Les courtes de l’équipe #10 | Walking across boundaries

Different languages can be a limit in discovering foreign forms of art such as literature and cinema. Wait a minute. Are they really? Well, translation has its limits but, thanks to different techniques, nowadays we are able to watch any film, produced in any language, everywhere. Which techniques are used to making films available everywhere regardless their producing language? Let’s find it out.


Top 3 most used techniques

Dubbing – This technique is popular in many European countries such as France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Latvia and consists in changing the original spoken language of a film or television program into another language.

Good thing: no need to focus on reading. Bad thing: total loss of original dialogue.

Subtitling – We call “subtitles” the words printed over a film in a foreign language to translate what is being said by the actors. It is mostly used in countries such as the UK, Portugal, the Netherlands, the Balkans and the Scandinavian countries.

Good thing: it keeps the original script, the original voices. Bad thing: it can be distracting.

Voice over – The original soundtrack and the translation are broadcast simultaneously. At the beginning, only the original can be heard, but the volume is lowered while the translated version becomes more noticeable until the end. This mode is mostly used in documentaries or interviews. It is widely used in Russia.

Good thing: it gives a realistic effect. Bad thing: the double soundtrack can be distracting.


When you have no time and you need to translate on the spot

Interpreting – Interpreting is « the oral translation of an audiovisual product by only one speaker. » This mode is usually used in live interviews and news broadcasts, where and interpreter has to translate simultaneously or consecutively one or more speakers; it can also be prerecorded.

Simultaneous translation – The simultaneous interpreter translates on the spot from a prepared script in the target language. This technique is used in film festivals and film archives, when more elaborate methods of audiovisual translation are not an option, due to time or funding constraints.

Live subtitling – Also known as « real-time subtitling », it differs from regular subtitling in that the subtitles are not prerecorded and are instead inserted on the spot. This mode of multimedia translation is used for live broadcasts for those who are hard of hearing. A speech recognition software takes the original sound and dialogue of a live program or event and turns it into subtitles with as little delay as possible; this new version includes punctuation marks and specific features for this audience.


Other versions, for other occasions

Surtitling – Surtitling is similar to subtitling, however it consists of one continuous line displayed with no interruption. Becoming more frequent in theatres and opera houses, the translation is displayed either above the stage or on the backs of seats. Despite being shown in real time, the translations are prepared in advance.

Narration – Narration consists of preparing a faithful, scripted summary of the original speech, which is then read – not performed – by dubbing actors and actresses. Narration differs from voice over in that the final product is more condensed and is not always completely faithful to the original’s style.


Translations that helps those who have difficulty hearing or seeing

Subtitling for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH) – SDH is meant for those who have difficulty hearing the dialogue on a film or television show by helping them to « see » the sound. Although similar to subtitling, SDH adds additional information to complement the verbal dimension.

Audio description (AD) – AD is meant for those who are blind, visually-impaired or partially-sighted and assists by providing a narration concerning the visual aspects of a film or television show, for example. The AD track does not interfere with the original dialogue since it is inserted during silent parts. The reader, known as an « audio describer », makes sure to balance what is necessary to the plot while not overwhelming the audience with excessive information.


Different languages or different cultures

Double version – Double versions are products that involve two or more languages in which each actor and actress plays their role in their own language. The final product is then dubbed and synchronised so that there is only one language.

Remake – Remakes contextualize a film so that they are in accordance with the target audience and its culture. These translations focus on values and ideology, so the linguistic aspect of the product is less of a priority. This mode of multimedia translation is mostly used for European films remade for American audiences.


Main sources: personal experience, Wikipedia, Longman Dictionary

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