Monday, April 7, 2008

On subtitles and dubbing

Subtitles happen to be very accepted in Taiwan as a way to bridge the gap between Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka speakers. This is not to mention helping people understand the Cantonese spoken in HK movies, as well or the myriad of English, Japanese and Korean shows and movies.

They also have the added benefit of allowing people to watch TV with the volume off. To see this, watch the people looking at silent TVs through windows or in noisy public places where you wouldn't be able to hear due to the background volume anyway. Gyms are a good case in point. With all the whirring and thumping machines, TVs for exercisers to watch attached to their machines have the sound turned off. Though I wish I could read the characters fast enough!

This being said, there are also the occasionally dubbed shows. One of the most hilarious, from a Western point of view, is a Taiwanese soap opera I saw with a Korean star. She acts in Korean and has her part dubbed while all the other stars speak Mandarin! Why you may ask? Because she has star power and the pretty face, in this case, goes farther than the words. I won't say anything about the quality of the acting...

I can speak for many English speakers when I say that we, by and large, get turned off by foreign language films with subtitles. And the English language movie producers and distributors have noticed. Many a foreign film have been remade in Hollywood English for that very reason (Femme Nikita, The Ring, etc...).

Speaking of subtitles, if you want a good laugh, the clips that I include in this article are a classic. The link below is to Revenge of the Sith subtitles from a Chinese pirated CD which feature "a direct english translation of the chinese interpretation of what the script was saying", that is, translated from English (no subtitles) into Chinese and then translated from that Chinese back into English (with English subtitles as if we need them!).

http://winterson.com/2005/06/episode-iii-backstroke-of-west.html

Strangely, I am captivated by these subtitles.
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