Are movies dubbed in your country?

MJGR   Monday, September 13, 2004, 15:03 GMT
I am from Spain and in my country all foreign movies are dubbed. Some people say that that tradition has a negative influence in the English skills of Spaniards. And some of them also say that that is done only in Spain. However I think that dubbing movies is quite common.
For all this I would like to know what is the approach about this in other countries and, in those cases where people survive only with subtitles, if it really helps them to improve their English or, simply, it makes them prefer national movies.
Easterner   Monday, September 13, 2004, 15:49 GMT
Unfortunately this is also the general practice in Hungary, but also in Germany, Italy and Austria (not in Holland though). I do think that this has a negative influence on foreign language skills, especially in a monolingual country. I was born in Yugoslavia, where all foreign movies were subtitled (and this is still a practice in ex-Yugoslavian countries except perhaps Slovenia), and I could pick up a lot of vocabulary subconsciously in a very short time, which could be activated afterwards. So if I want to keep my language skills on an acceptable level, I usually watch cable TV or DVD's with subtitles. I think movies with subtitles can help in picking up native-like vocabulary and language structures because you can compare what is actually being said and the way you say it in your native language. On the other hand, you have to be on a fairly advanced level to be able to follow what is being said in the movie, especially if the characters speak in a strong regional accent. Also, if you are involved in the story, you can watch the movie and read the subtitles without paying attention to what is spoken.
Steve K   Monday, September 13, 2004, 17:43 GMT
Dubbing is a bad idea. I even prefer to see movies with sub-titles when I do not know the language. Sweden shows all movies in original language. Technology now allows for a dubbed version and an original version so the viewer can choose. Perhaps that is the best solution for everyone.
garans   Monday, September 13, 2004, 18:16 GMT
If movies were not subtitled nobody would watch them in Russia (except of porno).

The problem is - the dubbing is not of a good quality.
Text becomes uninteresting and dumb.
Jordi   Monday, September 13, 2004, 18:18 GMT
Catalan Television (TV3) is the only Spanish channel, I know of in Spain, that allows you to choose between the dubbed in Catalan version and the original version in English, French, German, Japanese, etc... You've just got to press the "DUAL" button and the language changes. The only languages that have no sub-titles are Catalan and Spanish since 100% of the Catalan population is bilingual. That includes all sorts of soap operas and programmes of all sorts, which I have seen in British, Australian or American accents.
Could it be that countries with "lesser used languages", such as Holland, Sweden or, even, Catalonia are less frightened and more aware of language learning than countries with "major languages" such as English, French or Spanish? The fact is very little cinema from the rest of the world, even dubbed in English, can be viewed in English-speaking countries, whilst the rest of the world sees a very high percentage of originally English-speaking pictures, usually dubbed. I know the market is ruled by US producers and they know that dubbing can be quite cheap. They even dub two versions in Spanish, one for the Latin American market and the other for the European Spanish one since people even worry about accents and minor differences.
My experience tells me the smaller highly civilised countries are always more cosmopolitan than the bigger highly civilised ones...
I fully agree with Steve that technology allows us to choose.
Steve K   Monday, September 13, 2004, 19:37 GMT
In English-Canada it seems that most if not all non-English films are sub-titled and not dubbed, whereas the reverse is true for French films, where dubbing, especially although not only, of American films is more common. I am not sure how this fits with Jordi's theory since the Quebecois authorities are more afraid of English than English-Canadians are of other languages, yet the Francophones are more bilingual.
Jordi   Monday, September 13, 2004, 20:47 GMT
I imagine that the situation must be different in Canada where Quebec French is an island in a sea -or rather, an ocean- of English. I suppose that makes them over-protective. It remains for you to tell us if sub-titled films in English Canada amount to 5%, 10% or 25% of the films that are passed on public television. A country like Spain produces over 100 films per year and has a high prestige in the International market. How many of them pass the connoisseur's level even after a few years? The European film industry, in all its different languages, amounts to as much as the US industry and finds far too many difficulties to travel even at the cost of dubbing. Imagine the original versions! No matter what, I've always felt Canada was more European in many ways than its neighbour to the south. I imagine exposure to foreign culture, at a great scale, will be much lower in the US and I've hardly seen sub-titled films, on public TV, whilst in GB although I would love to be corrected by my British and US friends.
The thing about Europe, and you know this as well as I do, is that there are a few dozens official languages from Lisbon to Moscow, a similar distance from coast to coast Canada. In the past 25 years it has become more and more common for European students to spend a course or two in other European countries. I think the EU has as many as 15 official languages although English and French seem to be the most widely used ones and Spanish, German and Italian are growing in popularity. You'll even find more and more scholars learning "lesser used" languages like Catalan, Irish or Dutch.
I imagine the relationship between French and English in Quebec is quite tense and similar, in some ways, to the relationship between Catalan and Spanish in the Catalan-speaking countries in Spain. I don't think the Swedes, Norwegians, Dutchmen or Catalans see English as a major threat since it is only seen as a communication tool and as a key that opens many doors in a great part of the world. Meanwhile English in Quebec (or Spanish in Catalonia) are often felt as a threat since there is a real danger of language swift within the families, meaning a loss of culture and identity for the nation as such. There is a history of domination behind all those hard feelings and it isn't easy to convince people that yesterday's wolf is today's sheep.
Dulcinea del Toboso   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 04:12 GMT
There is an article in The Translation Journal on this very subject:
nic   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 06:55 GMT
In France everything is dubbed into french, original versions with subtitles are sometimes shown only 1 channel : Arte, movies dubbed into french is the common rule.

