Macaronic radio

I listened to some Cantonese on RTHK this morning, and while I didn’t understand everything, I could get the gist of the news stories. Then I saw that RTHK has a Mandarin channel as well, so I listened to that for a while and noticed that when they had outside reports and interviews, many of the reporters and interviewees spoke in Cantonese, which wasn’t translated into Mandarin. I assume they don’t bother with translation because the majority of their listeners can speak both Cantonese and Mandarin.

Other radio stations do the same sort of thing – Radio Cymru doesn’t translate bits in English into Welsh, and source], and it comes from the New Latin macaronicus, from Italian dialect maccarone (dumpling, macaroni) [source]. As it is usually used for humorously or satirically , it might not be the best term to describe this type of language use on the radio.

Are there other radio or TV stations that assume their listeners are bilingual or multilingual and that leave segments in other languages untranslated? Do any such stations do so for more than two languages?

This entry was posted in Chinese, Language.

18 Responses to Macaronic radio

  1. Delodephius says:

    The TV stations in Vojvodina, where I live, don’t translate Serbian. Most people speak Serbian since it is the main language (co-official with five other, plus a few non-official) and TV stations from non-Serbian areas like mine (majority Slovaks), when interviewing a Serbian speaker they don’t translate.
    Some shows are for example multilingual. I watched on several occasions a Romani news show and they would make a lengthy introduction in Romani and then switch to Serbian when discussing with the guests on the set (if the guests were not native Romani), and then finish with a summary in Romani. Most Romani speak Serbian so they feel they don’t need to translate.

  2. Macsen says:

    I’ve always wondered what was the situation within the various Slavic languages especially in the case of two languages which are related but not spoken in the same state i.e. would Slovak and Czech viewers see dubbed or subtitled interviews in either language – what was the case before 1993 and after?

    How about Serb and Bulgarian or Slovene and Croat?

    And what about German speakers on a Dutch show – I’ll assume German media would translate Dutch but would Dutch tv and radio assume most Dutch speakers would be able to understand German?

    What about Spanish and Portugese?

    Or the Scandinavian languages?

  3. prase says:

    Czech and Slovak media never translate each other’s language, but the rest of Slavic languages, including the closest Polish, get translated. Russian TV translates Ukrainian and possibly Belarusian (but the latter is rarely encountered), while I assume that Ukrainian and Belarusian media don’t translate Russian (I haven’t watched Ukrainian or Belarusian TV, so I don’t know for sure).

  4. Aidan says:

    It’s the same on the Frisian station Omrop Fryslân, they don’t sub-title Dutch speakers because everybody speaks Dutch.
    It actually annoys me on the Irish station TG4 that don’t sub-title English because it would be really handy for learning more Irish words.
    In the Dutch weekly Elsevier some columnists will put whole sentences of Latin or French or German (English too needless to add) in their Dutch text (normally italicized as it often alludes to something or someone). They rarely if ever include a translation, in this case it’s generally intellectual snobbery. The thinking seems to be that anybody reading the text should be able to understand the other language. The Latin annoys me most as I don’t read it.

  5. Rauli says:

    Even though Finland is officially a bilingual country, Swedish is always subtitled in Finnish TV and vice versa. People are required to study the other language in school and in universities, and you have to pass a language exam if you want to get a job in an administrative position. The requirements are so lax though, that at least I wouldn’t be able to follow a conversation in Swedish. People tend to be quite unmotivated here to learn the so-called “second domestic language” in addition to their mother tongue.

  6. Yenlit says:

    A few years ago when television was still analogue we used to get S4C (Channel 4 Wales) and regular (UK) Channel 4 mish-mashed together and I remember the S4C news which was supplied by the BBC Wales department used to display Welsh terms on the screen mentioned in the news broadcast and explained in English. I think it was supposedly for Welsh learners but more than likely it was explaining new coinages most people wouldn’t have been familiar with.
    Since television went digital a few years back now S4C and C4 have been separated.

  7. Petréa Mitchell says:

    CNN in the US will sometimes run live feeds of foreign-language channels for a few minutes at a time with just general commentary from the CNN anchor. Most of these channels have information scrolling across the bottom of the screen in the local language, so if you can read that you can often get more details about what’s going on than CNN is relaying in English.

