Subtitling Arabic humour into English


translating jokes
stand-up comedy
audio-visual translation
types of humour

How to Cite

Al-Jabri, H., Alhasan, G., & Ali, S. (2023). Subtitling Arabic humour into English: the case of Arabic stand-up comedies on Netflix. The European Journal of Humour Research, 11(2), 159–177.


This article examines how humour in Arabic stand-up comedies is translated into English in an audio-visual context. The study uses a case study of Arabic stand-up comedies streamed on Netflix, including Live from Beirut by Adel Karam and Comedians of the World/ Middle East. The shows which are subtitled into English involve a variety of Arab comedians speaking different dialects, including the Levant dialect (Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian) and Gulf dialects, particularly the Saudi dialect. While several studies were conducted to examine the translation of English humour into Arabic, very few explore the translation of Arabic humour into English, especially in the realm of audio-visual translation. Arabic and English are two different languages reflecting different norms and cultures and, therefore, many linguistic and cultural challenges are expected to arise in the process of translation between them. The study draws on Pederson’s (2005) strategies for translating cultural references and Díaz-Pérez’s (2013) strategies for translating wordplay and puns. The study identifies two types of humour used in the Arabic stand-up comedies, namely language-restricted jokes (wordplay, puns, language variation, and taboo language) and culture-restricted jokes which require knowledge about the concept or character being referred to. Several translation strategies were used by Netflix subtitlers to render these types of jokes into English, including paraphrasing, generalizing, specification, substitution, and omission.


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