I does not make me prefer french movies because it's most of the time bad quality, so idon't think when you watch a movie from your own country you prefer it more because it's in your native language, if it is shit, you become borred.
Damian   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 07:14 GMT
Dubbing apparently is never used in the UK from what I've seen...all foreign language films are sub-titled. Dubbing would ruin the enjoyment of the film, as it is a test of skill, I think, to follow the translation texts as well as watch the action and follow the plot to the full.

On BBC1-TV here yesterday evening (Monday) I saw the final Big Story Animal Hospital program with Rolf Harris, an Aussie who has run the program here for 10 years. It's about the treatment and care of every kind of sick and injured animal...from cats and dogs to lizards and hamsters and goodness knows what else...anything that moves and breathes and isn't human. It has been shown in countries all over the world and to prove this, Rolf showed extracts of himself being shown on TV screens in Animal Hospital in some of these countries, all dubbed into the respective languages. To identify the language the country's national flag was shown in the corner of the screen. It was hilarious to see him dubbed into Japanese, Finnish etc etc. Fun in that respect as it looked odd to see the familiar Aussie with his mouth movements not in sync with the dubbed language.

For full length feature films it just doesn't work in my opinion. I think British people prefer sub titles I guess, for the reason I give.
Damian   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 07:24 GMT

<<I've hardly seen sub-titled films, on public TV, whilst in GB although I would love to be corrected by my British and US friends>>

You are quite right, Jordi, few foreign language films are shown on mainstream British TV but those that I have seen have all been sub-titled. I am trying not to get confused with documentaries or news items involving people speaking in foreign languages. These are ALWAYS subtitled....I have never seen dubbing where these programs are concerned. In fact, I have never seen dubbing on our UK TV except for the Animal Hospital program I mentioned in my other post, and that was shown mainly for its comic effect, undoubtedly.
Easterner   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 07:44 GMT
I am against dubbing principally because it prevents the viewers from being aware that the foreign language culture is different from their own. By the way, dubbing in Hungary used to be of good quality (I mean both the quality of the translation and the realisation, this is less so nowadays), well-known local actors were employed for dubbing, and you tended to associate the voice of a Hungarian actor with one of the foreign characters, because the voice of the same actor was used to dub a foreign one every time. But regardless of quality, I now tend to find this counter-productive most of the time, because dubbed films fail to convey at least part of the culture where the movie comes from, and a lot of its original atmosphere is lost. On top of that, while dubbing can be very effective in a strictly linguistic or artistic sense, it conveys the false notion that all cultures have the same way of thinking and of verbal expression, and this makes it more difficult for viewers to accept cultural differences. And incidentally dubbing vs. subtitling may be one of the reasons why e.g. Italians (or Hungarians) are worse at learning foreign languages than, say, the Dutch.

