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Audio-visual translation. Subtitling - Dubbing – translating movie titles. Articles: «The pros and cons of dubbing and subtitling» «The Subtitling of Film: reaching another community». SUBTITLING.

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Audio-visual translation

Subtitling- Dubbing– translatingmovietitles

  • Articles:

  • «The pros and cons of dubbing and subtitling»

  • «The Subtitling of Film: reaching another community»


  • Subtitling means that a text is shown together with visual material, such as a film. It usually consists of a written version of the lines found in the soundtrack.

  • the superimposition on the screen of a written version of the soundtrack

  • Subtitling involves transferring the characteristics of spoken dialogue to the written mode.

    • spoken language is grammatically more intricate but lexically less dense, and written language is more nominalised compared to the dynamic, verbal nature of the spoken variant. Thus written transcriptions of spoken dialogue might be expected to betray their artificial nature.

    • But in the film genre, it must be remembered that the original dialogue is not real, merely purporting to be real. It is first produced in the written mode, in the script


  • 1) from the oral to the written code

  • 2) from L1 to L2,

  • 3) a reduction of the text

  • Gottlieb (1994: 265), a major authority on translation by subtitling, advises film translators to "give the target audience the experience they would have if they already knew the foreign language" and, it might be added, if they already understood the source culture

  • switch from the oral to the written code and the restrictions of concision and omission. Do they affect the message?

  • What can the negative implications (cons) be?

  • The loss of many prosodic features inherent in the spoken code, such as tone and modulation of the voice, regional accents or sociolinguistic markers (i.e., grammatical peculiarities), important sociolinguistic indicators.

  • The deletion of these features may result in an impersonal and aseptic style, the so-called “style zero” (cf. Hatim and Mason 1997:433) and spoil the pragmalinguistic aspect of communication.

Textual & Formal constraints

  • Textual constraints: imposed on the subtitles by the visual context of the film.

  • Formal constraints: the space factor (a maximum of two lines, with some 35 characters each) and the time factor.

  • The practical problems of time and space on the screen force decisions on the translator


  • there is often a temptation to dilute or omit colloquialisms, while colloquial usage is typical of spoken language and may provide an important key to the relations between the speakers and the level of formality involved.

  • This is particularly true of taboo language, especially sexually-based swear words, which are usually toned down, however, due to the fact that the coefficient of intensity of expletives would seem to be raised through the greater visibility of the written mode.

  • Where the spoken text contains social, ethnic or geographical dialect use, this element also usually fails to emerge in subtitles.

  • Even if all the relevant prosodic features cannot be captured, the lexical items (slang, taboo terms, etc., which are important markers) compensate sufficiently even with the necessary toning down referred to above. Dialectal usage, swearing, deviant grammar or even inarticulacy help set the context of culture, and both dubbing and subtitling techniques should be called upon to provide some clues.

Gottlieb’s 10 strategies at work in reducing a text to subtitles:

  • Expansion- usedwhen the originalrequiresan explanationbecauseof some cultural nuance notretrievablein the target language

  • Paraphrase - resorted to in caseswhere the phraseologyof the originalcannotbe reconstructedin the samesyntacticway in the target language

  • Transfer - translating the source text completely and correctly

  • Imitation - maintains the sameforms, typically with names of people and places

  • Transcription - used in thosecaseswhere a termisunusualeven in the source text, for example the use of a thirdlanguage or nonsense language

  • Dislocation - adoptedwhen the originalemploys some sort of special effect, for examplea sillysongin a cartoon film, where the translation of the effectis more importantthan the content

  • Condensation - the shortening of the text in the leastobtrusiveway possible

  • Decimation - an extremeform of condensationwhere, perhaps for reasons of discoursespeed, evenpotentiallyimportantelements are omitted

  • Deletion - the totalelimination of parts of a text

  • Resignation - adoptedwhen no translationsolution can be found and meaningisinevitablylost


  • Dubbing means the replacement of a soundtrack for a new one, with a different language than the original.

