Peculiarities of Translation of a Cartoon (on the example of the Georgian translation of “Madagascar”)

Dubbing and subtitling are the main modes of an audio-visual translation. Each of them "interferes" into the original text to a different extent, for instance, dubbing is the method, which  modifies a source text significantly and makes it familiar to the target audience through the so-called "domestication". This is the method by which: "foreign dialogues are adjusted to the mouth and movements of the actor in the film and its aim is seen as making the audience feel as if they were listening to actors actually speaking the target language" [Dries, 1995:9].

In contrast to dubbing, subtitling offers a synchronized translation in the form of a text, which is usually placed at the bottom of the screen and alters the source text to the least possible extent. The audience perceives it as a "foreign text".

It's a well-known fact, that children prefer dubbing, because watching cartoons is some kind of an entertainment for them. Even the countries like Sweden, Iceland and Greece, generally preferring subtitling, apply to dubbing during the process of the translation. The same can be said about Georgia, where dubbed cartoons are preferred on TV and in the movie theatres, while subtitled films are often shown on TV.

We chose a dubbed version of "Madagascar", because its characters provide an interesting material for the research. Moreover, the cartoon is dubbed by famous Georgian comic actors. Their voices are familiar to the target audience. This fact intensifies the effect of "domestication" and is helpful in the process of creating characters. Newmark makes the following distinctions between the methods and procedures of translation: "while translation methods relate to whole texts, translation procedures are used for sentences and the smaller units of language" [Newmark, 1988: 81]. According to Newmark's classification, the method of adaptation was used during the process of the translation of "Madagascar". It is the freest form: the plot, the theme and the characters are preserved, while the characteristic features of SL culture (for example, geographical names) are replaced with the realities, which are familiar to the target audience.  

We compared the English script of the cartoon with its Georgian version (the Georgian dubbed film) to reveal how a translator uses different translational procedures for creating characters and achieving a communicative effect similar to the original, for instance, the usage of a dialect (the Kartvelian dialect) in the Georgian translation plays a significant role in the process of the creation of the zebra.

It's worth mentioning, that according to the similar characteristics, the Georgian dialects can be divided into the eastern and western groups. Therefore, 17 dialects can be singled out and revealed. They "slightly" differ from each other according to the certain aspects of phonology, morphology, syntax and vocabulary, but, at the same time, retain an overall set of features. Therefore, we can single out the following characteristic features of the Georgian dialects:

  • a distinction between short and long vowels;
  • additional vowel sounds, which are not found in the standard language;
  • the presence of both ჴ/q and ყ/q' consonants;
  • the usage of the n-plural;
  • plural forms of adjectives;
  • non-standard forms of verbs;
  • words, which are not found in the standard language.

In general, the mountain dialects are more conservative and preserve a number of archaisms which have disappeared from other dialects. However, certain complexities of the standard Georgian are simplified in them. The standard literary language is based on the Kartlian dialect  [].


In this cartoon not-so-wild animals experience a serious cultural shock when they move from New York to the Mighty Jungle. Alex is a lion, who enjoys a charmed life as one of the leading attractions of the zoo in New York City's Central Park. Alex and his pals Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe are happy with their lives, but they have a certain curiosity about the outside world. When the penguins of the zoo decide "to make a break for it, Marty follows them into the city". Alex, Gloria, and Melman set out to find Marty before he gets into trouble, but they are late. The zoo-keepers decide that the animals are restless and need to be returned to the wild nature. Thus, the characters appear on the coast of Madagascar, where they quickly discover, that a "wild life" does not suit them [ /Movies/Madagascar/Summary/].

The research revealed, that the Georgian translators used the slang  and paralinguistic features of the particular Georgian dialect, for instance, zebra Marty-Del Pierro's speech was translated via active usage of the linguistic and paralinguistic features of the Kartlian dialect:

"Alex! Do not interrupt me when I'm daydreaming!"[1] []

"Alika, ramdenjer unda giTxra, roca vocnebob meTqi mag drosa xeli ar SemiSalo, gaige?"[2] []. (Alika, how many times should I tell you not to interrupt my daydreaming? Do you understand?)

In the Georgian translation we notice the addition of the suffix "a" to the dative case of the word, which characterizes the Kartlian dialect. The zebra uses this dialect, which is not presented in the source text. Moreover, the English form of the name "Alex" is replaced with the Georgian "Alika".

