The problem of translating for film and television seems to be a recurring problem for many translators and interpreters from an entirely theoretical point of view. The perennial question is: should films and television programmes be translated by use of dubbing, subtitling or other crude forms. For example, the prevailing method used in Poland is the use of pseudo-dubbing where one speaker takes on the whole film reading the entire script regardless of the age, sex or even emotions of the speaker, so that one is left with a dull monotone voice lulling one to sleep whenever a foreign film or television programme is being watched. Extremely nauseating.

Many have argued that the reason this method prevails in Poland is due to the fact that it is cheaper than authentic dubbing and also that the audience has become lazy and does not want to have to read as well as have to watch and listen, which would be the case if subtitling was used. Many believe subtitling to be the ideal method. When the text is on-screen, the translation is overt and laid open to the audience. Transparency is always a delicate matter for the linguist, but it can only help to improve the field and raise standards.


14 thoughts on “Tele-visuals

  1. As far as pseudo-dubbing is concerned, I must admit that it drives me crazy, when I sit in a slouch attitude on the sofa in front of the “goggle box” and the dubber deprives a film of any emotions, suspense etc., because of featureless character of his way of speaking. That’s why I prefer subtitling to the method of pseudo-dubbing that is used in Poland.
    I’ve found out that subtitling can pose some difficulties, because the subtitler has to demonstrate in the written mode what is spoken on the soundtrack of the film. Firstly, intonation and dialect can not be represented in subtitles. Secondly, matching the text to what is visible on the screen creates a problem. Finally, the text has to be condensed in order not to cover a half of the screen with subtitles. On the contrary, authentic dubbing does not make reception difficult, because one does not have to read the text in a given pace. What is more, authentic dubbing does not oblige the viewer to watch a film from left to right side of the screen.

  2. Yes, there are a lot of problems concerned with dubbing and subtitling. When it comes to the method used in Poland then it is without question better that the television stations begin to use subtitling as the manner in which the dubbing is undertaken is very, very poor.
    However, mono-speaker dubbing is still cheaper and allegedly easier to undertake rather than spend the money on finding a team of people to voice-over and lip-synch the relevant sections.
    When will they finally realise that they cannot continue with this technique? What is more, in this new age of language learning and language awareness surely it’s about time that an effort is made to subtitle films and other programmes?

  3. The problem of film translation seems to be very important as each of us watches films either on TV or in the cinema. There does not exist one best solution; however, it seems that in Poland this concept of “pseudo-dubbing” is dull for me. However, I am not for the total dubbing as it is for example in Italy where each film is dubbed. It is really incredible that Italians are so accustomed to the dubbing that they hardly belief that Schwarzenegger does not speak Italian as he is always dubbed. This brings the idea oo domestication each film. The total concept of dubbing is implemented in such countries where there is a strong position of government which means that government may influence and filter information in translating process. Also as dubbing process is expensive not every country could afford it. Personally, I am not of the total dubbing. In my opinion a good solution may be the possibility to turn on subtitling and the voice-over may be implemented as well. First subtitling in films allows listening the original text and reading translation, in this way it brings educational advantage. The voice over is for rather lazy people but still there is possibility to listen to the original actors. The constant listening of the person reading a text without any emotions is really awful and only thanks to the original sounds we may find who is speaking and what the emotions are. I think that in Poland television should adapt the possibility to subtitling and voice-over at the same time. Depending on our approach while watching we may choose the form that suits us best.

  4. I can’t agree that dubbing is better than the voice-over technique. It is not only for the costs reasons that it is used in Poland. Personally I can’t stand watching dubbed films, as in most cases I know actors’ voices, and the result of dubbing is artificial, or simply unconvincing. It also looks ridiculous when words don’t match with the movement of actor’s lips.

    When one gets used to this voice-over technique, they hardly hear it. The viewer focuses then on the original voices and the translation provided serves only as a provider of the meaning. The voice-over can’t show emotions or try to imitate accents, as the attention is not put on him.

    Finally, voice-over is convenient for the viewers (more convenient than subtitles). They may focus on the movie, rather than miss half of it when reading.

  5. Interesting comments, interesting comments. It is difficult to see how voice-over can be a way in which the government can control or filter the information coming over the ether. Is there any statistical evidence of correlation between ‘strong’ government and voice-overing?
    Dubbing, voice-overing, subtitling. Each has its pluses and minuses, it seems. But what EVIDENCE can be given to back up each?

  6. good dubbing makes film be domesticted so it may be taken as the original film, no disturbance of reading or listening to the original actors’ voices. subtitling gives possibilty to try to understand the film or points to the total concentration and development of reading skills with seeing the whole screen, the reading activity, which is at the low level in Poland, will be implemented/popularised. i think that dubbing should be improved as it is, as Lukasz said, very artificial and actors should be especially trained to well performed the dubbed roles. i think that really a professionally made dubbing may be appreciated.

  7. As always it depends on the film and how its gonna be translated!Most tv films series etc have this called pseudo-dubbing when the tone of voice is the same while, come on, people change it depending on what they say. I think that if I have a possibility whether pseudo or subtitling I would choose the second one. Because I prefer to read than listen to boring one voice all the time. Also I like to listen to the original actors’ voices, how they speak, particularly if the movie is in foreign language!

    There are of course exception which are well made dubbings. I mean rather cartoons like ‘Shrek’,’Ice Age’ etc because they are rather funny. But I dont feel like hearing a movie with different voices dubbing. Could you imagine a drama or thriller with such a dubbing?I cant. Its simply saying too funny and ridicoulous.

  8. From the point of view of an average spectator I think that subtitles are the interrupting factors for the person who wants to take an inactive role in watching a performance on the screen because watching a film should be a pleasure but not a constant, rush quest for understanding the lyrics.

    In my opinion the popularity in Poland of the pseudo-dubbing is caused by the fact that it is much cheaper and far more manageable than really brilliant dubbing as in Shrek. It is better to listen to monotonous lector than a group of incoherent voices not conveying the atmosphere of the scene. Sometimes the voices are so poorly chosen that it is almost unbearable to listen(as in German soap-operas).

  9. Personally, I got used to “pseudo-dubbing” on TV. But I can’t imagine this method of translation in the cinema. In spite of the fact that reading subtitles can be tiring and can hinder reception, I prefer hearing the original voices and being exposed to foreign language and culture.

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