The turn of audiovisual translation: New audiences and new technologies

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DOI: 10.1075/ts.2.06cha
Audiovisual translation is an academic term that covers both well-established and new ground-breaking linguistic and semiotic transfers like dubbing, subtitling, surtitling, respeaking, audiosubtitling, voice-over, simultaneous interpreting at film festivals, free-commentary and goblin translation, subtitling for the deaf and the hard of hearing, audiodescription, fansubbing and fandubbing. This article presents a classification of audiovisual translation modes or types, and discusses some interesting developments in the audiovisual translation market at the beginning of this new century. Dubbing countries are moving towards subtitling, subtitling countries are beginning to dub, voice-over countries are shifting towards dubbing and subtitling, while voice-over is moving into dubbing and subtitling countries and gaining ground with younger audiences.
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e turn of audiovisual translation
New audiences and new technologies
Frederic Chaume
Audiovisual translation is an academic term that covers both well-established
and new ground-breaking linguistic and semiotic transfers like dubbing, subti-
tling, surtitling, respeaking, audiosubtitling, voice-over, simultaneous interpret-
ing at lm festivals, free-commentary and goblin translation, subtitling for the
deaf and the hard of hearing, audiodescription, fansubbing and fandubbing. is
article presents a classication of audiovisual translation modes or types, and
discusses some interesting developments in the audiovisual translation market at
the beginning of this new century. Dubbing countries are moving towards subti-
tling, subtitling countries are beginning to dub, voice-over countries are shiing
towards dubbing and subtitling, while voice-over is moving into dubbing and
subtitling countries and gaining ground with younger audiences.
Keywords: audiovisual translation, dubbing, subtitling, fandubbing, fansubbing,
audiodescription, voice-over
e scope of audiovisual translation
Audiovisual translation is a mode of translation characterised by the transfer of
audiovisual texts either interlingually or intralingually. As their name suggests,
audiovisual texts provide (translatable) information through two channels of com-
munication that simultaneously convey codied meanings using dierent sign
systems: the acoustic channel, through which acoustic vibrations are transmitted
and received as words, paralinguistic information, the soundtrack and special ef-
fects; and the visual channel, through which light waves are transmitted and re-
ceived as images, colours, movement, as well as posters or captions with linguistic
signs, etc. For the translator, the complexity of audiovisual translation resides in
creating dialogues that emulate a prefabricated spontaneous mode of discourse
(particularly in ctional texts), that are constructed through written and spoken
language, but also through other non-verbal codes of meaning, and at the same
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106 Frederic Chaume
time must comply with the time and space limitations that the images impose on
the translation (synchronies or t in the case of dubbing and revoicing modes, and
time and space restrictions in the case of subtitling and related modes).
Because audiovisual translation does not have the tradition of other more es-
tablished elds such as literary or legal translation, until very recently there has
been no consensus on what it should be called. Although the term audiovisual
translation is now widely accepted across Europe (traduction audiovisuelle, tra-
duzione audiovisiva, audiovisuelles übersetzen, traducción audiovisual, traducció
audiovisual, tradução audiovisual, etc.), it has received many other denominations
throughout its history: lm dubbing (Fodor 1976), constrained translation (Titford
1982), lm translation (Snell-Hornby 1988) and traducción fílmica (Díaz Cintas
1997), screen translation (Mason 1989), lm and TV translation (Delabastita 1989),
media translation (Eguíluz et al 1994), comunicación cinematográca (Lecuona
1994), traducción cinematográca (Hurtado 1994; 1995), multimedia translation
(Mateo 1997), transadaptation (Gambier 2003, Neves 2005), as well as other hypo-
nymic terms that are sometimes used to refer to all audiovisual translation: revoic-
ing, captioning, sound post-synchronization, etc.
Modes of audiovisual translation are understood to be all types of transfer of
audiovisual texts between two languages and cultures (interlingual) or within the
same language and culture (intralingual, such as the so-called accessible modes:
subtitling for the deaf and the hard of hearing, audiodescription for the blind and
visually impaired, respeaking, audiosubtitling, etc.). Essentially, translations of
audiovisual texts are made by introducing on or next to the screen, a target text
with the translation or reproduction of the dialogues and inserts (captioning), or
by inserting a new soundtrack in a dierent language and either cancelling out
the original soundtrack of the source language dialogues (dubbing) or leaving it
in place (voice-over). In other words, the audiovisual text is either subtitled or
revoiced. De Linde and Kay (1999), for example, argue that all other audiovisual
translation modes are simply “sub-types” of these two main alternatives. e sub-
types these authors identify include simultaneous subtitling in real time, simulta-
neous interpretation, voice-over, narration, commentary, multilingual diusion
through teletext, and sight translation, as used at lm festivals. In this classica-
tion the concepts of the translation mode are merged with the broadcast medium
and the possibilities that these media oer. For instance, multilingual diusion, a
mode also identied by Gambier (2000), simply oers the chance to see the same
audiovisual text dubbed or subtitled using teletext, but the translation modes
dubbing and subtitling — are the same.
Audiovisual translation does not stop there, however. New technologies and
new audiences, together with policies of equality and media accessibility, have
spawned a ra of new audiovisual translation modes, designed to meet the variety
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e turn of audiovisual translation 107
of needs or concerns of dierent social groups. Hence, conventional subtitling has
led to new related modes like subtitling for the deaf, audio subtitling, respeaking
or live subtitling, surtitling for opera and theatre, and fansubs. Similarly, subtitling
now exists for the Internet, for mobile devices (telephones with Internet access,
PDAs, tablets, etc.), and video games. Where soundtracks are replaced or added to
the original text (revoicing), the classic modes of dubbing, voice-over (also known
as partial dubbing and narration, although with nuanced dierences as we shall
see below) and free commentary are now also joined by the new fandubs, audio-
description for the blind or visually impaired, or dubbing in video games. It is pos-
sible to safely conclude, then, that there are two main macro-modes of audiovisual
translation: captioning and revoicing. us either a new soundtrack is added in the
target language, and the sound is synchronised with the images (post-synchroni-
zation of sound, i.e., revoicing), or a written translation or transcription is inserted
on the screen (captioning), so that the translation can be read while the on-screen
characters speak and act out their dialogues.