"Okay, just don't talk with your mouth full".

"piri ar daxuro, Tore dagklam icode." (Don't close your mouth or I'll kill you.)

In the Georgian translation "dagklam" - the changed form of the verb "dagklav" - is used. Its reference is rude, because "dakvla" means "slaughter" and is usually used with the words denoting animals. Although the characters of the cartoon are animals, they speak and act like human beings.  Therefore, the usage of this verb in the given context creates a humoristic effect and is regarded as a rude form.

"Awww.. Hey.. Thanks man. It was behind the tooth! You're all right".

"vaaah, ra jigari xar, Tana viToma gageCxira, rogor moifiqre?" (You are cool, as if you've got something stuck in your mouth, how clever of you!)

In the spoken American English "man" is a form of addressing, which is replaced by the Georgian slang "jigaro" in the process of the translation. Moreover, the forms of the Georgian dialect ("vitoma" and "tana") are also used.

It's worth mentioning, that the translators successfully employ the slangs. For example:

"Oh no! I'm not listening".

"kai biWo! ar mesmis, vafSe araferi!"  (O.K. Boy! I hear nothing at all.)

In this case, an informal form of the address "Bicho" and a slang "vafshe" are used. The latter came from the Russian language.

"Hey! Don't be calling me cuckoo in the head!"

"ityueba! zebra var, fuflo ara var!" (He's lying, I am a zebra. I am not a "fuflo".)

"Cuckoo in the head!" means "crazy". In the Georgian translation it is replaced with the slang "fuflo", which means a person who has lost money in the gambling and is not able to pay it. This replacement seems unusual for the text, which is created for children. However, the translators aimed at the target audience, while emphasizing the fact which is familiar to the Georgian reality.

"Come on, Alex. Do you honestly think I intended all of this to happen? You want me to say that I'm sorry? "

" kai, ra gaawuxe guli.  Sen TviTon ar amekide? ra ginda, bodiSi mogixado?" (O.K. That's enough, didn't you come with me? What do you want me to do? To say I'm sorry?)

The form "kai" in the Georgian informal speech means "good" ("kargi"). It's also worth mentioning, that a tortured form ("gaawuxe") of the verb "sheatsuxe" and a rude form "amekide" create a communicative effect, which is equivalent to the original. Hence, the given complex of the Georgian sentences represents only a free interpretation of the source text.

"He's got style!"

"ra magari roJaa!"  (He's cool!)

In the translation a neutral expression of the original text is replaced by the slang "rojaa".

A situational variation of the language is expressed in the translation in an interesting way. It's a well-known fact, that a language can express the following socio-linguistic parameters of a speaker and an addressee: age, status, educational background, regional background, race, religion, etc. It also expresses situational aspects, an emotional state, a number of speakers and a nature or a purpose of the situation. A language is a central indicator of social relationships. It is the means of demonstrating power and solidarity. Therefore, one of the best ways of highlighting  different factors is the analysis of different ways of addressing.

The reflection of speech markers denoting a character of relationship between the speakers has the great importance for the pragmatic-communicative equivalence of the translation. "It's difficult to find equivalent forms for the endearing or rude forms of address. It is very important to maintain the overtones characterizing them in the original" [Sakvarelidze, 2001:210].

The translation of "Madagascar" provides an interesting material for the transmission of  address forms and maintenance of overtones, which characterize the original.

"Thanks a lot, officer".

"gavige. Madloba, jigaro." (I understood. Thank you, a cool man.)

The form "officer" of the source text is substituted by the slang "jigaro", which means "good, cool, hearty person" and creates a different situation.

"Yeah! Talk to me, buddy! "

"Me var, biWo!"  (It's me, boy!)

In the informal American English "buddy" means "friend".  In the translation it is replaced by "biwo" (boy), which is also an informal form of address.

"Beg your pardon?"

"Tore ra?" (Or what?)

In the target language the dialect and the expression "Tore ra?" are used instead of the formal expression of the source text.

"Excuse me! You're biting my butt!"

"Uukacravad! Tqveni kbilebi xom ar CamerWo?" (Pardon! Is it possible that your teeth  pierced me?)