  • some of the earlyresistance to dubbingshown by cinema audiences, and particularly by critics, was due to itslimitedefficacy in 'getting over the message' and the curious use of languagecreated by insensitive translation.

  • Cultural references, deliberate ambiguity, humourousallusion and the variouspragmaticintentions of the speakers alsoneed to be understood and included in the translation

  • Considerablethoughtgoesinto the creation of meaningful and credibledialogue, translatorsneed to put thoughtintotheirversions.

Fourweddings and a funeral(1993, M. Newell)

  • Representing examples of culturally embedded stereotypes of varying degrees of culture specific intensity

  • Strikingly domesticating strategy

Scene: 16:00 The best man Charles isdeliveringhisspeechat the reception after the first wedding

  • Ladies and gentlemen, l'm sorry to drag you from your desserts. There are just one or two little things I feel I should say, as best man. This is only the second time l've been a best man. I hope I did OK that time. The couple in question are at least still talking to me. Unfortunately, they're not actually talking to each other. The divorce came through a couple of months ago. But l'm assured it had absolutely nothing to do with me. Paula knew Piers had slept with her sister before I mentioned it in the speech. The fact that he'd slept with her mother came as a surprise, but I think was incidental to the nightmare of recrimination and violence that became their two-day marriage. Anyway, enough of that. My job today is to talk about Angus. There are no skeletons in his cupboard. Or so I thought. I'll come on to that in a minute. I would just like to say this. I am, as ever, in bewildered awe of anyone who makes this kind of commitment that Angus and Laura have made today. I know I couldn't do it and I think it's wonderful they can. So, back to Angus and those sheep. So, ladies and gentlemen, if you'd raise your glasses. The adorable couple.

  • Signore e signori, mi dispiace distrarvi dallo squisito dessert che avete davanti ma, come testimone dello sposo, ritengo sia mio dovere fare un breve discorso. È la seconda volta che mi trovo a fare il testimone, spero d'essere stato all'altezza della situazione la prima volta: la coppia in questione continua ancora a rivolgermi la parola! Purtroppo però – Sì, c'è un però... – non parlano più tra di loro: il divorzio è stato pronunciato un paio di mesi fa. Ma mi hanno assicurato che io non c'entro nella maniera più assoluta. Evidentemente Paula sapeva che Pierce era andato a letto con sua sorella Sibile prima che io lo dicessi al pranzo di nozze! Invece il fatto che fosse andato a letto anche con sua madre è stata proprio una sorpresa... Ad ogni modo, credo che questa notizia non sia stata assolutamente la causa del terribile incubo di recriminazioni e violenze in cui si sono trasformate le quarantotto ore del loro matrimonio! Ma ora basta con la malinconia, il mio compito oggi è di parlare di Angus e non ci sono scheletri nel suo letto... O almeno così pensavo! Ne riparliamo più tardi, ora vorrei soltanto dire una cosa...Io sono sconcertato e profondamente invidioso di chiunque sia capace di prendersi un impegno come quello che Angus e Laura si sono assunti oggi. Io non credo che ci riuscirei e a loro va tutta la mia ammirazione. E adesso parliamo un po' di Angus e dei suoi segreti!... Come non detto! A questo punto, signore e signori, innalziamo i nostri calici e brindiamo agli sposi

Whatdifferences can younotice?

  • Predominantly domesticating nature of the Italian version:

    • Introduction of an encouregment to speak: «Discorso, Charlie…»

      • There is non need for this in the ST since it is practically compulsory for the best man to make a speech at the reception

      • The conventional sequence of events of a wedding includes a speech by the best man in the British speech community

    • => a futher change:

    • “There are just one or two little things I feel I should say, as best man”.


