Subtle yet important details may be lost in translation.
People have their own way of using vocabulary and grammar when communicating with each other. Such distinctive communication styles and speech patterns are important forms of personal expression. In entertainment media, how a person speaks is often used to express their unique personality, upbringing, and motivations.
Unfortunately, transferring these linguistic subtleties into another language is not an easy task. To comply with time and space restrictions, translated subtitles may lose some shades of meaning, which inadvertently causes plot holes.
For example, in the movie Donnie Brasco, the main character, Joe Pistone, was an FBI agent who had to pretend to be a criminal in order to take down a mafia group.
When asked what he was running from, Joe said: “I ain’t running from nothin”– definitely not how an educated FBI agent from a middle-upper class background should talk.
The scene took place during his conversation with his wife and their marriage counselor. He did not have any reason to use this type of speaking, yet he did it unconsciously, to the dismay of his wife. This is important to the plot as it shows how Joe was starting to adopt the way mobsters spoke, losing himself in the process of his mission.
The Chinese subtitle for this line simply says “我没逃避什么”,which means I’m not running away from anything. Despite being a correct translation, the Chinese subtitle uses proper language and thus, cannot convey the implications of the source text.