Alex Fletcher, TV Content Manager at BT.com is calling this the “funniest ever TV subtitles blunder” after some viewers in Sweden saw politicians pledging to build “the best sandcastle in the galaxy!” Sadly, it turns out Sweden won’t be making that particular dream come true, because it will probably be too busy working on its subtitle skills.
The blunder came after one Swedish TV station accidentally switched subtitles during nationally televised debate between politicians – with those from a kids TV show. Good choice. So let’s find out what can go wrong in the subtitling world if you are not careful.
“Greetings, Earth creature”
Highlights for those watching with the volume down and subtitles on would have seen Åsa Romson, Minister for the Environment, opening in typical fashion with “Greetings, Earth creature.”
The country’s prime minister then went on to reveal what’s been keeping Sweden so busy for all these years. “The latest invention: the fantastic dinosaur train… submarine!”
And then the highlight came when Minister of Education Jan Björklund announced every pupil in the country would be participating in a joint school project. “I will build the best sandcastle in the galaxy!” he apparently exclaimed.
Viewers watching with the volume up were oblivious to these top secret announcements, however, because they were actually subtitles from an American kids TV show. Which means no elaborate sandcastles or dinosaur trains outside of the cartoon, aptly name Dinosaur Train. What a shame.
The worst subtitles blunder of all time?
So is Sweden guilty of the worst ever subtitle blunder? We’re not so sure, because British TV stations have a fine reputation for making a hash of subtitles (not mentioning any names, BBC). Just take a look below showing very inappropriate subtitles. Here are some highlights:
• “…bronze position. Girls, don’t give up on that sex offender,” classic BBC coverage of Olympic rowing, 2012.
• “…as fears that the Muslim epidemic in Wales,” would overshadow what was in fact a measles epidemic.
• “Wales has died after suffering a suspected embolism,” according to Sky News, wrapping up a very bad day for our neighbours indeed. They’ll be sadly missed.
I despair at the #BBCNews subtitle service sometimes. Apparently ‘Wales has died after suffering a suspected embolism’..
— Jonathan Anderson (@sighs_of_fire) January 18, 2013
So, sorry Sweden, you can’t claim the crown of worst subtitle blunder, because dinosaur trains are no match for the outright offensive mistakes the BBC throws at you with the breakfast news. Need more proof? Check out this Daily Mail collection of BBC blunders for good measure – a heady mix of cat pornography, sexual assault and the Chinese year of whores. Funny how there’s a common theme with these BBC ‘mistakes’.
In fact, the BBC could learn a thing or two from our friends over in Sweden. If a live political debate is too much of a challenge (and clearly it is) then why not play it safe just stick on the subtitles from Shaun the Sheep?
So just as well at Matinée we ensure that the subtitles are always 100% good to go before they are allowed to be seen by vast audiences or things could get pretty awkward.