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Incorrectly Translated Dialogue

Interestingly, if you turn on closed captions in this YouTube video clip from Kill Bill 2, you can see an alternate translation of Pai Mei’s Chinese that a user put in:

It does not match the actual subtitles in the movie exactly. Chinese speakers in the comments say the “new” closed caption translation is mostly accurate. In the closed caption translation, Pai Mei makes a mention of the steps and motions his hand towards them. This hand motion makes no sense when reading the official translation in the movie’s subtitles. The official subtitles also have him ask Beatrix a question here, then ask “cat got your tongue?” This seems to be a way of getting around the fact that in the unofficial, “new” closed captioning, he’s not actually asking her a question, so she has no reason to respond, and the visuals reflect this.

A Chinese user in the comments says the “unofficial” closed caption translation of “how dare you ask me to be your master” is the only one he disagrees with, and says it should be “how dare you make direct eye-contact with me.” This makes perfect sense with the visuals, as, from behind, you can see Beatrix tilt her head up to Pai Mei as he insults her, and then the camera cuts to Beatrix as she is averting and darting her eyes when he says not to make eye contact. Again, the movie’s real subtitles don’t fit with this visual as well. This is when he says “Japanese fat-heads.” It does appear QT edited it with camera angles that make it hard to tell Beatrix made eye contact with Pai Mei, since he decided to not use the correct translation that mentions that.

Some people speculate the dialogue is supposed to be how Beatrix translates his speech in her head. I’m guessing it has a little more to do with Tarantino punching up the subtitles just to help the movie. The insults against the Japanese are much more colorful in the official subtitles than in the “correct” translation, for one thing. Maybe QT also thought it was a homage to old kung-fu movies to have incorrect subtitles.

Here is the text of the “new” closed captioning, posted by the user who apparently did the new translation:

If the subtitles are to translate what the characters are speaking, they are pretty inaccurate.
Here’s my translation.

Beatrix: Master. (Chinese/Cantonese)
Pai Mei: Your spoken Chinese is very poor. I can’t understand one single word! And it grates on the ears.
Pai Mei: You are not to speak unless I have taught you how to.
Pai Mei: Is your spoken Chinese better, or your Cantonese?

Beatrix: I “speak Japanese” very well… (Chinese/English)
Pai Mei: I am not asking about your Japanese, nor Mongolian language.
Pai Mei: I am asking, can you speak Cantonese?

Beatrix: …
Pai Mei: You are here to learn the secrets of Wushu (martial arts), but not language.
Pai Mei: If you cannot speak Chinese, you would be like a dog that barks around!
Pai Mei: I will yell at you, order you, and hit you with a stick!

Pai Mei: Is your master Bill?
Beatrix: Yes he is. (English)
Pai Mei: Your master once said, you have learnt Wushu before. What have you learnt?
Beatrix: I am proficient in Tiger-Crane Style. And I am more than proficient in the exquisite art of the Samurai sword. (English)

Pai Mei: Japanese Kendo (swordsmanship), what a joke this is!
Pai Mei: Only the Japanese people are stupid enough to learn it. You are even more stupid.
Pai Mei: How dare you ask me to be your master? [someone else says this should be “How dare you make direct eye-contact with me!”]

Pai Mei: It seems that your temper is quite easy to be tamed. Do you know how is my Kung Fu comparing to yours?
Beatrix: No. (Chinese)
Pai Mei: Are you aware I will kill people?
Beatrix: Yes. (Cantonese)
Pai Mei: So do you want to die?
Beatrix: No! (Chinese)

Pai Mei: Idiot. A true idiot. I would love to see how idiotic you are.
Pai Mei: Rise.

Pai Mei: Judging by your heavy breath, you should be feeling exhausted after climbing the hundred steps.
Pai Mei: I think you are not only stupid, but also weak in physique.
Pai Mei: True. You can speak Japanese. I hate Japanese the most!

Notice that Pai Mei is always speaking in Cantonese (commonly used in Hong Kong, Guangdong province in China and by overseas Chinese), while Beatrix is speaking English and poor Chinese/Cantonese.

Pai Mei is not that vulgar (as the subtitles suggest). In actual Cantonese, he sounds arrogant, but also in a dignified way.

or paying hommage to how martial arts movies have always been watched around the world for decades: with horribly inaccurate subtitles :slight_smile:

1 Like

He could’ve gone further than that and put in really bad dubbing. :joy: