The Universal Translator – Justice League of America #44 (June 2010)

As you can probably guess by the unimaginative title of the premiere entry in this ongoing series, I’ll be using these blog posts to provide English translations for foreign language text appearing in comic books, cartoons, movies, television shows, anime, manga, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

This time around, we’ll be focusing on Justice League of America #44 (June 2010) by James Robinson, Mark Bagley, Rob Hunter, and Norm Rapmund, where four members of the Rocket Elite, a German armed forces unit outfitted with powered suits of armor, are sent to investigate a meteorite crash in the Black Forest and end up having a run-in with the Demon Etrigan:

German: Wie lange haben wir erreichen das Ziel?
English: How long do we have reach the target?

Yes, that’s a literal translation, meaning that the original is grammatically incorrect.  “Wie lange, bis wir das Ziel erreichen?” (“How long until we reach the target?”) would’ve been more accurate.

German: Dreissig Sekunden, Commander Danitz.
English: Thirty seconds, Commander Danitz.

Since comic book fonts are generally comprised of uppercase letters only, substituting “ss” for the “ß” in “dreißig” is indeed correct. What’s strange is that “commander” is still in English. A complete translation would’ve been, “Dreissig Sekunden, Kommandant Danitz.”

To be fair, though, translating “commander” isn’t as clear cut as I’ve made it out to be here: it’s highly dependent on the branch of the armed forces you’re dealing with as well as the country. If you were to subtitle or dub a movie or television show that focuses exclusively on the U.S. Army, for example, you’d usually leave the rank designations untranslated. Commander Danitz is obviously German,  though, so I see no reason for them to leave it in English here.

German: Gut, ich bin sehr gespannt…
English: Good, I’m very eager (to)…

Vas ist…
English: What is…

This is a common mistake. “Was” (German for “what”) is written with a “w”, not a “v”. The reason why this error appears so frequently is due to pronunciation differences between languages:  the German “w” sounds more like the English “v”, while the German “v” sounds more like the English “f”.

English: No…

The poor guy didn’t even get to finish saying “Nein”.

Die Rakete-Auslese
English: The Rocket Elite

The grammatically correct translation would be “Die Raketen-Auslese”, though I would’ve gone with “Die Raketen-Elite” myself.

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3 Responses to “The Universal Translator – Justice League of America #44 (June 2010)”

  1. Gen Says:

    And i thought the german-speaking aliens from that one Black Hand Story were bad. But this? Rakete-Auslese? Fuck.
    It can’t be that hard for a company like DC to find someone who actually speaks the languages they use in their scripts..

  2. Lunar Archivist Says:

    Though I never quite mastered German grammar (it’s my second language), I can safely say that I would’ve avoided mistakes like this. While “Auslese” is not completely wrong, it’s not really the appropriate word to use under these circumstances (hence my suggested correction). Maybe it’s just the video game localization tester in me talking, though, since you’re normally asked to leave things be unless they’re 100% wrong.

    I agree with your overall assessment and find it a bit strange that they can’t find a cheap translator or German-speaking acquaintance to do the work.

    Oh, and congrats on posting the first, verifiably non-spam comment on my blog. 😀

  3. Anonymus Says:

    As a native German speaker I’ve always wondered why they (meaning “every single US comic publisher”) can’t get a professional translater for their German Lines, and probably most lines in other languages as well, but this comic actually does pretty fine, I remember a iirc JLA or JSA comic a few years ago, where they managed to apparently using a font that doesn’t have the umlauts and using random symbols like ][/ in their place.

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