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Is dubbing detrimental to language acquisition?

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raptisi  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:28
English to Greek
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Yes. Jun 17, 2016

It is certainly detrimental.

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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:28
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
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Of course it is Jun 17, 2016

Just go to YouTube and listen to Scandinavian and Dutch teenagers speaking English.

[Edited at 2016-06-17 19:28 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:28
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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It's not "detrimental" Jun 17, 2016

Dubbing removes the opportunity for viewers to hear the original language, and thus learn words in that language, but dubbing itself does not cause viewers to have more problems with language acquisition than they would have had if they had watched only programs/films that were originally shot in their own language. So it's not "detrimental" to language acquisition.

Furthermore, being able to read subtitles and hear the original isn't necessarily better for language acquisition. Subtitles are usually not a word for word reflection of the spoken text, and in fact subtitles are often abbreviated or summarised versions of what is spoken. In addition, good subtitles will translate sense, not words, which is relevant when translating figurative speech or elements whose literal translation may not be very idiomatic.

It takes a certain skill to watch a film with subtitles, and if you're not used to doing it, or don't have the skill, or aren't good at that skill, then watching films or programs becomes a chore that requires hard concentration, not a pleasure or relaxing entertainment.

One of the things about subtitles that is both curious and sometimes annoying is the fact that you know what characters are going to say before they say it. This is because the subtitles of more than one speaker, or the subtitles of more than one utterance, is on screen at the same time. This can be particularly bad if the film contains a lot of surprising interaction between characters -- a surprising reaction is no longer a surprise because you've read it in the subtitle long before the character surprises you with his reaction. A dubbed version would have been far more entertaining then.

The article mentions certain problems with dubbing, but the same problems are present in subtitles. It says "However, dubbing has much more far-reaching implications than just personal preferences. Often the most characteristic aspects of dialogue, such as jokes, can get lost in translation – which is to some extent lessened by retaining the original sound version.", which is rubbish. The original sound version will only retain those elements for people who understand the original sound language very well. And jokes only get lost in translation if you have a bad translator. And if the joke is untranslatable, it's easily replaced by something else, and the audience won't have the feeling that they're missed something.

The article also says "The ruling political party in Spain ... wanted to move away from what are seen as the remains of the fascist Franco regime, which used dubbing in order to censor, remove or alter anything which was not in line with the regime." but you can censor lines or scenes from a film even if the original sound is retained, so that's no valid argument.

But yes, dubbing presents an opportunity to change what was said in the original. In pre-Mandela South Africa, many television programs were dubbed into Afrikaans, and e.g. a lot of swearing was removed in the process. The detective Derrick is a foul-mouthed prick in German, but in Afrikaans he's a tough good guy with a posh accent who never swears. Yet only anyone who's ever seen Derrick in German will feel as if they're "lost" something in the process.


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:28
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
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Learning curve Jun 17, 2016

Samuel Murray wrote:

It takes a certain skill to watch a film with subtitles, and if you're not used to doing it, or don't have the skill, or aren't good at that skill, then watching films or programs becomes a chore that requires hard concentration, not a pleasure or relaxing entertainment.



The Dutch and Scandinavians pick up the skill at a very young age and don't know any better by the time they can read. Subtitles further both reading and listening skills.

One extra skill I have acquired is watching telly without even seeing the subtitles. The mind is powerful.

[Edited at 2016-06-17 20:03 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:28
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Generalisation Jun 17, 2016

Gerard de Noord wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
It takes a certain skill to watch a film with subtitles, and if you're not used to doing it, or don't have the skill, or aren't good at that skill, then watching films or programs becomes a chore that requires hard concentration, not a pleasure or relaxing entertainment.

The Dutch ... pick up the skill at a very young age and don't know any better by the time they can read.


This is a generalisation which, sadly, does not reflect the reality. My opinion about this is based on conversations with Dutch people who find subtitled shows hard to watch, for the reasons I mention.


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:28
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
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Maybe my Dutch is better Jun 17, 2016

Samuel Murray wrote:

This is a generalisation which, sadly, does not reflect the reality. My opinion about this is based on conversations with Dutch people who find subtitled shows hard to watch, for the reasons I mention.



Just kidding. Dutch people who find subtitled shows hard to watch were either born before the sixties or have a hard time coping with the current Dutch society anyway.

