Come to find out, translating Sherlock isn't all that elementary


if you haven’t figured it out by now after almost four years of reading Tellyspotting, I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to behind-the-scenes material. In the case of television, I have always wanted to know how the sausage is made. For the record, I absolutely do not want to know ‘how the sausage is made’ when it comes to actual sausage. Television is a different story, however.

Recently, Delphine Rivet, reporting for RadioTimes.com and Frenchwebsite Reviewer.fr, watched a scene from the series two Sherlock finale “The Reichenbach Fall” as it was being dubbed into French by comedian Gilles Morvan, the voice of Sherlock, and Loïc Houdré, who stands in for Rupert Graves’s Lestrade. Click here for an very cool BTS video of both Morvan and Houdré in their recording session.
 
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As Rivet writes…translating a show for a new audience doesn’t begin and end with the voices, though. Sherlocks series two opening episode, ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’, was retitled ‘Un Scandale à Buckingham’ since most French viewers don’t know that particular area of Westminster, but everyone’s heard of Buckingham Palace.

Later, Delphine caught up with Wendy Tramier, who worked on translating Sherlock for French TV and found that the same episode threw up “one of the biggest challenges of my career”, according to Tramier.

When Sherlock comes into possession of adversary Irene Adler’s mobile phone, potentially packed with details of her illustrious clients, he tries and repeatedly fails to crack the code that will unlock it.

Translating the written pun “I am locked”, which later transforms into I am Sherlocked, on the screen of Irene Adler’s phone proved to be a two-pipe problem. “It took me many, many attempts,” says Tramier. “In this specific case, I had to find an equivalent. It is so brilliant in English, I couldn’t betray the original.”

The problem was that the Gallic equivalent of “locked” – “locké” – is unfamiliar as a stand-alone word in French. Luckily, “simlocké”, referring to a mobile phone’s simcard, is more common.

So before Sherlock manages to crack Irene’s phone, the translation of the screen display is “Je suis Simlocké” or, “I am Simlocked”. When Holmes deciphers the code, it becomes “Je suis Sherlocké” – “I am Sherlocked,” as in the original English version.

Besides France, the BBC/PBS production of Sherlock has been sold to over 200 territories. While I’m obviously partial to the King’s (or Benedict Cumberbatch’s) English, the French translation seems pretty darn close to the original.