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Change in font according to whether English/non-English
Thread poster: Bianca AH
Bianca AH  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:07
French to English
+ ...
Mar 22, 2006

I know that there are some professional subtitles in the ProZ community, so I thought I would run this by you to get your opinions (as professionals with experience in subtitling).

I'm doing research on a South African film which is, as most of them are, multilingual (English, Zulu, Xhosa etc, dialects, slang). This film was subtitled in 2000 for the UK market.

What I find interesting, is that when the characters speak in English, a standard subtitling font is used. But as soon as the character switches to a language other than English (even if half the sentence is in English), then a much bolder font is used.

I've been going through the subtitling theory and articles that I have, looking for some sort of explanation on this phenomenon but have not found anything. Perhaps this is a relatively new strategy? Apart from the obvious (indicating a change in language... although does the audience need to be alerted to this when they can simply *hear* that the character is no longer speaking in English), I can't come to anything conclusive as to why this strategy was used.

Another thought is that perhaps this strategy was used because of the Black South African accent, which might be unfamiliar or foreign to the British ear, which would then support the idea of wanted to indicate to the audience a change of language.

Your thoughts, ideas, opinions, etc. are appreciated!

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:07
Dutch to English
+ ...
Another possibility Mar 22, 2006

Hi Bianca,

I'm not at all well-versed in subtitling or its methods (other than shaking my head in disbelief at what I sometimes see here translated in Portuguese from English on local TV - however it struck me reading your posting that, apart from the valid reasons you offer, perhaps it takes into account the audience (or a part thereof) is deaf or partially deaf.

Hoop dit gaan goed daar by Wits!

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Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:07
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
Although I only dabble in subtitling... Mar 23, 2006

what Deborah says:

(...) perhaps it takes into account the audience (or a part thereof) is deaf or partially deaf.

was exactly what I thought when I first read your post. As you say, it is customary to mark when a word is spoken in another language by using italics, but italics are also used for songs, sound effects for the deaf & hard of hearing, and off-screen voices. Perhaps they had three languages in play and needed to use both italics and bold typefaces?

I think bold typefaces are being phased out slowly, since they are not so clearly visible sometimes (and the underline has always been a big no-no).

[Edited at 2006-03-23 07:02]

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Change in font according to whether English/non-English

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