeremy’s original site.

  10. Better question yet, is there a site that can handle the bandwidth?

  11. jeremy: I’ve changed the link as you requested; presumably it can be clicked on with confidence now.

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