On the other hand, one question keeps creeping up in my mind: In what ways is dubbing a film different from literary translation? In both cases you have to sacrifice part of the cultural background of the original work to adapt it to the mind of readers of the target culture. Is the one more justified than the other? I personally have read some novels by Dickens in both Hungarian and English, and I can say that the characters came through equally in both, however, the English version had some subtle verbal associations which the Hungarian version couldn't have conveyed even if it had been created by the best translator. And in the Hungarian version of Huckleberrry Finn, Jim, the black slave (and Blacks in general) spoke in a Hungarian peasant's accent, but it was very enjoyable regardless. Any opinions?
Jordi   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 09:18 GMT
The best translations are the ones known as "belles infidèles". The beautiful unfaithful ones. I must say a language cannot live without good translations. I'm sure D. Quixote is slightly different in English than in Castilian and I know there is a great school of Hungarian translators, who have even translated Catalan medieval classics into Hungarian. Nobody will ever be expected to be able to read in more than three o four languages and that would be an optimum number, since I include the native tongue. There are individual who can read more than that but they always will be a very small minority. The fact is technology, as Steve K. said, enables us to choose.
What I miss most in dubbed films is the voice of the original actors, the voice, the accent and the intonation. Nevertheless, it strikes me even more when I see Hollywood films that happen in 18th century France. In the last one I saw even love letters amongst the French were written in English. The rest of the world is shocked but does that hardly matter? Then in television channels news (BBC, CBN) you have those Spanish monolingual speakers that are dubbed in some kind of weird Spanish accent. I've lnown perfect bilinguals (Spanish-English) to be dubbed into accented English because they were speaking to a Spanish audience. That's ridiculous. Wouldn't it be better to just put sub-titles. Then, you have all those medieval German peasants speaking in American English or those medieval British characters played with an American accent. So much diversity is lost...
Mi5 Mick   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 09:27 GMT
In Australia, a lot of our content comes from America, so very little is dubbed. One network, namely SBS, broadcasts shows and movies from all over the globe in their original language as its major objective. For this reason, it's all subtitled (at least for the foreign language content). Then there are the international channels with original source language made available through cable TV services. ie: Foxtel, Optusvision.

In any case, most DVDs have the option of switching between different languages for subtitles or audio. So with all these options, it all depends on what you want to watch and how you spend your money, as to whether your experience involves subtitles or dubbing.
Jordi   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 11:09 GMT
The paradigm of all this would be the Oscars. Only original "English-language" films compete in all major categories. Then there is a "special category" for a foreign-language film with finalists from several languages and countries. The best and "more profitable" film of the year, the one with the most Oscars, is the English-speaking one. Some voices in the US will brag about how "international" the Oscars are, the year that British, NZ or Australian films win several oscars. Some Americans will even be resentful. Then, the rest of the world has to fight for a consolation prize. I wouldn't mind if it was a US National prize as are the Goya film prizes in Spain but the fact is Oscars are then used in promotion campaigns all over the world.
World class masterpieces in Japanese or Swedish will only known to the "happy few" and when it comes to European cinema the list could start and not finish. The you have those European films and scripts which are filmed again with English speaking actors (mostly US) in a lesser version that is exported to the rest of the world.
I know it's all got to do with commercial supremacy but it still hurts from a strictly cultural point of view.