Modes based on recording and inserting a new soundtrack and subsequent
sound synchronisation: Revoicing
Dubbing consists of translating and lip-syncing the script of an audiovisual text,
which is then performed by actors directed by a dubbing director and, where
available, with advice from a linguistic consultant or dubbing assistant. In some
European and Asian countries (i.e. France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain and
Turkey, or China and Japan, among others) it is the most widespread form of
audiovisual translation for productions from foreign distributors and television
companies. is complex process is linguistic and cultural, but also technical and
artistic, where teamwork is vital in order to achieve a high quality end product. In
these countries mentioned above, and also in some others, dubbing is the main
mode of audiovisual translation for audiovisual texts, particularly on television,
but dubbing is also on the increase in some countries where it is being adopted
for certain audiovisual genres or particular audiences (Chaume 2012), as we shall
see below.
Voice-overs are made by broadcasting the audio track with the recording of the
original dialogue at the same time as the track with the translated version. e
© 2013. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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108 Frederic Chaume
sound engineer reduces the volume of the original soundtrack and raises the vol-
ume of the dubbed track, such that the original text can be heard faintly in the
background below the translated text. is mode is widely used for documentaries
in many countries around the world, and to translate ctional lm texts (lms,
TV series) in Poland, Russia and other former Soviet Union countries (Estonia,
Latvia, Belarus, etc.). By convention, the original dialogue soundtrack is le at a
lower volume; perhaps to indicate specically to the audience that the voice-over
is a translation (overt translation, House 2013). Contrary to what might be ex-
pected, voice-over gives a greater impression of verisimilitude: the sound of the
original voice, albeit faintly, lends more credibility to the product. In this case, the
dubbing actor reads the translation of the documentary narrator’s lines or the
utterances of people who appear in the documentary a few seconds aer their
voices are heard on screen. e actor waits for a moment (no more than two or
three seconds) when the screen character starts to speak before making his or her
entrance, aided by a time code reader (TCR). Because two dierent soundtracks
are involved, the sound engineer can also make adjustments to the dubbing actor’s
utterances a posteriori. e nal eect in the broadcast is realistic, since viewers
hear the screen actor for a few seconds before the voice of the dubbing actor comes
in at a higher volume, thereby avoiding any diculties in understanding the mes-
sage in the target language.
Other terms used to refer to voice-over are partial dubbing, narration and
Gavrilov translation. Partial dubbing (or half-dubbing) is also known as Russian
dubbing. is type of voice-over is more elaborate than conventional voice-over
and is used to translate ctional texts in which a male reader reads the leading
male’s dialogues in a lm or series, a female reader reads the leading female’s dia-
logues, and sometimes a third voice reads the dialogues of other main characters
in the lm (a childs voice for a boy or girl, for example); all the other characters
dialogues are read by one other voice. Attempts have been made to insert these
target language dialogues into silences in the original lm, allowing the original
actors’ voices to be heard clearly; these endeavours have just been little more than
experiments, however, and have had no signicant impact. Narration is another
synonym for voice-over, although it can sometimes refer to a summary of the
original dialogues, rather than a more or less literal translation. Furthermore, the
original text heard in the background is sometimes le out when narration is used,
in which case it would be more appropriate to call it dubbing, even if the transla-
tion is a summary. Gavrilov translation is the term used to refer to voice-over in
Russian circles, and takes its name from a celebrated narrator, Andrei Gavrilov,
who popularised this mode in Russia during the early years of the Brezhnev era.
But the name is used to refer to single-voice dubs in general, not necessarily those
performed by Gavrilov himself. At that time, and taking into account that the
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e turn of audiovisual translation 109
rst foreign lms of many Western lms were only held closed-door, and open
mainly to workers in the lm industry, politicians, and other members of the elite,
an eective conveyance of humour, idioms, and other subtleties of speech were
Simultaneous interpretation of lm
Simultaneous interpretation of lms is a little used audiovisual translation mode
that is falling into even greater disuse. In this process, the lm is interpreted by a
translator (more accurately an interpreter), who is present in the cinema or loca-
tion where the lm is being screened and, through a microphone connected to
speakers, translates and voices-over the screen actorsvoices. is mode comes
closer to interpretation than translation. e translator normally has access to the
script before the lm is screened and can make notes to work from; he or she has
usually seen the lm beforehand, although this is not always the case. As Lecuona
(1994, 281) cautions, “interpretation and projection occur simultaneously and the
interpreter must improvise his or her translation at the same pace as he or she
hears the original actors voices (our translation). Simultaneous interpreting is
restricted to certain occasions at lm festivals and to specic screenings in some
lm club or art house seasons. Compared to the typical polyphony of a dubbed (or
original version) lm, the interpreter only has recourse to his or her own voice to
dub all the on-screen actors, and the resulting eect is oen wanting. As Lecuona
(1994, 281) points out, “the single voice of the interpreter must recount all the
voices of the original […] the interpreter must have a certain capacity for mime-
sis, and should attempt to avoid the inevitable monotony of his or her discourse
by using certain elements, expressive resources, voice tones, expressive empha-
sis, and even vocabulary, to bring it closer to the vital polyphony of the original
soundtrack” (our translation).
