Omissions In Translating Subtitles Essay

7905 words - 32 pages


Film translation is a relatively new branch of translation studies. At the onset of the film making history all productions were silent movies. Ironically this technical difficulty made the early film industry a highly international phenomenon. At that time German, French, Italian and British films were vastly more popular than they are today with only a third of films screened in America being domestic productions. (Cronin, 2009: 2) First films have been translated in Europe during the 1930’s, though the word “translation” may not adequately portrait the process. At that time big film studios simply produced a few ...view middle of the document...

(Remael 2001: 14) The task of the translator is to translate, not only the script, but the entire sense of the message, taking into consideration all the elements used to construct it. This is made even more difficult because of the intercultural and sometimes even intercivilisational character of this process. This causes some elements constructing the message, on which the translator has no influence, to be understood differently by source and target audiences. (Garcarz 2007: 22)
Film itself is sometimes referred to as a language. The moving image is being sometimes seen as universal means of communication, providing a bridge between other divisive languages. (Cronin 2009: 1) This interpretation means that, as all other languages, films convey thought, enable communication, help understanding and express abstract concepts. (Płażewski 1982: 16-23) From the point of view of a film translator this is another example of how his work varies from other translations. If we assume film to be a language, we have to keep in mind that the translator only has influence over a limited part of it. They can only change the dialogues and a few minor visual elements, the rest of the ‘language’, like music, sound effects, actors etc. cannot be translated. It sometimes forces the translator to make decisions which they would not have made while translating literature.
The translator is also limited in his work by technical limitations and requirements. The used type of translation method dictates the choice of translation techniques. (Tomaszkiewicz 2006: 103) It is also the main cause of most changes in the text. The same film translated using subtitles may vary significantly from its dubbed version, because in the first one factors like the average speed of reading, available space and many others need to be taken into consideration.
At this point it is important to explain the terminology which is being used in the rest of this paper. I will follow Garcarz’s (2007: 150-151) assumption that there are three major terms used to describe the process of translation. The broadest one is a translation method which describes the form which will be taken by the target text, such as subtitles or dubbing in the case of film translation. Translation strategy is a narrower term which describes the norms, both internal and external, which the translator will follow while rendering the target text version. The last of the three terms used in this paper is a translation technique which refers to the specific choices made by the translator within a text. They are not the same in every part of the translated work, but their choice depends heavily on context.
Film translators usually also face stricter legal restrictions on their work, which forces a choice of a translation strategy. The use of swearwords is a good example; if the translator decides to use them they exclude a part of the potential target audience, because the film would most likely be...

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