    • «Come testimone dello sposo ritengo sia mio dovere fare un breve discorso…»

  • Elements of the Britsh humour have been ironed out

  • Fillers and hesitations have been largely eliminated

    • The slightly malicious reference to sheep at the end, leaving things to the audience’s imagination is reduced to «segreti», though Charles’s audience’s «Ba, ba» remains and a live sheep jumps out of the car to be used for the married couple’s departure.

    • Replacement of the idiomatic expression «there are no skeletons in his cupboard» with a more creative «non ci sono scheletri nel suo letto», when a close Italian equivalent is available «Non ha scheletri nell’armadio». Change required by lip sync requirements?

George and charlesscene 26:16

  • You here, too? How are you?

  • - Hello. I'm fine.

  • - Haven't seen Carrie, have you?

  • - Who?

  • - Carrie. American girl. Lovely legs. Wedding guest. Nice smell.

  • - No. Sorry. - Damn! Blast! I think I was in there. If you do see her, could you tell her l've gone to my room? Yeah.

  • - Your whisky, sir.

  • - Thank you.

  • - And one for the...

  • - Road. Lovely. I think I might have one of those. Do you mind if I join you?

  • - No. It'd be lovely.

  • - Another glass of whisky and a cigar. Hold on. Make that a bottle. We might as well settle in, eh? Let's see if we can push on till dawn.

  • - Lovely wedding.

  • - Yes. I was at school with his brother Bufty. Tremendous bloke. He was head of my house. Buggered me senseless. Still, it taught me about life. Where do you know him from?

  • - University.

  • - Splendid. Splendid. Yep. I didn't go myself. I couldn't see the point. When you work in the money markets, what use is Wordsworth, eh?

  • Excuse me, sir. Your wife says could you come upstairs at once? Room 12 in case you're so drunk you can't remember.

  • - My wife?

  • - Yes, sir.

  • My wife!

  • God! You are drunk if you can't remember you've got a wife. Yeah...

  • - Do you mind if l...

  • - No, no. Off you go. Best of luck. Lucky bachelor, me. I'll have another search for that Katie creature.

  • - Carrie.

  • - That's the one. Damn fine filly. I think l'm in there.


To the British audience is the familiar stereotype of the matter-of-fact businessman with no cultural interests.

  • Totally devoid of sex-appeal

  • An update of the old-style Public School English gentleman

  • Sees mounting a horse and having a sexual intercorse as simple prosaic satisfaction of natural urges

  • Women= subject to his manipulation as stocks and shares

  • Blunt, officers’ mess type language

  • The bluntness is partially communicated by his lexical choices, syntax and clipped prosody

  • Members of the Italian speech community do not have the relevant sets of culturally embedded entities and stereotypical situations in their encyclopaedia, or at least they are more denotative than connotative.

  • Translational intervention mostly concerns George’s

    • 1) speech style

  • Reference to Carrie

  • Horse/animal metaphors…

  • «Nice smell», «Katie creature»; «damn fine filly»

  • …disappear:

  • «un vero schianto», «Quella Katie», «una fica pazzesca»

    To the Italian audience he is domesticated into a kind of primitive macho latino and there is non attempt to maintain the telegraphic presentation of Carrie, the Italian syntax being less marked:

  • «Carrie. American girl. Lovely legs. Wedding guest. Nice smell.»

  • «Carrie. L’americana con quelle gambe chilometriche. Era al matrimonio, un vero schianto.

    • 2) cultural milieu (his educational background and cultural attitudes)

    • The source audience is well acquianted with the British Public School system, its organisation in boarding houses and the kind of sexual practices involving older and younger boys, supposed to be common there.

    • Italy does not have an equivalent private boarding school => the Italian translation abandons any reference to this type of private «collegio» and turns Buffy into a kind of sex maniac bully in an ordinary day school.

    • Concerning his adversion to culture, the Italian version maintains the English cultural setting but quotes Shakespeare, better known than Wordsworth

    • Quattro matrimoni e un funerale has an internal coherence but obtained by radical reduction of the cultural otherness of the source film.

    Translating FILM TITLES

    Film translation includes the translation of play script and film title.

