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Humour in the World

As we all know humour is a Universal phenomenon, present in all cultures, languages and civilizations, we find it in jokes, funny story, word of wit, word play, etc… Its main purpose is to distract and make people laugh by emphasizing comic or ridicule in everyday life.

There are many humorous genres like black humour, auto derision, teasing slapstick humour ...

In addition, humour is often subjective, because what is funny or laughable in one culture or country does not necessarily produce the same effect in another culture or country, or even in another person in the same group.

That makes sense, jokes often rely on cultural understanding, assuming a level of familiarity with local news, sports, music, entertainment and politics. When viewers don’t understand these cultural norms, it’s pretty hard to get a laugh out of them.

What may be side-splitting in one culture can be far from funny or even offensive in another. For example, in China making fun of oneself is not considered to be funny at all. Indeed, in China, there’s no humour in misfortune.

Jokes that make specific cultural references will only cause confusion amongst foreign viewers.

The best customers of the jokes, whatever their register, are the Germans followed by the French, the Danes, the English. The Irish, the British, Australians and New Zealand have a strong preference for jokes based on a play on words. While the North Americans (US and Canada) prefer gags built on a “complex” of superiority, either because one person seems stupid or another has made it appear as such, with his body defending. The French, the Danes and the Belgians appreciate more the quips of the absurd. As a general rule, Europeans enjoy stories related to topics that “often make us anxious, such as death, illness and marriage”.

Humour is so very complex to translate. The translator must produce the same humorous effect as the original, so that the reader can appreciate all the subtleties.

The audiovisual element gives even more difficulty to the translator because of the temporal and spatial limitations of the scenes and dialogues and, frequently, for lip synchronization.

The translator has to know in depth the culture and society of the country in which the original version of the film and the target country was made.

Thus, many productions from Spain or the United States do not have the same success in the countries of South America or in the United Kingdom, and conversely, although the public uses a common language in both cases.

Visual expression in humour also plays an important role whatever the culture. For example, some falls or looks of incredulity. In general, it serves as a catalyst for laughter.

Moreover, linguistic elements are not always transportable into another language or culture. And some words simply do not have any translation into one language.

We resume that we all appreciate the same humour but as it differs following the country it makes translation very difficult, even sometimes impossible.

When working with 2002 Studios Media, we can use our linguistics to initially advise on the suitability of the content, BEFORE we commit to translation and media production. Localization consultancy is part of our services, and we are happy to share our advice, rather than just committing to do the impossible and charging you for it.

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