Curiously, this mode of audiovisual translation is popular in ailand. In this
country a dubbing method developed in which a dubber would provide a simulta-
neous translation of the dialogue by speaking ai into a microphone at the back
of the theater. Films were screened in silence, without the soundtrack and without
the dialogue track. Izard (1992, 94) explains that dubbing was too expensive in the
rst years of the talkies, and subtitling (always the cheapest option) was unwork-
able due to high illiteracy rates. So while the silent lm was being screened, an
actor stood next to the screen and acted out the dialogues and even improvised
the sound eects and special eects. Due to the extensive use of 16 mm lm until
nowadays, the technique has lasted up until recent years, especially for outdoor
screenings of lms. e actor’s or dubber’s role is very similar to that of the com-
© 2013. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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110 Frederic Chaume
mentators (narrators) in the early days of cinema, what the Japanese call benshi.
e more expressive the actor, the more successful the lm would be.
Gambier (2000) includes sight translation as a mode of audiovisual translation
at lm festivals where the translator directly translates the script from the source
language while the lm is being screened: it is a type of sight translation, per-
formed from a script, subtitles, or a text followed in a foreign language; hence the
name sight translation.” Chaves (2000) includes it as a sub-mode of simultaneous
interpreting. As with this mode in general, the disadvantage of sight translation
for audiences is that they have to listen to the original voices and the translation
at the same time, and also deal with the inevitable asynchrony between the trans-
lated dialogues and the image. Indeed, neither simultaneous interpreting nor sight
translation claim to attain the realistic eect typically achieved by dubbing.
Free commentary
e key dening feature of free commentary is that it is not a faithful reproduction
of the original text; rather, commentators are free to create and give opinions, to
recount what they see in their own words, and to add further details and informa-
tion. e text does not usually need to be segmented into takes or loops (Chaume
2012), although commentary and image must be well synchronised (Luyken et al.
1991, 82). is mode can take into account the audience’s intellectual capacity and
level of education; the translation can be adapted to the programme’s potential
audience. e translator must dedicate more time to preparing and researching
the text, and according to Chaves (2000, 48–49), should have some training in
journalism. In fact, free commentary is more an adaptation than a translation. e
commentator replaces the original actorsor charactersspeech when he or she
sees t, and the tone is more informal than a narration. is mode can comple-
ment dubbing or subtitling, but it cannot substitute them. It is frequently used in
comedy or sports videos and programmes in Europe.
e term Goblin translation refers to a domesticatedor more informal trans-
lation (voice-over) that has been made popular in Russia by an English-to-Russian
movie and video game translator, script-writer, and author with that nickname,
Dmitry Yuryevich Puchkov or “Goblin.His rst lm translation was completed
during the Perestroika period. e rst lm he translated was Carlitos Way (Brian
de Palma 1993) in 1995. e development of the DVD format revived Puchkov’s
interest in translating movies, and his works became known to a larger public au-
dience. Goblin translations include bad language, excessively familiar translations
and occasionally parodies of the original text in response to the linguistic and
ideological censorship that has predominated in traditional Russian voice-over.
Translated tracks of the movies could be downloaded at no charge as mp3 les
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e turn of audiovisual translation 111
(they include only the voice of Goblin, without the original sound of the movie)
from Puchkov’s website. It is then a very domesticating kind of voice-over.
Fandubs or fundubs are home-made dubbings of television series, cartoons (par-
ticularly the anime genre) and trailers for lms that have not yet been released in
the target language country. Fandubs are usually made by fans of these genres;
they download the lm texts from Internet and, using a digital sound editing pro-
gram, manipulate or eliminate the soundtrack of the original text and record and
insert the dubbed track they record at home using a microphone. One of the most
popular editing programs for making fandubbings is Windows Movie Maker. It is
sometimes spelled fundubbing to highlight the witty and humorous nature of this
type of home-grown dubbing.
Finally, audiodescription for the blind and visually impaired is a type of translation
intended to enhance accessibility that deserves a separate discussion. In general,
sections of the lm that have no dialogue, soundtrack or special eects that are rel-
evant to the plot are identied, and a new soundtrack is inserted on which a voice-
o (an ostage commentary, i.e., a pre-recorded voice placed over the top of a lm
or video) describes what is happening on screen. is description includes details
about the set, the way the characters are dressed, their actions, gestures etc, and
allows blind or visually impaired audiences to follow the story line, while lending
coherence to the dialogues throughout the lm. According to Díaz Cintas (2008,
7), AD consists in transforming visual images into words, which are then spo-
ken during the silent intervals of audiovisual programmes or live performances.
Translation studies and particularly audiovisual translation studies now include
this practice in their curricula alongside other modes of audiovisual translation.
e debate continues, however, as it is intralingual narration that consists of de-
codifying images and transforming them into words, what Roman Jakobson called
intersemiotic translation, and many people do not consider it to be (interlingual)
proper translation in the strictest sense. Audiodescription includes partial modes
such as audio introduction (for lms, but also for exhibitions, other programmes,
etc.), audio commentaries for exhibitions, and audiosubtitling, namely the reading
of subtitles from subtitled foreign lms for visually impaired audiences.
