Lost in Translation

I have recently been pulled into the rabbit hole of nostalgia. The tune for the closing credits of a cartoon I remember watching as a child popped into my head and got me thinking. Growing up in South Africa, and due to the regime at the time, many of the children’s broadcasts were in Afrikaans; some of which was original programming, but much of it was dubbed. I didn’t really know the difference, but being an English speaking child it meant there were programmes I simply didn’t understand.
South African Broadcasting Corporation
As time went on and the government owned television channels started becoming more inclusive, so did the dubbing. We used to get Spiderman in Sesotho (which sounded so much more exciting). The original English dialogue however, was simultaneously broadcast on a particular radio station when the programme was live so you had a choice.

The system was quite clever, but the mild absurdity of it hit home when as a pre-teen I was most incensed that my new favourite programme, Beverly Hills 90210, was broadcast in Afrikaans. It was on too late for me to stay up watch live but the translation meant I couldn’t tape it (remember those days!) because I would then miss the original sound on the radio. The same was true for Melrose Place. My pre-teen self was most inconvenienced. 

Reminiscing on this topic with Saffer friends reminded me of a few other examples. Here is a fun list of some of the shows we had as they were dubbed:
  • Dawie die Kabouter= David the Gnome (1985)
Originally a Spanish programme, David, el Gnomo, I really loved the imagery and believed gnomes had real communities in forests everywhere but I was just never lucky enough to see one. The cosy warm hues still linger in my mind, but I didn’t understand what was going on at all due to the Afrikaans dubbing. My major memory is the gnome greeting of rubbing noses together which I think I copied on my plush toys. Follow the link for a dubbed version here.  
  • Grootbek en Katvis = Misterjaw (1976)
‘Het jou!’ (Gotcha!) is still a joke for us eighties Saffer kids. This is what this show was known as when I was growing up. It was shown during the morning breakfast programme and I remember being allowed to watch it sometimes leading me to associate it with peanut butter on toast. Full episodesare on YouTube.
  • Brakanjan = Dogtanian (1981)
The dog I knew as Brakanjan
The Afrikaans word ‘brak’ roughly translates to dog. This end title tune gets stuck in my head a lot! I never understood what was going on but I used to love ‘barking’ along to the credits when an episode ended. I don’t remember any of the words but I think the main titles remained in English.
  • Groenie die Draak = Grisu il Draghetto (Italian – 1975)
This adorable little guy escapes my memory but friends have mentioned him and have fond recollections of the dragon called Groenie whose Afrikaans name translates to ‘Greenie’. The programme has been dubbed into many languages but a sample in original Italian is here.
  • Rabobi = Spiderman

The Sesotho word Rabobi literally means ‘spider’. I’m not sure which version we watched since there have been multiple series produced since the sixties. This was such a well known adaption that the dubbed intro was turned into a song by a group called Slugs of War which briefly got radio airplay. Hilariously home grown, have a listen here

  • Heidi – with original German theme (1974)

Heidi – “in die berge”

This show was my first experience of yodelling, which fascinated me. While the programme was dubbed into Afrikaans, the intro theme remained in German. I think most of us remember similar smidgens of the song itself (a bit like how everyone remembers the same set of words for ‘I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts’) albeit a garbled phonetic memory. 

A friend and I tried to recall it and remembered the exact same intermittent words about “in die berge” (which translates to “in the mountains”) after a pause of forgotten lyrics which resulted in fits of laughter. Actual theme here.

I was recently also reminded that we had a dubbed version of Moomin and of another show called Sport Billy which I don’t remember watching but we had a mug with the character’s picture on at home. Does anyone else remember any other dubbed classics from their childhood?