    • Film titles’ main features:

      • short and brief. They give the audience various clues on the story.

        • Some films are named with their protagonist—heroes or heroines, such as Forrest Gump, Jane Eyre, Hamlet, Thelma and Louise;

        • some are named with the place or main scene in which the story happened, like Pearl Harbor, Casablanca, Titanic, Grand Hotel;

        • others are given the names according to the plot or story, such as It Happened One Night, Saving Private Ryan, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Kill Bill.

          • Certainly it is not possible to convey all the information in a film with only a few words. But an impressive and expressive film title could be a highly artistic condensation of the content and theme of a film.

    • acts as the brand name and/or advertisement of a film since film is a commodity which needs sales promotion, especially in foreign markets with audiences of different language and cultural background.

    Newmark’s classification

    • A film title is a highly artistic condensation of the text and language of a film, whose purpose is to persuade audiences to the cinema and entertain them. =>

    • A good film title has a/n:

      • informative function (focus on the facts of a topic, reality outside language)

      • aesthetic function (is designed to please the senses, firstly through its actual or imagined sound, and secondly through its metaphors)

      • vocative function (focus on the reader, the addressee).

    • Thus the translated movie titles should be concise and generalizing with commercial and advertising characteristics.

    Target audience

    • In film title translation, target audiences shall be the main concern.

    • The taste, age, sex and earning of audiences are all elements influencing their decision on watching a film.

    • Popular film, as popular consumer goods and entertainment in our commodity society, audience shall be the core of any film producer.

    • If translators take audiences as the central factor when translating film titles, it is essential to fit their language habit and psychological need—using common expressions with novelty related to the story of the film.


    • A properly-translated English movie title should fulfill the following functions:

    • Providing information about the story for the audience by summarizing the main plot, revealing the theme, or offering some clue.

    • Adding attraction to the movie and stimulating the audience’s interest in and desire for viewing the film.

    • Saving trouble for the cinema, the audience, film reviewers and other research workers in their publicity, choice of viewing, comments and studies.


    • Techniques of English movie title translation mainly fall into two categories:

    • showing respect for the original title (transliteration, literal translation, explication)

    • discarding the original one (adaptation, providing a new title).


    • Some film titles can be translated literally. But due to the different languages, religious and cultural backgrounds,

    • literal translation may not merely lose the artistic appeal of a film; it may also distort foreign audiences’ understanding.

    • semantic translation attempts to reproduce the precise contextual meaning of the original within the constraints of the target language as well as taking more account of the aesthetic value of the source language;

    • communicative translation tries to deliver the exact contextual meaning of the original in a way that both content and language are readily acceptable and comprehensible to the readers/audiences

    • Le opzioni per la traduzione.

    • Nella scelta di un titolo italiano per un film straniero si considerano sempre tre possibilità:

    • 1) una traduzione letterale del titolo originale

      • Per lo più nomi propri (Nell, Evita, Lolita, Hamlet, ForrestGump, JaneEyre, Mr. Jones, MrsDoubtfire) o termini ormai appartenenti al nostro vocabolario (Striptease) o monosillabi (Kissor kill; Kill Bill) che perderebbero nel processo di trasposizione interlinguistica le caratteristiche di immediatezza, simmetria e musicalità (allitterazione).

    • 2) una versione con titolo originale più un sottotitolo esplicativo

    • 3) un titolo totalmente nuovo, che non ha nulla a che fare con l’originale.


    • “A Walk in the Clouds”. “Dead Poets Society”. “Home alone”. “The Sound of Music”.

    • Can you translate these titles literally?

    • Do they ring any bell?