By the way, watching Friends with Dutch subtitles helps newcomers from everywhere around the world to acquire Dutch, or a taste of Dutch.

I have spoken, in Dutch, with several Iranians who took up Dutch that way within months. Yes, I was flabbergasted too.

[Edited at 2016-06-17 20:43 GMT]


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Wojciech_
Poland
Local time: 17:28
English to Polish
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Dubbing is evil Jun 17, 2016

The observation about the Dutch or Scandinavian people who can speak fairly good English and in many cases are fluent, is my observation, too.

I think it's safe to assume that it has a lot to do with the use of subtitles rather than dubbing on Dutch and Scandinavian (especially Swedish) TV.

Back in the 90s I remember a conversation with a Dutch student at a camp site in London. She was more or less my age, but her English was simply fluent as opposed to my poor efforts at that time. I asked her how it was possible that she had learnt the language so well and she replied that basically when she was a kid she watched a lot of TV and that was how she acquired the language.

Of course now with new technological advancements, the Internet and access to English media, one could argue that anyone can learn English and be fluent in it, but as an English teacher I can see that it's still not the case.

I can't really say that young Poles now are much more fluent in English than in 1999 when I started my teaching career, even though now they have access to so many English materials, the Internet and so on. This is especially true for speaking skills. A few months ago one of my students in the language school where I teach brought to the lesson a friend - a girl who is Norwegian, but of Polish origin (her parents are Polish, but they emigrated to Norway and she was born there). I was amazed at her fluent English, all those natural hesitation phenomena making her language so natural, all those "I was like..." "Umm", which was so different from what I hear from my Polish students.

Then I realized that she has much more contact with English than Poles do: English TV, more English classes, it's almost like the second language there, while here in Poland the moment they leave school they switch to Polish and that's it. When they go online, they mostly join Polish-speaking groups on discussion forums, when they watch films they download Polish subtitles etc. This must translate into poorer English, because there's no practice and a limited access to the sounds of the language.
All English programmes on Polish TV are also translated into Polish and read by the so-called lector (basically a narrator, reading the dialogue list), so English is muted or barely audible.

Personally I think that most of my English knowledge and (moderate) fluency comes from dealing with English people (contact with native speakers teaching in our school), as well as from me being a fan of English and American TV series that helped me pick up lots of useful vocabulary and phrases that later I was able to use actively.


[Edited at 2016-06-17 21:33 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 16:28
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
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Maybe Jun 18, 2016

I don’t know if it’s detrimental, but for me, being used to subtitles all my life (I lived in Portugal, in Angola and in Belgium), it’s extremely annoying to hear some familiar and unmistakable voices of well-known actors sound like somebody else and worse still all alike. On the other hand, I know that my English improved dramatically by watching BBC everyday when I lived in Brussels.

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:28
Russian to English
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Dubbing is not detrimental to language acquisition— Jun 18, 2016

it has nothing to do with language acquisition. It may be detrimental to second language learning, but then you can always choose the movies to watch, in the original language you are trying to learn.
Unless of course someone wants their children to be bilingual, X language/English, then yes it may have a slowing effect on learning English, but a positive effect on acquiring L1.

[Edited at 2016-06-18 14:12 GMT]


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:28
Russian to English
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Yes, absolutely. It is a myth Jun 18, 2016

Samuel Murray wrote:

Gerard de Noord wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
It takes a certain skill to watch a film with subtitles, and if you're not used to doing it, or don't have the skill, or aren't good at that skill, then watching films or programs becomes a chore that requires hard concentration, not a pleasure or relaxing entertainment.

The Dutch ... pick up the skill at a very young age and don't know any better by the time they can read.


This is a generalisation which, sadly, does not reflect the reality. My opinion about this is based on conversations with Dutch people who find subtitled shows hard to watch, for the reasons I mention.

Simply, Dutch and Scandinavian languages, except Icelandic, are structurally closer to English than Slavic languages, let's say. Yes, it can definitely be good for learning English to watch movies in English—no doubt about it, but the title says that dubbing may be detrimental to language acquisition. Which language? Even Icelandic is relatively close. That may be the reason why many Scandinavian people speak English well, plus exposure, of course.