  8. Arakun says:

    The first season of South Park was aired on Swedish TV4 without subtitles because they reasoned its intended public had no trouble understanding English and some of the jokes might be hard to translate. The following seasons were subtitled though.

  9. bronz says:

    I’m guessing in the case of RTHK, the Mandarin channel is indeed mostly for people already living in Hong Kong, so it’s either for people learning Mandarin, or also for mainland Chinese living in Hong Kong. Cantonese doesn’t seem to be very difficult to learn for native Mandarin speakers, as least for communication purposes. There was not as much Mandarin programming before the turnover though.

    On TV, however, there are always subtitles for things spoken in Mandarin (and often for Cantonese as well, actually, especially when it comes to news and informational programs). Verbal translations tend to be rare.

    What I hate most is when they do a voice-over translation (oh, I can’t stand movies voiced over in Polish; I don’t understand how they can listen to the Polish in addition to the original language in the background). But of course I’m just a linguistics nerd who likes to hear what the original language sounds like first.

  10. Andrew says:

    Sooo….Spanglish is “macaronic” then? That’s fantastic that there’s a term to describe such a thing.

  11. stormboy says:

    In Hong Kong, all Chinese-language programming usually has subtitles – whether the programme is in Cantonese or Mandarin. Since the handover, passive knowledge of Mandarin (ie understanding) has increased substantially and many more Hong Kong Chinese now speak Mandarin to some extent.

    From what I’ve seen (and my exposure has been limited), Afrikaans TV programmes in South Africa don’t add subtitles when there is English dialogue.

  12. Lau says:

    On Scandinavian radio channels it sometimes happens that interviews in English are summarised but not translated. The interview itself will be transmitted in English but each question and answer will be followed by a short summary of what was said in the local language. This is probably more common for programmes aimed at young people.

    On Faroese television any other Scandinavian language is not subtitled.

    That’s only true for people who live in parts of the country where their language is the majority language.
    Here in Helsinki where Finnish is the dominant language it is true that most Finnish-speakers don’t see any need to learn Swedish and subsequently don’t have any motivation to learn it. On the other hand the Swedish-speakers want to learn Finnish because it’s a very useful language to them. And most of them learn to speak it more or less fluently. I would imagine that the situation in places like Korsnäs and Närpes is the opposite.
    In places like Hangö/Hanko where the language split is closer to 50-50 it seems to be quite common that most people are able to use both languages actively.

  13. Jayan says:

    In Danish TV (specifically DR1 og DR2), English isn’t usually subtitled, but it seems Swedish usually is, even though any Dane can understand most of the Swedish. I’m not sure why this is…

  14. Lau says:

    Jayan, I have never seen a programme on Danish television where English wasn’t subtitled. Are you sure it’s not just because you haven’t turned the subtitles on on your digital receiver?

  15. LandTortoise says:

    Just back from Portugal. Spanish (Castillian) on Portuguese TV is nearly always subtitled. When used in live interviews it is sometimes summarised by the interviewer, as clearly there’s no time to get it subtitled.

    It seems to me that few Portuguese people can use Spanish though understanding of it is moderate. All replies to me using Spanish have been in Portuguese…..and it’s damned hard to understand!

    (In Catalunya, Spanish is never subtitled on TV).

  16. Yenlit says:

    I remember watching bad pirated DVDs of bad movies for the South Asian market that were subtitled in about 5 different languages which took up most of the bottom half of the screen; Chinese, Indonesian can’t remember what the others were?

  17. José says:

    Some years ago, when I listened to “Euskadi Irratia” (Basque language radio), they translated pieces in Spanish into Basque. However, I listened to the same radio station some days ago and it seemed to me that they were not translating Spanish chunks into Basque now (interestingly, there is a non-nationalist government now in the Basque Country). This might be only an impression, maybe someone from there can confirm this trend.

  18. Nick says:

    On local Italian-language news in Ontario they leave English interviewees and politicians etc. speaches untranslated. I think this is due to an expectation that most of the viewers will at least have some understanding of English. Additionally they leave all captions in English as well.

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