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112 Frederic Chaume
Modes based on a written translated or transcribed text inserted on or next
to the screen where the original text is shown: Captioning
Subtitling, as its name suggests, consists of incorporating a written text (subtitles) in
the target language on the screen where an original version lm is shown, such that
the subtitles coincide approximately with the screen actorsdialogues. More has
been written about subtitling than dubbing, because, generally, greater attention has
been paid to the phenomenon of subtitling in countries where it is common prac-
tice. In countries where dubbing is preferred, there has been less academic interest
in the mode. e works of Ivarsson (1992) and Ivarsson and Carroll (1998) oer
one of the most comprehensive analyses of this mode of audiovisual translation; of
particular interest in these studies is the discussion of the tremendous speed with
which the human eye can read (although the average reading speed in the US is
200–300 wpm, these authors claim that adults can read faster) added to some tech-
nical factors that permit more characters per line these days, calling into question
the empirical basis for current restrictions on space for subtitles (35 characters per
line, average reading speed of 12 cps, etc.). ere is also the extensive, meticulous
work of Díaz Cintas published in Spanish (2001; 2003) and in English (Díaz Cintas
and Remael 2007), with a greater focus on translation than the Ivarsson studies.
ese authors claim that “Norms and conventions evolve quickly in subtitling and
the advent of the DVD has been one of the major catalysts in the profession. As far
as reading speed is concerned, 180 words per minute is increasingly becoming the
norm in this new medium, with some companies applying even higher rates.
e forerunners of subtitles, known as intertitles (which originated in the si-
lent lms, but are sometimes used for aesthetic or narrative reasons in lms today),
were quickly translated into the target languages, and as such, intertitle translation
can also be regarded as a sub-mode of audiovisual translation.
Surtitling, a specic form of subtitling for theatrical and operatic productions, can
be both interlingual and intralingual. It enables audiences to understand the char-
acters’ dialogues, or follow the opera storyline. e subtitles are usually projected
on a screen placed above the stage (hence the name surtitle) in the proscenium so
the audience sitting in the boxes can follow the play or opera, and at the same time,
read the subtitles or surtitles with a translation or transcription of the dialogues.
Other areas of the theatre or opera house with poorer views of the stage usually
have small screens xed to the back of the seats where the subtitles are projected.
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e turn of audiovisual translation 113
Live subtitling or respeaking is another mode that falls somewhere between si-
multaneous interpreting and audiovisual translation. is is a technique in which
subtitles are shown at the bottom of the screen during a live broadcast (Romero
Fresco 2011). e interpreters use a computer with voice recognition soware
(ViaVoice, Dragon Naturally Speaking, etc.) that they have previously trained to
recognise their voice, and listen to the live broadcast through headphones (al-
though this method is also used with recorded broadcasts). e interpreter hears
the charactersdialogues or the narrator’s voice and re-reads them in his or her
own words, usually summarising the original dialogues quite substantially so their
re-translation ts into the subtitle space that the soware program generates when
it processes the spoken sentences. e voice recognition program cannot recog-
nise the dialogues directly from the screen because of the poor quality of the audio
source, background sounds, noisy environments, strong accents, etc. Live subti-
tling used to be done using shorthand, typing and stenography techniques.
Subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing
Subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing is another mode of translation used to
enhance accessibility for people with hearing diculties, or for older or foreign
audiences. Broadly speaking, it is intralingual translation (it may also be inter-
lingual, but this is not common) that reproduces the characters’ dialogues so that
the subtitles appear on the screen at the same time as they are spoken. Unlike live
subtitling, this mode is used for recorded programmes, and colours are used to
dierentiate between characters (as a deaf audience cannot recognise the source of
a voice-o or of a person speaking with her back to the audience, or crowd scenes),
sound eects are reproduced (with symbols or onomatopoeically), subtitles for
sounds or songs are sometimes placed at the top of the screen (when the dialogue
subtitles appear at the bottom), etc. ese subtitles usually remain on screen for a
longer period of time so they can be more easily read, since many deaf people read
with diculty, either at a lower pace or with other types of diculties. In fact, the
review published by Ofcom (2005) recommends speeds lower than 140–180 wpm.
Subtitles can be up to four lines long; this makes them more dicult to read, but
they give a faithful reproduction of what is said on screen. e “faithfulnessof
subtitle reproduction is the subject of a great debate as yet unresolved over
whether subtitles for the deaf should reproduce everything spoken on screen (ver-
batim), advocated by groups and associations of the deaf, or whether the informa-
tion should be summarised as in the case of conventional subtitling, as proposed
by professionals and academics.
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114 Frederic Chaume
Fansubs, fansubbing or subbing, are home-made subtitles for television series, car-
toons (particularly the anime genre) and lms that have not yet been released in
the target language country. As in the previously described fandubbing, they are
usually made by fans who download the lm texts from the Internet and use com-
puter editing programs to insert new subtitles they create at home using free so-
ware. One of the most popular programs for making fansubs is Subtitle Workshop,
although Aegisub, Pinnacle, and BsPlayer are also used. e fan uploads the sub-
titled text to the Internet; there are dierent legal consequences they may incur
by doing this, dependent on country. Fansubbing is usually less orthodox than
conventional subtitling. Colors can be used; subtitles may appear anywhere on
the screen (above or below the speaker, or sideways); they use more characters
than conventional subtitles; fonts may vary throughout the lm; translations are
frequently highly foreignizing; higher reading speeds are demanded than for con-
ventional subtitles, and so on.
Other modes
Other authors in the audiovisual translation literature refer to even more audio-
visual translation modes. Bartoll (2008), for example, mentions sign language
interpreting which, given the legal recognition, necessity and usefulness of sign
language, should be considered as an audiovisual mode for all intents and pur-
poses. Bartoll also mentions sight translation of scripts (although in this case there
is no audiovisual component) and consecutive interpretation, despite their scant
presence in the audiovisual market. Remakes cannot be considered as audiovisual
translation modes, as the author suggests. Rather, they are cinema adaptations in
which a new text is based on a previous one, as in the innumerable lms based on
other lms, novels, plays, comics, etc.