An American slang "butt" (bottom) is replaced by a formal-polite address in the Georgian translation. Great effect is made by suddenly uttered pronoun "tkven" (you), which indicates to the fear and confusion of the zebra. This character usually uses dialects and informal forms of the language. Therefore, "tkven" creates a humorous effect and the change of a register implies the achievement of a communicative effect of the source text.

The discussed material reveals, that a lot of slang and dialect forms are used for the creation of the zebra. Sometimes a free interpretation of the source text is used, which seems natural for the method of adaptation. The usage of Kartvelian dialect is also very important for the creation of the zebra. It's natural, that all the above mentioned changes are not presented in the source text. They are only employed to achieve a humorous effect. It's worth mentioning, that besides the linguistic means, audio effects play an important role in the creation of the zebra.

The dialect is not used in the speech of the lion. The usage of slang is also very rare. Therefore, in contrast to other characters, the speech of the lion acquires more sophisticated shade.

"What is it, Melman?"

"ra ginda, kaco?"  (What do you want, man?)

In the translation a character's name is substituted by the form of an informal address "kaco" (man). It makes the relationship of the characters informal and in this case, expresses an irritation of the lion. The given supposition is reinforced by paralinguistic marks (tone of the voice, intonation) used in the contexts. We chose the following examples for making analysis:

"You got a ah.. you got a little smutz. right there on yer..."

"dingi moiwminde da mere iblatave."(Wipe your snout and then talk.)

In this context Alex-Alika changes the style of its speech and uses the slang. For example, Alex uses the verb "blataoba", which means "speaking like a cool person".

"Lady, what is wrong with you?"

"ra mogivida, bebo?"(What's the matter with you, granny?)

In this case, the word "lady" is replaced by "bebo" (grandmother), which suits the context with its informal shade.

"Don't you ever do this again. Do you hear me?"

"Araferic ar ici, viriSvilo Sena!"  (You know nothing, you, son of a donkey...)

In the target language the anger is given in a rude address form, while in the source text it is expressed by the addition of a question to the affirmative sentence.

"Oh no! No no! Not the box!"

"ara, ara! oRond es ara. Cemi aq Casma ar SeiZleba! ra pontia!" (No, no, only not this! I can't be put here! No way!)

When the lion and other animals were caught in the street, the organization protecting animals demanded to return them to their natural habitat. As a result, they were placed in boxes and sent by ship. When the lion woke up, he paniced. The Georgian translators used slang to express this emotional state.

"Alex hungry. Alex eat."

"Alikas Sia. Alikas fia unda."(Alika is hugry. Alika wants to eat.)

In the source text the emotion of the emaciated king of the jungle unable to control itself is expressed by the lack of agreement between the subject and the verb, which is characteristic for the speech of babies. The target text uses the word "fia" - a diminutive form of the verb "eat" ("chama") - which also characterizes the speech of babies. Consequently, a register and a communicative effect of the source text are maintained: Alex-Alika nominates himself as the third person and uses the forms presented in children's speech.  

The studied material reveals, that the emotional state stipulates the deviation from the forms of the standard English (it occurs in the speech of the lion). Hence, the portrait of the lion is not created via slang and dialect. The translator uses slang only if the character is nervous.

As it has already been mentioned, this cartoon is dubbed by famous Georgian comic actors. Gloria is dubbed by the man who usually plays women's parts in different humorous sketches. His unique voice and vocabulary is familiar to the public. The fact, that Gloria is dubbed by the man, who tries to speak in a woman's voice creates a humorous effect.

"What did Marty say to you? I asked you to talk to him!"

"seriozulad ro dalaparakebodi, xo aRar gaipareboda, bentera Sena." (If you had talked to him seriously, he would not have left. You are stupid!)

In the translation we meet the omission of the last consonants of the conjunction "rom"and particle "xom". Moreover, an informal form of an address "bentera" is used. It means "stupid" and emphasizes the fact that the lion was not able to solve the problem.

"Is that Melman? Are you okay?"

"rogora xar, Se sawyalo Sena?" (How are you? You poor one!)

The poor is a person, who can move to pity. This form of an address is usually used by the actor, who dubs Gloria. In this case, he uses it for an effective creation of the portrait of a new character. The same can be said about the following example.

"Oh, you poor little baby, did that big mean lion scare you?"

"gamoeTrie aqeT. ui, rogor SegaSina am Tavgasiebulma Svilo!" (Go away! Ow, how this "big-headed" has scared you, baby!)

