The Wish Power Are Together With You

by Belle Waring on January 8, 2017

Someone dubbed a terrible Chinese sub of the third Star Wars prequel under the title The Third Gathers: Backstroke of the West. It is the best thing ever. Obi-Wan Kenobi is called “Ratio Tile”, while Anakin is “Allah Gold.” The Presbyterian Church is also involved way more than you might think. If When you watch the full movie, use settings to put the subtitles at “backstroke” or you will be distracted by the actual, really bad script. Some highlights:



JohnTh 01.08.17 at 6:44 pm

Very funny!

Does anyone know why so much atrocious Anglo-Chinese translation still exists? I know how far apart the languages are but by now there are many (millions of?) bilingual speakers of English and Chinese- you’d think any one of them could do better than the majority of the crappy translation still knocking about.


Ben 01.08.17 at 7:48 pm

Those clips don’t include the best part


Scott P. 01.08.17 at 9:06 pm

It’s not just English-Chinese. I see lots of terrible Spanish-English translation in Spain.


Michael 01.08.17 at 10:42 pm

Hell the what! Presbyterian dude fuck.


JanieM 01.09.17 at 12:45 am

James Fallows did some great columns on Chinese/English translation a while back. (My, how the time flies, she said after looking through her bookmarks folder.)

This seems to be the only one I bookmarked.

My son taught English in China for four years and spent another year there teaching a different subject. He just mentioned today that he thinks the emphasis on having everyone learn English is waning, which makes me wonder whether the goofy translation problem will only get worse.


Jake Gibson 01.09.17 at 1:28 am

Is this the infamous “Do Not Want” sub?


qzt359 01.09.17 at 2:10 am

“I feel far from good” is my new motto for 2017.


oldster 01.09.17 at 4:16 am

But I want to know: *is* that baby on the hoof?


JohnTh 01.09.17 at 7:32 am

JanieM – thanks! Interesting to see that as experienced an observer as James Fallows was as mystified as I am. There may be some truth in the words of his correspondent who saw it as demonstrating something almost pathological in the Chinese attitude to the foreign world


ZM 01.09.17 at 8:18 am

I often work with students from Asia in group projects at uni, I think sometimes what sounds a bit like broken English isn’t a mistake, its what they want to say.

Usually I do the proofreading, and it made me realise that in contemporary English professional language there are a lot of unsaid limitations on what you can say or write. Sometimes I could make the sentences more grammatical, but sometimes they are sentences that by social convention can’t be said at all in professional English communication.

It is my impression that many of the ESL speakers know this, and what they are doing is breaking with English language social conventions politely but deliberately.


Val 01.09.17 at 1:00 pm

I’m intrigued by the peg people in the first slide. I don’t follow Star Wars, but when did peg people become a thing?


Z 01.09.17 at 1:10 pm

Watching this, what ultimately strikes me the most is not so much how terrible/hilarious the subtitles are. It is how abominable everything else is. The episodes I, II, III really are the worse films ever.

“I feel far from good” is my new motto for 2017.

I nominate “Everything is all not normal. This let me feeling uneasy all.”


stevenjohnson 01.09.17 at 2:26 pm

Why isn’t Ian McDiarmid’s voice used? Did he refuse to take part in making this thing? Is he all political about not making fun of the Chinese? Or did they leave him out on purpose? If so, why? Is he really such an awful person? Did they get paid for this, or was it that he was the one who wanted to get paid?


stevenjohnson 01.09.17 at 2:27 pm

By the way, “wish power” for “the Force” is so felicitous it calls into question the premise of the OP.


stevenjohnson 01.09.17 at 2:29 pm

And, if “the West” in “Backstroke of the West” stands for “Sith,” just like “Backstroke” stands for “Revenge,” who smuggled in that anti-imperialist jibe?


JimV 01.09.17 at 3:02 pm

“Wish power” as a translation for “The Force” seems dead on to me. (But then I’m not a dualist.)


LFC 01.09.17 at 4:17 pm

The episodes I, II, III really are the worse films ever

The bedroom scene between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, which I think is in one of these prequels, is possibly the worst such scene ever filmed. Done almost fully clothed (he takes off his shirt for about two seconds), with stilted line readings (esp. on Portman’s part), and to say they have no chemistry would be an understatement.


Belle Waring 01.09.17 at 4:59 pm

They are just THE WORST. What’s with the insane eight-panel square swipe fades? And yes, this is th “do not want” sub.


Ben Alpers 01.09.17 at 6:21 pm

Apparently this is the explanation of “West” as a translation of “Sith”:

Chinese: 西斯 (XÄ«sÄ«) – a transliteration of “Sith”. 西 means “west”, æ–¯ is a phonetic often used to transliterate the “s” sound or to approximate “th”, a sound that Chinese does not have.


foolishmortal 01.09.17 at 8:46 pm

a) This is great.
b) I think I see one way the sub got so awful. Natalie Portman tells Hayden Christensen “Resemble long time ago in the world only /
Have no politics, have no the D of”. Now, I’ve never seen any other version of this movie and never will, but I figure that for “Just remember the world like it used to be, without politics or that dude we’re calling the D of.” In Chinese, “resemble” and “remember” differ only in tone. So, someone was at least occasionally neglecting tone when translating this back into English.


John Marchioro 01.09.17 at 11:36 pm

As a professional Chinese > English translator, my diagnosis is that this was almost certainly a machine translation….. No human translator, however bad, could produce such garbage.


stevenjohnson 01.10.17 at 2:05 am

Ben Alpers @19 Thanks. But I sort of miss Trump as the Dark Lord of the Sith.


Belle Waring 01.10.17 at 3:04 am

stevenjohnson none of the original actors are voicing anything in this. Val: the “peg people” are droids of a continually useless kind. Like, why not make different, better droids not from empty diet coke cans, one wonders. The emperor’s decision to go with storm troopers, however poor their aim, is easy to understand.


Will Boisvert 01.10.17 at 3:38 am

Uh, folks, this isn’t a hilariously bad Chinese-to-English translation, it’s a laborious parody of bad Chinese-to-English translations.

Belle, all of the dialogue is clearly spoken by the same actors appearing in the scenes–Hayden Christense, Ewan MacGregor, Sam Jackson, etc. Listen a little harder.

All they did was take the original English audio track, find random snatches of dialogue from other parts of the movie by the same actors in the scene, and dub them into the scene, roughly lip-synching them. (They also seem to have gotten dialogue clips from the actors’ other movies, to judge by the number of un-Star Wars-y f-bombs.)

This isn’t a genuine attempt by some bad translator to render a Chinese version into English, it’s just a self-conscious spoof by internet pranksters. So not so funny.


stevenjohnson 01.10.17 at 1:23 pm

Will Boisvert@24 Pretty sure Ian McDiarmid’s voice isn’t used, though. Also, “wish power” as translation for the “Force” is just too good to call this “laborious,” at least not in a pejorative sense. Ditto, “Sith” for “West.”


Will Boisvert 01.10.17 at 9:31 pm

So the commentary on Youtube indicates they dubbed in all the voices, so Belle was right and I was wrong; they just got really good impersonators for some voices but not others.

Pretty clear, though that the creators set out to make the subtitles as hilariously bad as possible, so not sure that it says anything about the actual state of Chinese-English translations.


Irene 01.13.17 at 4:06 pm

These translations were covered in 2005 on the website of an American in China. Update in 2009 here, with many explanations for human vs. computer mangling:

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