Bartolomé and Cabrera (2005), following Chaume (2004), also include script-
writing for animation as an audiovisual translation mode. is mode involves
creating written dialogues for animation texts that are produced and distributed
in the market without dialogues, a kind of script writing in each target language
based on the images of the animated text, and thus, similar to audiodescription.
e silent images, normally computer designed cartoons, are viewed, and a script
is written to t the meaning for each image. is task gives translators the oppor-
tunity to use their creativity, adding dialogues to these images that must comply
with the standard dubbing restrictions of phonetic, kinesic and isochronic syn-
chronies, as well as maintaining consistency with the plot narrated through the
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e turn of audiovisual translation 115
images. e creativity needed for this task can (and should) be backed up by the
translator’s experience in working with original scripts, and particularly with pre-
vious audiovisual text translations.
Bartolomé and Cabrera also include remakes, mentioned above, script trans-
lation (which would seem to be literary rather than audiovisual translation), and
multimedia translation, to refer to what is known as localisation of multimedia
products, a practice that combines the translation of computer programs (normal-
ly with Excel les), with the translation of dialogues (dubbing) and the translation
of inserts and captions (subtitling). It is not, therefore, a new mode, but rather a
combination of various modes.
Current shis in the audiovisual translation market
Towards subtitling
Even in countries where dubbing predominates, subtitling is not unknown. In
these countries there was always a demand for original version (subtitled) lms
from elite audiences. Now well educated younger people are also expressing a
preference for subtitled original versions over dubbed ones, citing aesthetic and
artistic reasons. In European dubbing countries, for instance, the practice of sub-
titling certain lms is growing in popularity. With the introduction of DVD and
Blu-Ray as the standard for watching lms and television series at home, subti-
tling has become an established professional practice (although not an established
habit) in traditionally dubbing countries. Economic criteria are generally used to
decide whether to dub or subtitle a lm. Commercial lms, particularly in North
America and in all European dubbing countries, are usually dubbed for greater
impact and higher box oce prots; minority art house lms tend to be subtitled
for smaller, less popular lm venues. It is certainly true that subtitling has a much
greater presence in dubbing countries than is usually imagined, whether in lm,
DVD, Internet, and new environments such as corporate and educational videos,
is trend is also evident in advertising. Dubbing countries increasingly
show subtitled advertisements on the small screen and on the Internet. Subtitling
makes it easier for the same advertisement to be seen in every country (globalisa-
tion). It is a much simpler and less costly process than dubbing, and it oers the
additional enjoyment of hearing the original voices. It also allows, particularly,
access to the connotations positive in marketing terms that each language
and culture can evoke in other countries and communities: hearing an advertise-
ment for a so drink or a beer in English, for a perfume in French, for pasta in
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116 Frederic Chaume
Italian, or for a car in German. ese connotations can make the product more
attractive to some foreign audiences who then associate certain positive values
with the products.
Some dubbing countries are also witnessing a trend towards subtitling car-
toons for children in order to help them learn foreign languages, particularly
English. is practice is somewhat paradoxical. Younger audiences are not yet
procient in reading. Also, even in subtitling countries foreign cartoons are usu-
ally already dubbed. Once children have gained some reading facility, for instance
if the cartoons are aimed at children above the age of 9 or 10, then they can be
subtitled for this purpose with a slightly slower than normal reading speed, and
with fewer characters per subtitle and per line than would be considered usual
in conventional subtitling i.e., less than 35 characters per line and a reading
speed of less than 12 cps. Cartoons for children younger than 9 or 10 should not
be subtitled, however, since even slower reading speeds are not appropriate for
the reading capacity of such young children. In any event, subtitling as a tool for
learning a foreign language is used increasingly in dubbing countries, in language
classes, and at home by immigrants and foreigners to learn the language of their
host country more quickly.
Fansubbing is an increasingly popular phenomenon, both because of the
growing communities of people who enjoy foreign, particularly Japanese, prod-
ucts, and because the computer soware for home subtitling of foreign products,
making them available to fans across the world, is increasingly available and easy
to use. Similarly, new genres like video games and some mobile and tablet applica-
tions require subtitles, both interlingual and intralingual, thereby opening up the
market to this audiovisual translation mode. Researchers are now including these
genres and devices into the world of audiovisual translation.
Finally, the growing trend towards subtitling is spreading not only in dubbing
countries, but in countries where voice-over has traditionally been used as the
general mode of audiovisual translation such as Poland (Bogucki 2004; Chaume
2012), where a growing number of subtitled lms can be enjoyed on private TV
channels and in cinemas.
Towards dubbing
While the trend towards subtitling may not seem surprising, as seen in the exam-
ples above, perhaps the parallel growing tendency in the market towards dubbing
is less expected. For example, in Portugal, a country with an outstanding subti-
tling tradition, the audience share for dubbed products is rising. In a recent study,
Chorao (2011) found that dubbing of foreign productions on Portuguese screens
has overtaken subtitling. Programmes such as Hannah Montana (Richard Correll,
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e turn of audiovisual translation 117
Barry O’Brien and Michael Poryes 2006) are increasingly dubbed into Portuguese,
and the recent opening of the leading Spanish dubbing studio, Soundub, in Lisbon
appears to conrm that this trend is here to stay.
