World cinema: subtitles vs. dubbing

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Damián Santilli  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
Every country is a different story Jan 18, 2011

In Argentina, and I believe that mostly in all Latin America, we just can't stand dubbed movies. Obviously, the general public couldn't care less about it, but those of us cinema and language lovers can't stand hearing Spanish voices on Johnny Depp or Meryl Streep, just to mention two random actors. It is a cultural thing, that goes along with the fact that dubbed movies have never been more popular than subtitled movies in our country. Spain, for instance, is the complete opposite of that.

Nice article about a not so common but lovely topic.

Cheers!


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's a matter of what you're used to Jan 18, 2011

Most of the Spaniards I know over a certain age can't stand subtitles because they're not used to them. Conversely, most people I know in the U.S. can't stand dubbing in any genres other than martial-arts films and children's movies. In both cases it's a matter of what you grew up seeing.

Of course, there's a quality-related aspect that helps reinforce these views. In countries with little tradition of dubbing, on the rare occasions when things are dubbed, it's often done very badly. By contrast, in Spain, where dubbing is the norm for major motion pictures and TV series, the dubbing tends to be excellent and unobtrusive.

My personal preference is dubbing (or a choice of dubbing or subtitling) for TV series, but subtitles for movies. This assumes, of course, that both the dubbing and subtitling are done well.

[Edited at 2011-01-18 16:20 GMT]


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Mundi
Local time: 16:39
French to English
+ ...
Level of comfort with the written language Jan 18, 2011

I agree with everyone here, lovely topic!

In France, people prefer dubbed TV series, though I personally believe the dubbing leaves a lot to be desired in the sense of capturing the cultural subtleties of a script. Foreign films however are usually viewed with subtitles, though I have found that some French people prefer dubbed versions of films and actually look out for these. I would even venture to say that most of the people I have met who prefer dubbed films here in France are usually those who are the least comfortable with the written language in general, or those who have been less exposed to foreign languages.

Therefore, in my opinion, it is likely that the level of comfort with one's own and other written languages (level of pleasure taken in reading or writing) might have an influence on the dubbing versus subtitling preference.

Interesting to be exchanging opinions on this.

Cheers.


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Øystein Kleven
Norway
Local time: 16:39
Member (2009)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Big country=dubbing, small country=subtitling Jan 20, 2011

Foreign films however are usually viewed with subtitles, though I have found that some French people prefer dubbed versions of films and actually look out for these. I would even venture to say that most of the people I have met who prefer dubbed films here in France are usually those who are the least comfortable with the written language in general, or those who have been less exposed to foreign languages.


I am a foreigner living in France, and I must say that is is absolutely not true that the French in general watch movies with subtitles (i.e. original version, VO). It was like that in the 80's, and it's still the same today. Now, if you are speaking of Paris, it's a different story, there almost all films are available in VO (with subtitles), and many are used to it (the younger the person, the more likely to prefer VO, because they have some exposure to English ot other foreign languages. The old folks, not at all). In the province, however, very few films are available in VO, almost everything is shown exclusively in the dubbed version, even in the cities.

Then there is French TV, even worse, where half the programming is American shows. Almost everything is dubbed, with some exceptions. Fortunately, the trend is growing towards more original version with subtitling (even though that's mostly on TF1, which airs very few quality films). Technology helps, as with digital TV you can often chose which version to watch.

Anyway, coming from Scandinavia, this dubbing thing is completely strange to me. There is NO WAY I can watch a dubbed movie.

As mentioned by others here, the preferences definitely depend on what you are used to, what you grew up with, and the population's general knowledge of foreign languages. Meaning that the big, European countries with "important" languages, use dubbing more than subtitling.

The sad thing is that it works the other way to, few people (except film buffs) in the US would watch a dubbed OR subtitled movie. The result is that foreign language movies get very little distribution.

Interesting topic about a sad story, but I think the trend is at least going the right way (i.e. out with dubbing). Happily I am from a small country where nothing was ever dubbed, so all the kids learn English from TV and movies as a bonus (aha, so that's why Scandianvians all speak English....!).

