Last Monday, translator Zeinab Mobarak gave a lecture on the creative arts of dubbing and subtitling at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Contrary to popular belief, Mobarak said, dubbing for film is a difficult art.
The most common explanation for the divide between dubbing and subtitling countries derives from cost: dubbing, the more expensive translation mode, is adopted by the larger, wealthier countries with significant single-language communities, subtitling by the smaller countries whose audiences comprise more restricted markets. While there is some truth to this rationale, cost alone does not dictate national choice: small Central European countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia prefer dubbing, despite its high cost. Historical and political developments, along with tradition, are equally important factors.
In Western Europe, dubbing emerged in the early 1930s as the standard method of language transfer in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain (sometimes referred to as the FIGS group). In France, where the Joinville studio was converted into a dubbing center, the supremacy of dubbing derives from the nation's cultural mission to preserve and protect the French language in the face of foreign (especially American) influence, and the prevalence of French as the lingua franca for a populace accustomed to hearing it in its own films. For the other countries of the FIGS group, culture and political ideology were determining causes. Italy, Germany, and Spain, all of which faced cultural boycotts in the mid-1930s and were ruled by fascist governments, only allowed dubbed versions of foreign films.
The Czechs have a special fondness for dubbing films and TV series – for which up to five episodes are voiced in one go. This production line process sometimes results in translations that grate on the ears, but there is more at stake. The Ministry...
When Oscar-nominated film “Ernest & Celestine” hits New York theaters March 14, with a broad release two weeks later, audiences will have the choice to view the animated feature in two languages. (Voiceover dubbing INTO English!
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