Other primarily subtitling countries, such as Denmark, have recently exper-
imented with dubbed lms for younger audiences, as in the case of e Nutty
Professor (Tom Shadyac 1996), to nd out whether, for this type of lm, dubbing
retains the originals comedic sense or sense of humour more eectively. e mo-
tivation here is economic; some comedy lms, when subtitled, were not as suc-
cessful as the distributors would have liked. In the case of Norway, Tveit (2009)
also nds that some teen-oriented television series and teen lms have also been
dubbed to ensure their commercial success. ese experiments are taking hold
on television screens, and in all likelihood, augur a permanent presence of dub-
bing in these countries, albeit limited to certain television genres and for certain
audiences. e volume of dubbed products has also increased in Russia (Chaume
2012), where voice-over has traditionally been used to translate foreign ctional
A further signicant trend is noted in the dubbing of Latin American and
Turkish soap operas in subtitling countries such as Greece, Morocco, Egypt,
Jordan and other North African countries. In the Arab-speaking countries and
Greece, the rst dubbed versions of this highly popular genre immediately put
these soaps at the top of the audience share ratings, indicating that maybe dubbing
has an economic future in these countries.
In other trends, the fandubbing phenomenon — like fansubbing (Díaz Cintas
and Muñoz 2006) is also spreading quickly across the world. Fandubs can be
found for trailers, cartoons and episodes of television series in various languages,
including in countries where subtitling is predominant. Similarly, advertisements
continue to be dubbed in both dubbing and subtitling countries. Advertisements
for Kinder chocolates, for example, originally lmed in Italian, are dubbed into
many languages all over the world.
Advances in digital audiovisual technology have also allowed multiple modes
of audiovisual translation to be included in the same product. In the same way that
DVDs have enabled viewers in dubbing countries to watch subtitled lms by sim-
ply switching from the dubbed to the subtitled version in the DVD menu using the
remote control, DVDs and Blue-Rays also allow audiences in subtitling countries
to watch dubbed versions of lms, series or cartoons (for example, dubbings into
Brazilian Portuguese consumed in Portugal, a subtitling country).
Finally, as with subtitling, dubbing can be a useful tool in learning a foreign
language, as Danan shows in her 2010 study. Translating a foreign language prod-
uct for dubbing, and then dubbing in class using the soware programs men-
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118 Frederic Chaume
tioned above obliges students to practice the foreign language and its transla-
tion into their mother tongue, as well as learn its grammar and vocabulary.
Towards voice-over
For some, voice-over might seem to be an outdated audiovisual translation mode
for ction genres, belonging to or reminiscent of past eras. However, surprisingly,
there are signs in the market that voice-over is gaining ground.
e North American channel MTV has begun to use voice-over to translate
some teen reality shows in dubbing countries. For instance the reality series A
Shot at Love with Tila Tequila (Riley McCormick and Sally Ann Salsano 2007) was
rendered in voice-over as an experiment to introduce the mode in ctional pro-
grammes (supposedly docudramas) and also as a signicant way of reducing dub-
bing costs. Translating a ctional programme using voice-over in dubbing coun-
tries is an example of how the canon of audiovisual translation is being broken up
or subverted. Since ctional programmes are usually dubbed in these countries on
TV, translating them by means of a voice-over is a challenge that primarily has to
be accepted by the audience, especially by new audiences. is experiment may
turn out to be a commercial failure, or it may be an innovative, lasting trend. For
the moment, voice-over is being used in an increasing number of programmes
and the phenomenon has spilled over to other television channels such as Energy
in Spain, for example.
ere is also a considerable increase in the number of advertisements and
advertorials or infomercials translated using the voice-over mode. Particularly in
the case of the latter, voice-over transmits the idea that the product comes from
abroad, as well as lowering the costs of adding a soundtrack. Voice-over is, for in-
stance, the standard audiovisual translation mode in television shopping channels.
Finally, audiovisual media on the Internet have become vehicles for transmit-
ting all kinds of information and instruction and are replacing more traditional
media such as books or face-to-face classes for certain instructional purposes.
When we want to learn to use a device, cook a special dish, do some gymnastic
exercises or learn any new activity, we oen turn to instructional videos on the
Internet. Most of these videos are translated into other languages using voice-over.
e same can be seen in Internet classes and seminars and particularly in cor-
porate videos designed to sell products across the globe. Voice-over, despite its
scant presence in the academic world (Tomaszkiewicz 2006; Garcarz 2007; Franco,
Matamala and Orero 2010), plays a vital role in the audiovisual translation market.
Scholars are not paying enough attention to this mode yet, assuming on the one
hand that it is an obsolete mode, and on the other, that non-ctional programmes
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e turn of audiovisual translation 119
— webinars — are not worth of investigation, since they belong to non-canonical
Towards accessibility
e audiovisual translation boom is not restricted to the three modes referred to
above, however. Translation for enhanced accessibility is now rmly ensconced in
the audiovisual translation world and rightfully redresses an accessibility imbal-
ance for audiences who for decades have been discriminated against in access to
information and media culture. Today, DVDs are increasingly likely to include sub-
titling for the deaf and hard of hearing and audiodescription for the blind and visu-
ally impaired. Television channels have taken up the baton, and each year sees an
increase in the number of programmes that are subtitled and narrated using these
modes. Legal guidelines in a growing number of countries are also gradually mak-
ing it obligatory for all programmes to carry subtitles for the deaf; they are being
mandated to reach 100% of all broadcasts by 2015 in Spain, for example. In a report
called State of Subtitling Access in EU. 2011 Report (EFHHP 2011), a list of European
countries and their respective legal guidelines can be found and consulted.
e legal process is being attempted with audiodescription, although to a
lesser extent and in lower proportions. ese legislative initiatives have greatly
increased the volume of accessibility work in the translation market in a grow-
ing number of countries. Films with subtitles for the deaf can be seen on screens
installed in a designated area of cinemas, or by wearing special glasses that display
the subtitles, or by listening to audiodescriptions though headphones designed to
be used by the blind or visually impaired, or indeed, anyone who wants to experi-
ence the eect. Audiovisual technology therefore clearly helps each viewer enjoy
the lm as he or she wishes and allows the same lm to be screened by dierent
audiences in dierent modes using a variety of devices.
e same expansion of accessibility is occurring in advertising. A growing
number of advertisements are now subtitled for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Audiodescription has still not moved into the advertising world on a large scale,
although it has been included in some advertisements (Cruz 2011). Still, there is
no doubt that in the coming years we can expect an increase in audiodescription
for advertising due to legal, cultural and economic pressures.