"Tavgasiebuli" (a person who has a big head) is an insulting epithet. In the translation it is used towards the lion, who scared a child. In this case, the word "tavgasiebuli" suits the context, but does not correspond to the source text.

"Melman! There are prescriptions, that have to be filled."

"Jora, dawynardi, nu panikob. Aamxela saqoneli marTla" (Calm down Jora, don't panic! You are such a huge animal after all!)

In this case, a free translation is used. An actualized form of the address "Saqoneli" (animal) has an insulting meaning. It is not used in the source text, where the character speaks about the prescriptions, that must be filled.

"Don't make me come up there, I'd get to woopin'on both of you all!"

"exla dawynardiT, Tore raRacas CagTxliSavT orives!"(Calm down both of you or I'll hit  something!)

The verb "cagaTxliSo" is a rude form of the verb "cartkma" ("to hit").

It must be mentioned, that Gloria's portrait is presented differently in the original and  Georgian versions. Gloria never uses slang and rough language in the source text. In the Georgian version the same character prefers an informal style of speaking. She often uses slang, rude vocabulary and omission of the last consonants. As a result, feminine and soft Gloria of the original version turns into rough and funny "Georgian Gloria". This effect is reinforced by audio effects.

One of the characters of the cartoon is a pedant giraffe Melman-Jora, whose speech is serious and monotonous. Acoustic effects are very important for the creation of this character.

"Not for me. I'm callin' in sick.What?"

"eg me ar mexeba. biuletinze var." (It has nothing to do with me. I am on a sick leave.)

"Zoo transfer! Oh, no. I can't be transferred, I have an appointment with doctor Goldberg at 5."

"sxva zooparkSi! Aara!

Eeg rogor SeiZleba me mkurnalobis kursi maqvs daniSnuli." (In another Zoo! No way! I am going under a course of medical treatment.)

This is also a free translation created under the influence of the Georgian culture. "Doctor Goldberg" is replaced by "the course of the medical treatment", because the former means nothing to the Georgian society. 

The giraffe is a character, which cares a lot about its health. Its speech is fluent in the original, while in the translation it uses slang and informal expressions.

"Where exactly is here?"

"ro vicodeT daglijavs." (If I only knew!)

The target language uses the slang "daglijavs" ("will be very good"), which is not found in the original text.

"Can we go to the fun side now?"

"Del-Pieros Tavisuflebis ideas xo ar mivawveT." (Shall we follow Del-Piero's idea of freedom to the end?)

When the statue of liberty, built by the lion, gets in fire, the giraffe proposes the lion to support the zebra. In the target language a translator uses a slang phrase "ideas mivawvet" ("to  follow the idea to the end/to push the idea"), which is not found in the source text.

The Georgian translation of "Madagascar" is interesting from the point of view of transmitting allusions. The allusion is the device which stipulates a simultaneous activation of two texts. Moreover, this term refers to "a variety of uses of preformed linguistic material in either its original or a modified form, and of proper names, to convey often implicit meaning" [Leppihalme, 1997].

An allusion is usually used in humorous texts. "It provides a convenient way to remind the reader of people and events in other texts, and invites the reader to see the current scene or situation in the light of this additional information" [Berger, 1997:7]. The author uses allusions for making particular connections of information.

From the translational point of view, Leppihalme and Hellegren divide allusions into proper name and key phrase allusions [Hellgren, 2007:12]. The former (PN allusions) includes: names of people, titles of fictional works and names of organizations, while the latter (KP allusions) encompasses all the other cases of allusions. PK allusions are more numerous than PN ones. Hence, both of them are presented in "Madagascar".

It's worth mentioning, that the names of characters are changed in the translation, for instance, the lion is called the Georgian name Alika instead of Alex and a character of the original text Zebra Marti becomes Del-Pierro - a fan of Juventus. For the Georgian audience the name Marti means nothing, while Del-Pierro is quite known and acceptable for a person, who is familiar with the football. Giraffe Melman became the Georgian Jora. Only the name Gloria is not changed in the translated version.

In the Georgian translation of the source text proper names are Georgianized. They facilitate the identification of allusions. Moreover, some allusions of the translated version are not found in the source text.

"Make it up as you go along! Ad lib, improvise, on the fire! Boom,boom,boom.."

