Problems of Kiswahili-English Translations as Reflected in English Subtitles in Selected Tanzanian Kiswahili Movies,

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University of Dar es Salaam
This study investigated the problems of Kiswahili-English translations as reflected in English subtitles in selected Tanzanian Kiswahili movies. The movies are commonly known as Bongo Movies , the designation that has been mostly used in this report for precision. The job involved to categorize the problems into some major categories possible and then to examine factors underlying those problems in the English-subtitled Bongo movies.The researcher selected and watched 20 English-subtitled Bongo movies from which hundreds of “marked translations,” at least in the researcher’s view, were identified. Then, fifty (50) items (i.e. subtitle dialogues) were selected and included in data collection instruments, particularly questionnaires. In the instruments, the selected 50 subtitle items were put in five (5) tables each containing ten (10) items written against their respective source language texts (i.e. Kiswahili) expressions as spoken by Bongo movie characters. Respondents were then asked to judge the “sufficiency” or rather “adequacy” of those subtitle items as translations, with regard to source language texts.The findings show that English subtitles in Bongo movies exhibit a lot of translation problems. The findings also show that those translation problems are of mixed types, ranging from syntactic, structural or grammatical problems; morphological, lexical or orthographic problems; literal translation problems; cultural problems; stylistic problems as well as semantic problems, hence, miscellaneous problems. The study also addresses some crucial factors underlying those problems. The factors include insufficient translation skills among the translators; wrong choice of translation methods; cultural and linguistic differences between Kiswahili and English; desperate hurry for the translations to enter the market; and poor command of the English language among the translators. Finally, the study suggests some solutions to the translation problems identified. The suggested solutions include that: subtitlers should be well trained in translation skills before engaging themselves in translating; subtitlers need to have sound competence in the languages and the cultures involved; and film producers and directors should employ professional translators instead of doing every thing themselves. Also, the government of Tanzania should activate its film monitoring authorities, such as the National Arts Council of Tanzania, which in Kiswahili is called ‘Baraza la Sanaa la Taifa’, and abbreviated as ‘BASATA’, and the Central Film Censorship Board of Tanzania, which is known in Kiswahili as ‘Bodi ya Filamu Tanzania’; so that they
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Translations, Swahili literature, Translations into English, English literature
Ngunguti, M. A (2011) Problems of Kiswahili-English Translations as Reflected in English Subtitles in Selected Tanzanian Kiswahili Movies, master dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam (available at,