Sign language on television deserves a separate discussion, and will not be
addressed here. e number of news programmes with sign language interpreters
for the hard of hearing is rising. Whether we consider sign language as a language
(and many countries have designated it so ocially you can see for example a
tentative list of countries where sign language is considered an ocial language
on Wikipedia) — or a semiotic system accepted by a community of users, we can
© 2013. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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120 Frederic Chaume
speak freely of translation (interlingual or intersemiotic, in each case), and there-
fore regard it as another audiovisual translation mode, since the source text and
the translation both appear simultaneously on the same screen.
Respeaking or live subtitling is another audiovisual translation mode for ac-
cessibility that is rapidly gaining ground. In Europe, respeaking was pioneered in
the United Kingdom by the BBC, but an increasing number of television channels
worldwide are now acquiring respeaking soware to make their news and cultural
schedules more accessible.
e use of audiodescription is also on the rise in museums, bringing works of
art and cultural heritage to visually impaired audiences; similarly audio-subtitling
of foreign language lms, subtitled in the target language and read for the benet
of blind or visually impaired audiences is also a growing phenomenon.
e possibilities for audiovisual translation are not limited to those described here.
e list of audiovisual translation modes is by no means closed, and indeed it is
bound to grow and change as new audiovisual formats, technological advances and
audience tastes evolve and change. In fact, audiovisual translators also receive as-
signments for which they are, in principle, prepared by dint of their experience as a
narrators or re-writers. e audiovisual translator is therefore qualied (and is called
upon) to translate genres such as comics (and the so-called scanlations, the scan-
ning, translation and editing of comic genres such as manga), advertisements and
infomercials, corporate and instructional videos, etc. Language service providers
do not tend to classify audiovisual translators by specialization; rather they tend to
think that all audiovisual translators can provide services in all audiovisual modes.
Since there are not any types of certication recognized by employers, translators
ought to be aware of rates in all audiovisual modes (see Díaz Cintas and Remael
2007, and Chaume 2012, for rates in Europe in subtitling and dubbing, respectively).
e audiovisual translation map is no longer drawn in black and white terms.
e simple classication of countries into dubbers and subtitlers has been a useful
but supercial description; it no longer reects today’s more complicated audio-
visual reality. e borders between the modes are now too blurred, as described
in the previous section. Dubbing countries oen now have a ourishing subti-
tling industry, and the use of voice-over is also growing considerably. Subtitling
countries, on the other hand, are becoming more accustomed to dubbing (teen-
pics, soaps, etc.). Latin American countries have always tended to use dubbing for
television and subtitling for cinema. Many Asian countries do not make a clear
distinction between the two options, and use both for dierent purposes, dierent
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e turn of audiovisual translation 121
genres and in dierent geographical areas. Countries with a tradition of voice-over
for translating ctional audiovisual texts have witnessed a remarkable increase in
dubbing and subtitling since the fall of the Berlin wall.
e crucial point for modern audiovisual media audiences is that the old bi-
nary option of experiencing a foreign programme in either a dubbed or a subtitled
version has now disappeared. e future will bring for our enjoyment of foreign
media productions a myriad viewing and listening options: dubbed, subtitled,
subtitled for the deaf and hard of hearing, audiodescribed, narrated with voice-
over, etc. e more options we have, the more free, more multilingual and more
diverse we will be as spectators.
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A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. Directed by Riley McCormick and Sally Ann Salsano. 2007.
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Author’s address
Frederic Chaume
Universitat Jaume I
Avda Sos Baynat
12071 Castelló de la Plana
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  • ... When the contents are in native language other techniques, like voice-over and description, also support a specific kind of audiovisual translation. In these techniques, the management of verbal and nonverbal components of the narrative are required [1], demanding human intervention. The role of these techniques in the development of accessible TV contents is of major importance, because they enabling its access to people with special needs. ...
  • ... When the contents are in native language other techniques, like voice-over and description, also support a specific kind of audiovisual translation. In these techniques, the management of verbal and nonverbal components of the narrative are required [1], demanding human intervention. The role of these techniques in the development of accessible TV contents is of major importance, because they enabling its access to people with special needs. ...
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    Despite the claims regarding the potential disruptiveness of subtitling for audiovisual processing, existing empirical evidence supports the idea that subtitle processing is semi-automatic and cognitively effective, and that, in moderately complex viewing scenarios, dubbing does not necessarily help viewers. In this paper we appraise whether the complexity of the translated audiovisual material matters for the cognitive and evaluative reception of subtitled vs. dubbed audiovisual material. To this aim, we present the results of two studies on the viewers’ reception of film translation (dubbing vs. subtitling), in which we investigate the cognitive and evaluative consequences of audiovisual complexity. In Study 1, the results show that a moderately complex film is processed effectively and is enjoyed irrespective of the translation method. In Study 2, the subtitling (vs. dubbing) of a more complex film leads to more effortful processing and lower cognitive performance, but not to a lessened appreciation. These results expose the boundaries of subtitle processing, which are reached only when the audiovisual material to be processed is complex, and they encourage scholars and practitioners to reconsider old standards as well as to invest more effort in crafting diverse types of audiovisual translations tailored both to the degree of complexity of the source product and to the individual differences of the target viewers.