    • “Il profumo del mosto selvatico”,

    • “L’attimo fuggente”,

    • “Mamma ho perso l’aereo”,

    • “Tutti insieme appassionatamente”

    • cercano di avvicinarsi per assonanza o termini usati, a precedenti film di gran successo, con cui però magari non hanno alcuna attinenza:

    • There is something about Mary“Tutti pazzi per Mary”,

    • Dirty Love“Tutti pazzi per Jenny”,

    • Fool's Gold“Tutti pazzi per l'oro”

    • Runaway bride“Se scappi ti sposo”

    • Elvis has left this building“Se ti investo mi sposi?”

    • Time Share“Se cucini, ti sposo”

    • Intolerable Cruelty“Prima ti sposo poi ti rovino”

    • The wedding planner “ Prima o poi mi sposo”

    • The break up“ Ti odio, ti lascio, ti…”


    • “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (lit. “l'infinito splendore della mente immacolata”) by Michel Gondry. The original title is a line of Alexander Pope’s poem Eloisa to Abelardo.

    • “Se mi lasci ti cancello”, no reference to the poem, the title makes it appear as a light comedy, which is not.

    Rimando alla spensierata commedia romantica («amore»)

    • The Time Traveler's Wife, film tratto dal libro omonimo che da noi è uscito col titolo “La moglie del viaggiatore” ma poi nella trasposizione sullo schermo è diventato un improbabile “Un amore all’improvviso”.

    • Sweet Home AlabamaTutta colpa dell'amore,

    • Leatherheads In amore niente regole

    • A Walk to RememberI passi dell'amore,

    • Maid in Manhattan Un amore a 5 stelle

    • Lost in translation L’amore tradotto

    • Shallow HalAmore a prima svista

    • My Blueberry nights Un bacio romantico,

    • Perfino in film autobiografici come la vita del genio del country-rock Johnny Cash, il cui titolo originale Walk the line era un richiamo alla canzone “I Walk the Line”(= “rigare dritto”), al pubblico italiano il film è invece noto come “Quando l’amore brucia l’anima”.

    Scelta di dare (più) rilevanza all’argomento trattato

    • Bend it like Beckham”: lit. “Piegala come Beckham” - ovvero "calcia la palla con taglio preciso" come il giocatore inglese - cui è stato preferito il titolo “Sognando Beckham”, che enfatizza il concetto del film, ossia la giovane giocatrice indiana che vuole diventare una campionessa come il suo idolo.

    • “Le crociate” in originale “Kingdom of Heaven” letteralmente “il regno dei cieli”,

    • “Era mio padre” in originale “Road to perdition”

    • “The back-up plan” - “Piacere, sono un po' incinta”

    • Brides and prejudiceMatrimoni e pregiudizi

    • Home aloneMamma ho perso l’aereo

    • Reality bitesGiovani, carini e disoccupati

    • Bruce Almighty Una settimana da Dio

    • Pirates of Carribean:La maledizione della prima luna

      the curse of the Black Pearl

    • What’s love got to do with itTina

    • Groundhog day - Ricomincio da capo

    • The shawshank redemption - Le ali della libertà

    • The parent trap - Il cowboy con il velo da sposa

    • Fracture - Il caso Thomas Crawford

    • Rebel without a cause - Gioventù bruciata

    • Jaws - Lo squalo

    • The Texas chainsaw massacre - Non aprite quella porta

    • Citizen Kane - Quarto potere

    • Touch of Evil - L'infernale Quinlan

    • The machinist - L'uomo senza sonno

    • Teen wolf - Voglia di vincere

    • Road to perdition - Era mio padre

    • The seven year itch - Quando la moglie è in vacanzaThe Texas chainsave massacre - Non aprite quella porta


    • Through the analysis of many translations of film titles applying different translation methods, we shall get an impression that translating film titles is not an easyjob even for skilled translators.

    • In just a few words is embodied translators’ intelligence and attentive thinking.

    • It is not so simple as to use one method to translate just a title—translators must have the whole story, a theory foundation, and flexible strategies in mind.

    • Combining different translation methods and strategies with a theory base to reach an appropriate and remarkable translation, translators can make the audience get a better understanding of various translations of film titles and better appreciate translators’ work and the film itself.

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