Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Dubbing and Subtitling in Europe: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Cultural Implications

Dubbing and Subtitling in Europe: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Cultural Implications


As the world becomes ever more globalised, it is very common for films and television programmes to be released in several locations around the world. However, if the people in one area do not understand the original language of the programme, it must first be translated to make it accessible to the target audience. This is most commonly done by either subtitling or dubbing the programme; and different regions and cultures usually strongly prefer one method or the other.

In this paper these two methods are examined in detail. A benefit of dubbed programmes is that they may stay more faithful to the medium (as film and television generally do not feature large amounts of text); however, translation errors may accumulate during the dubbing process, and so the final product may sound unidiomatic. Also, viewers of dubbed programmes are much more vulnerable to censorship. While subtitling allows the viewer to watch the programme in its original format, they may be difficult for some viewers to read; and as some condensation must occur so that the text will fit the screen and allotted time, some details will inevitably be lost. Pressure to make the most accurate translations possible may result in the adoption of a large amount of loan-words.

The final part of the paper attempts to identify what effect these factors may have on a particular population’s choice to use one method over the other. Some populations may speak the foreign language well enough that, with help from the subtitles, the programme can be understood well enough in the original format. By contrast, other cultures may fear the possibility of the foreign language creeping into their own, and use dubbing as a way of re-enforcing the importance of their native language and resisting change. Even though one translation method may be better-suited for a particular type of programming, it is unlikely that a region would be willing to compromise its preference for the other.

April 23, 2010 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for some interesting remarks about dubbing. Would like to see the original paper.

    Comment by Sprecheragentur | August 24, 2011 | Reply

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