  • Article
    In Spain, as in other countries, reality TV seems to be a pervasive phenomenon, materialised in a myriad of domestic and foreign productions. The latter require interlingual translation, which in most cases takes the form of voice-over translation. Despite the prevalence of reality TV and voice-over translation in Spanish television, both fields are still widely underexplored. This article sets out to bridge this research gap by presenting an exploratory study of the translation of reality TV in Spain. To this end, it will first document the prevalence of foreign reality TV in Spanish TV schedules, to then explore the similarities and differences in traditional voice-over translation (i.e. used for documentary translation) versus voice-over translation for reality TV. The focus is on the different types of synchrony observed in voice-over translation, yet the discussion highlights other relevant issues (e.g. approaches to the translation of semi-spontaneous speech) and illustrates how this genre is challenging audiovisual translation (AVT) conventions, as well as blurring the boundaries between AVT modes.
  • Chapter
    Full-text available
    El estudio de la traducción del humor ha experimentado en las últimas décadas un auge notable en el campo de la traductología. Una de las razones por las que se ha impulsado la investigación en este ámbito tiene que ver con el aumento en la demanda y distribución de productos gráficos y audiovisuales de diversa índole: series de televisión, comedias románticas, comedias musicales, películas de animación, cómics y novelas gráficas, publicidad, DVD, libros electrónicos, videojuegos, aplicaciones informáticas, etc. La apertura a nuevos mercados internacionales, a través de la localización o adaptación de este tipo de productos culturales, ha provocado que la inherente multimodalidad que los caracteriza se haya tenido que reconfigurar o traducir para poder llegar a un mayor número de consumidores. Este hecho −y en especial la posibilidad de establecer un análisis multilingüe− le ha proporcionado al investigador una valiosa herramienta heurística para estudiar cómo se lleva a cabo el trasvase lingüístico y cultural del humor de una lengua a otra. En los siguientes apartados analizaremos, en primer lugar, el papel de la traducción en relación con el concepto de cultura. A continuación, nos ocuparemos de la especificidad lingüística y cultural del humor como características que pueden condicionar o determinar la traducibilidad de un texto humorístico. Por último, a partir de un repaso de algunos géneros humorísticos multimodales (la literatura infantil, la comedia musical, y el cómic y la novela gráfica), describiremos algunas de las técnicas empleadas en la traducción del humor.
  • Article is a platform to share ideas through influential talks in video format on topics that range from science and technology to business that engages volunteers from all over the world to help transcribe, subtitle and translate their scripts in more than 100 languages. The justification to engage volunteer transcribers is that transcribed talks can reach a wider audience because they are accessible for hearing impaired individuals, can be indexed in search engines and can achieve TED’s mission of spreading ideas by making transcripts available for translation through TED’s Open Translation Project. Therefore, talks transcribers play a crucial role in the overall translation workflow and dissemination process as they are responsible for transcribing the contents and foundations of what will be later on translated into different languages. The objective of this paper is to analyse a corpus of talks originally delivered in different variants of Spanish to identify the most common strategies used by volunteer transcribers to handle local or idiomatic expressions and culturally biased items to reach the maximum audience possible and facilitate translation.
  • Book
  • Book
  • Book
  • Article
    Full-text available
    This article discusses the concept of subtitling, a variety of screen translation, within the framework of Relevance Theory and Translation Studies. The constraints that operate in the process of subtitling are threefold; firstly, technical limitations as imposed by subtitling companies, secondly, abstract constraints as operative in any kind of translation, and finally, the meta-constraint of relevance.
  • Book
    '… a must have for students, trainers and professionals. … not only the first, but probably the ultimate live subtitling textbook.' Aline Remael, Artesis University College Antwerp '… thorough and comprehensive … a brave and pioneering work bound to become a classic from the word go. Inspiring, engaging, superbly written, it offers a state-of-the-art account of a field notoriously under-researched. A prime example of solid research and scholarship, a must read for anyone who wants to keep abreast with all the new developments taking place in Audiovisual Translation.' Jorge Díaz Cintas, Imperial College London, UK Based on sound research and first-hand experience in the field, Subtitling through Speech Recognition: Respeaking is the first book to present a comprehensive overview of the production of subtitles through speech recognition in Europe. Topics covered include the origins of subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing, the different methods used to provide live subtitles and the training and professional practice of respeaking around the world. The core of the book is devoted to elaborating an in-depth respeaking course, including the skills required before, during and after the respeaking process. The volume also offers detailed analysis of the reception of respeaking, featuring information about viewers’ preferences, comprehension and perception of respoken subtitles obtained with eye-tracking technology. An accompanying DVD features a wealth of video clips and documents designed to illustrate the material in the book and to serve as a basis for the exercises included at the end of each chapter. The working language of the book is English, but the DVD also contains sample material in Dutch, French, Galician, German, Italian and Spanish. Subtitling through Speech Recognition: Respeaking is designed for use as a coursebook for classroom practice or as a handbook for self-learning. It will be of interest to undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as freelance and in-house language professionals. It will also find a reading public among broadcasters, cinema, theatre and museum managers, as well as the deaf and members of deaf associations, who may use the volume to support future campaigns and enhance the quality of the speech-to-text accessibility they provide to their members.
  • Article
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    The purpose of this paper is to describe the so-called fansubs, a different type of subtitling carried out by amateur translators. The first part of this study covers both the people and phases involved in the fansubbing process from beginning to end. The second section focuses on the legality and ethics of fansubs. The third part pays attention to the actual translation of fansubs and their unique features, such as the use of translator's notes or special karaoke effects. The paper concludes with a reflection on the work done by fansubbers and the possibilities opened by this mainly Internet phenomenon.