S​hoddy ​English subtitles of Hausa films results in ‘​Engausa​​’​

As the Hausa movie industry grows so does its audience increase.

With the introduction of the African Magic Hausa channel on DSTV, there arose a need to subtitle the movies to accommodate a wider non-Hausa speaking viewership ​across the continent.

Muhsin Ibrahim, a Hausa Film promoter and observer, noted that some Kannywood film makers who subtitle their films in English do so without rightly taking into consideration the correct tenses and phrases that describe the dialogue. In many instances, the grammar is murdered, and the spellings error-ridden, he said.

Mr. Ibrahim pointed out that this ultimately destroy​s​ the objective of the subtitles and create​s a false idea of the movie to the non-Hausa speaker.

“It inadvertently makes it an extremely funny, and a mind-numbing film. I often wonder: is that truly English or “Engausa”, a hybridized English and Hausa languages, as it is popularly called in the Hausa community,” he said.

It must be stated that some of these poorly subtitled movies are produced and directed by some of the best hands in Kannywood, which makes it mind-boggling when equal devotion is not given to the subtitles.

Some popular culprits are Mai Farin Jini (The Popular Bachelor) directed by Ilyasu Abdulmumini Tantiri; Wata Shari’ar (The Unclaimed Verdict) directed by Yakubu Muhammad; Maja (Merger) directed by Sadiq N. Mafia; Bakin Zinari (The Black Gold) directed by Imrana S.I Ashir; and Azeema directed by Kamal S. Alkali.

In the Wata Shari’a, one of the lines: Dr. Hassan ne ya aiko ni in gaida kai” ( Dr. Hassan extends his greetings) was poorly translated as “Dr. Hassan sends me to greets you.”

In Bakin Zinari, the line: “Sauran mutane za su ce fad’an kabilanci ne” (Others will see it as a tribal war/conflict) became “Other people will referred it as a tribal war.)

This lack of attention to detail beggars the question: Is this abuse of the Hausa-English translations not emphasizing the stereotype of Northerners as ignorant illiterates ​who​ cannot speak good English, Nigeria’s ​official language?

According to socio-linguistic studies, watching films with subtitles can be a special identity-forming experience especially for foreign viewers.

Many among Kannywood’s counterparts in sourthern Nigeria pooh-pooh Hausa films, and look down on the Hausa actors for their assumed lack of aptitude for the English language. This makes it difficult for most actors to transition from Kannywood to Nollywood. One actor who has seamlessly managed to do this and has won awards within both industries is Ali Nuhu. Not many can follow his foot steps thanks to the poor image as envisioned by some these movies.

To overcome what should be a false image, equal attention should be given in Kannywood to subtitles as it is given to improving production.

In order to properly sell Hausa films to the non Hausa speaking audience, professionalism should be involved and encouraged in every aspect.

A Yoruba friend of this author, and a fan of the Kannywood complains that though some of the movies are beautifully presented, trying to understand the dialogue through the subtitles often proves difficult.

If the Hausa movies must get equal salutation with its counterparts in the Nigeria film industry, Kannywood producers should properly take in to consideration and put proper devotion to the subtitling of their movies.

It should be done with professionalism involving good linguists and translators and proper editing before the release of the movie.

It will also increase the audience and interest from and beyond the shores of the none Hausa speaking countries.


PT Mag Campaign AD

Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.


TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...

NEVER MISS A THING AGAIN! Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required


Now available on

  Premium Times Android mobile applicationPremium Times iOS mobile applicationPremium Times blackberry mobile applicationPremium Times windows mobile application

All rights reserved. This material and any other material on this platform may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, written or distributed in full or in part, without written permission from PREMIUM TIMES.