Thanks,
Øystein


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Anne R
Italy
Local time: 16:39
English to French
+ ...
big or small, dubbing is horrible Jan 20, 2011

Hi everyone,

I am French but I had the chance to live for a very long time in the UK, and I loved being able to see all foreign films in V.O, with English subtitles. and I agree French dubbing is appalling, to the point that I just cannot stay in front of a dubbed film when going to France. But at least in France, even in province, we get some subtitles films in the bigger University towns or those with cultural centres.

I now live in Italy, where everyone says dubbing is the best in the world, and still I can not bear it! and the proportion of cinemas offering VO is very low!

(


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
TV versus movies Jan 20, 2011

If the TV is on, it's often playing in the background while I clean the apartment, do bookkeeping, etc. In those circumstances, dubbed shows are fine since I can't be looking at the screen. But if I'm sitting down to watch something, I prefer subtitles. Fortunately, digital television means that stations can easily offer both options at once.

The trend that drives me absolutely nuts is the tendency of Spanish-language TV networks in the U.S. to dub movies from Spain into Latin American Spanish. What the heck is the point of that? Even some U.S. DVDs of Spanish films default to a Latin American redub. Very odd.

[Edited at 2011-01-20 17:51 GMT]


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Anne R
Italy
Local time: 16:39
English to French
+ ...
Dubbing in Poland Jan 20, 2011

is done in an even weird way (excuse me Polish people).
Films are not subtitled, they are not dubbed, but there is a small window on the screen where you can see the one and same person telling you what is being said by the various characters...
Apparently if you grew up with it you don't mind ...



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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:39
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Dubbing no.... Jan 21, 2011

How can you dub an actor? Dubbing is horrible. One of the most important things about cinema is the timbre of the actors' voices. Marlon Brando, for example. HOw could you overdub that voice?

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
Tradeoff Jan 21, 2011

Tom in London wrote:

How can you dub an actor? Dubbing is horrible. One of the most important things about cinema is the timbre of the actors' voices. Marlon Brando, for example. HOw could you overdub that voice?


I generally agree. A few years ago, when one of the X-Men movies came out, some of my Spanish friends were annoyed that I dragged them to the subtitled version. But if you have Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the same movie -- two great voices! -- I want to hear them.

However, for some types of films, dubbing is better. Take, for example, a fast-paced comedy like the old classic "His Girl Friday," which is full of overlapping, rapid-fire dialog with lots of wisecracks. Even in a film with much slower pacing, subtitles are merely a summary and have to leave out a lot. I've tried watching "His Girl Friday" with Spanish subtitles (with a friend who knows only Spanish) and it just doesn't work: on one DVD edition they left out too much so as to accommodate the speed, while another edition tried to include everything and there was no time to read it. The dubbed version we found worked much better: it preserved the meaning, captured most of the humor, and it was clear that the dubbing actors had listened carefully to the original performances.

I think this is like anything else: you choose the right tool based on the specifics of the job. For most feature films, I think subtitling is the right tool. But there are definitely exceptions.


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Øystein Kleven
Norway
Local time: 16:39
Member (2009)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Tradeoff Jan 27, 2011

Tom in London wrote:

I think this is like anything else: you choose the right tool based on the specifics of the job. For most feature films, I think subtitling is the right tool. But there are definitely exceptions.


I agree! Animation films for children (or grown-ups too) work better dubbed. Both because it's more fun for the kids in their own language, and the fact that there are no real actors anyway. In fact, since I am very interested in this topic, in the last few years I have watched both the French dubbed version and the original English version of some popular Pixar/Dreamworks DVDs, and as often as not, I find the French version as good or even better than the original. You get the feeling the "dubbers"/interpreters (who are often professional actors or comedians) are having a lot of fun doing these movies. As examples, I thought the "Bruce" shark and the tortoises in "Nemo" to be more fun in French than English. And as a whole, French was the perfect language for "Ratatouille", they did a wonderful job there! Even in Scandinavia they dub animated films, because it makes sense.


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