[Edited at 2016-06-18 14:22 GMT]


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:28
Russian to English
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Well, dubbing definitely mars the work of art, the film, Jun 19, 2016

in this case since sound and language are a part of the entire artistic experience. I guess the title is wrongly formulated, though. I might be a purist, but still.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:28
Spanish to English
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Other Jun 19, 2016

With nothing else to back up my opinion but anecdotal evidence from what I have subjectively observed over the years, I'd say that in general, people from countries where TV shows, movies and radio broadcasts are widely available in English tend to have a better command of the language. For example, most people from Argentina I've met speak better English than most Spaniards ( although this is a very broad generalisation).
When I was teaching TEFL, I always advised my students to expose themselves to as much of the spoken language as possible, through films, radio, online, etc. I also emphasised that it didn't matter if they didn't understand anything, because at least they would get used to the rhythms and cadences (stress time) of English intonation from different parts of the world.

BTW: Dubbing can have other effects too - I've occasionally caught myself being tempted to buy something simply because the voice off-screen advertising it is the same as Homer Simpson's...



[Edited at 2016-06-19 10:17 GMT]


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
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It was but not anymore Jun 19, 2016

Lack of curiosity is detrimental to language learning, not dubbing (at least, not anymore).

The reasons I hate dubbing (at least in continental Spanish):

1. It eliminates natural accent; no intonation, no consonant modification. It's just a dry and monotonous language that nobody really speaks. Now, the voice actors are not from another planet. They come from this or that region of Spain, but they actively learn to eliminate any signs of their natural accent, which the original actors do not do.

2. Voice actors' voices fairly rarely, if ever, match the voices of the original actors; different colour, different age, different pitch. Sometimes it's ok, other time is a no no.

3. Dubbing is insulting to the intelligence of human beings. I am yet to meet a person who cannot follow a movie with subtitles, including elderly and kids.

Today we have access (most of the time legal, sometimes not very much so) to movies in the original version.

On the other hand, watching TV a lot could also be detrimental to language learnings as it's by fat not the only, nor is it the primary, source or tool to acquire a second language.

That said, I have to point out that Spanish voice actors are excellent (it's the job they are asked to do that is not). No offence here, but vast majority of movies dubbed in "Latin American" Spanish make you think everybody in this world in actually Mexican. Nothing against charming Mexican accent, but there are many other equally charming accents in Latin America.

We can embrace dubbing or completely ignore it. The choice is ours. Let's not, however, put the blame on dubbing when we discuss about second language acquisition issue.

If Dutch/Flemish students speak decent English, it could be because the Dutch language is confined to a limited geographic area. Therefore, there is a day-to-day necessity to acquire other languages. This happened in relatively large cities. Believe me, I've been in smaller Dutch cities where I had to attend meetings where I had to cope with my poor Dutch, because it was not possible to sustain a conversation in English (and that was a branch of a multinational company). "Inland" they simply cannot speak English and that clearly has nothing to do with the fact that movies are dubbed or subtitled. Rather, it makes you think that they do not speak English because they have no contact with the "outer" world. That it true not only for the Netherlands but also for any other country.

[Edited at 2016-06-19 12:56 GMT]


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Anna Norman  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 17:28
Member (Mar 2017)
English to Swedish
British and Am. actors have wonderfull pronunciation Jun 29, 2016

I live in Sweden and I remember, from when I was young and watched subtitled tv shows, that I found out that I could follow the English dialogue while watching the Swedish subs, but if I covered the subs with something I could not understand the dialogue any more.
The subs are not disturbing, but they sort of support the audio. Subtitles are very good for learning another language.


Also on drama shows. some British and Am. actors have extremly good pronunciation and articulate everything perfectly. It must be part of their education. therefore those shows is also great for learning English because it's so easy to hear what they say

[Edited at 2016-06-29 05:14 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 17:28
English to Croatian
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Not what you will find in reality. Jun 29, 2016

Anna Norman wrote:

Also on drama shows. some British and Am. actors have extremly good pronunciation and articulate everything perfectly. It must be part of their education. therefore those shows is also great for learning English because it's so easy to hear what they say.

[Edited at 2016-06-29 05:11 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-06-29 05:13 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-06-29 05:14 GMT]


Yes, but in the real world people will not be articulating perfectly. So if you get used to perfect articulation, you may have difficulties managing the raw pronunciation outside in RL.

[Edited at 2016-06-29 05:25 GMT]


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