Anyone with even their little finger on the popular culture pulse over the past few months will have picked up the fact that the Game of Thrones final season has been littered with ‘fails’. Firstly, fans were eager to point out a whole host of plot inconsistencies. Then there was the incident of the Starbucks cup being left in shot. Now there’s the ‘sicansíos’ debacle.
Haven’t heard this one yet? Well, from a translation fail viewpoint, (and you know how much we love those), this is a doozy, so read on.
What went wrong?
In the finale of Season 8 – yes, we mean the last episode of Game of Thrones EVER – fans in Spanish speaking countries noticed a rather strange piece of dialogue. During a battle scene, Liam Cunningham, playing Davos Seaworth, says “she can’t see us”. He says it in a Geordie accent, despite being Irish, as that’s how his character speaks.
So far so normal. Now, the problem occurred when the Spanish translation experts got hold of the tape and started to work their questionable magic on it. Instead of translating ‘she can’t see us’ into the correct Spanish, which would have been ‘no puede vernos’, they failed to recognise the phrase as English at all and simply translated the phrase phonetically to ‘sicansíos’. Why? No one really knows.
Could it be that the translators were so blindsided by the fact that the final episode was, in many viewers’ opinion, a bit rubbish? Could it be that they were so thrown by the Geordie accent that they decided to make up a weird Spanish-sounding word and hope their audience didn’t notice? Did they think the dialogue was a random piece of Valyrian thrown in by Cunningham to keep the rest of the cast on their toes?
The truth is that only the Spanish translation team working on the project know what really happened. We think it’s probably a combination of factors. Firstly, the episode producers were so freaked out by the thought of it being leaked ahead of scheduled broadcast that they kept the final cut back until the very latest moment. This gave translation teams around the world very little time to work on the episode and do a good job of the translation.
Then there’s the fact that the makers of Game of Thrones love nothing more than adding a smattering of conlangs (constructed languages) into the mix when writing their scripts. There are several that pop up here and there, each of which needs to be well grammatically thought-out and used consistently. We’re sure the team responsible know all too well that GoT fans won’t let a syntax error pass them by without a full-on chatroom meltdown.
Then we come to what is perhaps the crux of the matter: the accent. Regional accents in any language are more difficult to recognise and translate than words uttered in more standard accents. Mistakes like ‘sicansíos’ demonstrate that translation fails can happen even when the stakes are extremely high.
It’s a tough job to get language translation services right every time, but we certainly do our best!