 "warmoidgine, rom eminemi xar."(Imagine, that you are Eminem.)

This passage represents a free translation. The translator uses the name of the famous rapper Eminem, which is not presented in the original. This allusion makes the character more understandable and memorable. The same effect is created by the allusions about Snoop and Jennifer Lopez.

"I could do fresh. Works for me."

"me snupi viqnebi." (I'll be Snoop.)

"Let's go Gloria! Up and at 'em! Were open!"

"Faqtiurad Sen iqnebi jenifer lopesi adeqi!" (And you'll be Jennifer Lopez! Get up!)

The effect of Georgianization is intensified by the allusions, which replace cultural realities and places of the foreign country by Georgian ones. There are a lot of cases of this type in the given cartoon.

Gloria: "Well I hear they have wide open spaces in Connecticut."

"ise, rogorc vici, vakis parkSic yofila, Turme, veluri buneba." (As I know, there is a wild nature in Vakis  Parki.)

The toponym of the original "Connecticut" is replaced by the Georgian "Vakis parki".

The same effect can be seen in the following cases:

Melman: "Connecticut? Yeah, what you got to do is you gotta go over Grand Central."

Jora: "xo, zooparkidan ro gaxval 214 marSutkaze dajdebi da 20 wuTSi iqa xar." (When you go out of the zoo, get on the mini-bus 214 and in 20 minutes you're there.)

Melman: "Oh no! What are we gonna do?We gotta, we gotta call somebody!"

"ra unda vqnaT? ra unda vqnaT? ra vqnaT, ra vqnaT da patruls gamovuZaxoT."(What should we do? What should we do? Let's call "Patruli".)

Monkey:  "I heard Tom Wolfe is speaking at LincolnCenter."

maimuni: "me mgoni parlamentis win saqarTvelos mitingi iwyeba."(I think, the meeting is starting in front of the Parliament.)

Alex: "A King! Loved by my people!Let's just be simple! And you ruined everything! "

"Mme viyavi bavSvebis sayvareli gmiri. ra reitingi mqonda? memarjveneebs 2%-iT vuswrebdi. Sen ki ra gamikeTe Se dampalo Sena! " (I was children's favorite hero. What rating did I have? I had 2% more voices than the Right-wing party. What have you done, you jerk!)

Gloria: "Stop it! Look, We're just gonna find the people get checked in and have this mess straightened out! "

"sul tyuilad nerviulobT. jer unda vipovoT gamgeoba da davfiqsirdeT da deportacias gagvikeTeben Cvens zooparkSi." (You worry for nothing, we should find an emigration department and  they'll deport us to our zoo.)

All the above mentioned can be summarized in the following way:

The given cartoon is translated via the method of adaptation. Therefore, the examples of a free interpretation are often presented in the Georgian translation. The translators often use slang for the creation of the characters of the cartoon (even in the cases, when slang is not presented in the source text). It's worth mentioning, that a lion uses slang and rude expressions only in the state of nervousness. The speech of zebra contains dialect, which plays a great role in the creation of this character. The same can be said about allusions, which intensify the effect of domestication and create a humorous atmosphere.

Great attention must be paid to the audio-visual effects, which are essential for the effectiveness of the whole cartoon. They acquire great importance in the process of creating characters, which are funny and memorable. They differ from the initial ones, because various prosodic features lead to the formation of different types of characters, for instance, Gloria's part is dubbed by the man - a famous Georgian comic actor. Therefore, feminine and soft Gloria of the original version is replaced with a rough comic character of the translated text.

The Georgian translation presents too many examples of slang and dialect. They make the cartoon more suitable for the older audience. The overuse may have an unfavorable influence on the children. They need a worth hero, which would be presented very carefully and perceived correctly.

[1] Hereinafter the English original is cited according to the following source:

[2] Hereinafter the Georgian original is cited according to the following source:


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Berger, Arthur Asa
The Art of Comedy Writing.London: Transaction Publishers
Dries, Josephine
Breaking Eastern European Barriers. Sequentia, vol. II, No. 4 June/July/August 95.
Hellgren, Esco
Translation of Allusions in the animates cartoon The Simpsons; April 2007.
Leppihalme, Ritva.
Culture Bumps. An empirical approach to the translation of allusions. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters
Newmark, P.
Approaches to Translation. Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall