Did Sandra Bullock Need a Good Translator in Gravity?

Followers of the Welocalize Innovator’s Blog know Louise Law, our inspiring Communications Manager, has a passion for language and film. There is no better weekend than the Oscar’s to share her latest movie-going experience.

475239791Whilst I was watching Gravity at the cinema last night, I could not help to think that Sandra Bullock, in her role as Dr. Ryan Stone, could have used with a good translator. There were a couple of quite tense moments when she was looking at a technical manual on how to operate the emergency Russian Soyuz spacecraft (that’s a little emergency spaceship to you and I).

As I was sat there in my 3D glasses, the localization professional in me was cringing and crying out. Oh no! All the text is in Russian! What will she do if she can’t understand Cyrillic script? How will she operate the spaceship let alone sort out the oxygen levels? Thank goodness some savvy technical writer had the good sense to develop source graphics with minimal text, meaning that the astronaut reader could understand the operating instructions, regardless of language. Thankfully, Dr. Ryan Stone was able to operate the spacecraft.

Her next stop was at the Tiangong Chinese satellite station, where she has to enter another spacecraft capsule in order for her to continue her quest to return to earth. What does she find? All the control panel buttons in Chinese! By this time, I was sweating heavily and very nearly headed out of the cinema to find our best Chinese translation vendor to help her out.

There was also another nerve-wrecking translation moment when she thinks she has made contact with Earth only to discover she is talking to a Greenlandic Inuit Fisherman. He does not understand her plight nor does he understand the international distress signal “mayday”. Greenlandic is not one of the world’s most widely-spoken languages (spoken by about 57,000 people in Greenland) so understandably, Bullock did not know the right word to use. Another episode of lost in translation.

Gravity is sure to sweep the 2014 Oscars, with an amazing 10 award nominations. I have no idea how they filmed a weightless Bullock and Clooney. Hats off to whoever did the cinematography. It is a great film and I do think D.r Ryan Stone will be asking world leaders to make sure all spacecraft operating instructions are properly translated — for the next time.

Enjoy the Oscars!