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A Mission to Save Hong Kong Students from Awkward “Textbook English”

出自香港新聞網 - 樹仁新傳系學生實習習作

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Learning English has always been a nightmare to many kids in Hong Kong. Why? Look at how many English grammar exercises their parents and teachers force them to do everyday. See how many boring English novels their schools force them to read every month? These conservative and tedious ways of learning English have frightened the kids away. So how are they supposed to be interested in learning the language, let alone learning it well?

Luckily, some experts have spotted the problem in time, preventing the declining English standards of Hong Kong students to deteriorate further. An innovative means to stimulate students’ interest in learning this language has then emerged – to learn with movies. Mr. James Yiu Po-Kwong is one of such experts who, accordingly to The Asian Wall Street Journal, has a mission to save Hong Kong students from the awkward English of textbooks. In view of Mr. Yiu’s reputation in the field of translation in movies, Hong Kong Shue Yan University had invited him give a talk entitled “Translation in Movies and TV” on October 16, introducing students to the fun of learning English through movie appreciation.

Mr. Yiu has been writing a column in Ming Pao for over twenty years. Even Mr. Tung Kiu, the Chairman of Apple Daily, reads his column everyday and has learnt a lot of idiomatic expressions from him. During the talk, Mr. Yiu has introduced to students a lot of common, authentic English expressions which he picked from various popular films and also real-life experiences, “It was Halloween then. A man holding a gun suddenly appeared in front of a 15-year-old Japanese girl and said, ‘Freeze!’ However, the girl misunderstood the word and thought that he must be asking her to eat up the frozen turkey so she continued walking. Then came a loud ‘Bang!’ -- the man shot the girl dead.” Mr. Yiu concluded, misunderstanding the real meaning of words under a different occasion could bring a real trouble.

Mr. Yiu is a famous, experienced translator for movies and TV drama series. When asked if translations should emphasize accuracy or audience’s understanding of the expressions, “It rather depends on the targeted audience, because every sentence means differently in different situations,” Mr. Yiu remarked.

There had also been questions about the degree of freedom translators have when deciding the names of the movies, as the Chinese and the English versions often mean totally different things. “Another team handles it, not the translators,” Mr. Yiu said, “and market value is the most important aspect in deciding the movie titles. That’s why different versions sound really different in meanings.”

Being a dignified master on the grounds of movie translation, Mr. Yu commented his “juniors” as being less refined and polished in the style of writing, “Nowadays, subtitles in Cantonese movies often contains colloquial words which Mandarin people have no idea what was going on in the movies, which is not too appreciated.”

Throughout the talk, Mr. Yu recalled his years of self-learning English. He also had words for the students: “Be confident!”

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