Dubbing, defined as a type of translation characterized by transferring audiovisual texts interlinguistically or intralinguistically, presents various challenges for translators. Dubbing is also a vital process for human development and cultural expansion.
So, what is the role of professionals when facing such a job?
The Challenges of Creative Work
The art of dubbing began to develop around 1930 when the first sound films appeared. The process of adding new dialogue or other sounds to the soundtrack of a film that had already been shot is often seen as a way of translating films from a foreign language into the language of the intended audience.
Nevertheless, filmmakers also use dubbing to fix flaws derived from synchronized filming (when the voices of actors are recorded at the same time as the motion picture). This process allows for high-quality sound regardless of the real-time conditions during shooting (e.g., longdistance shots or background noise).
In any case, dubbing is connected to subtitling, which implies translating dialogue and adding it as text on a video. This entails a thorough review guided by deep knowledge of both source and target languages and of the cultural context in which the final product will be watched.
Based on this, the screenwriter and translator Zeinab Mobarak considers that while subtitling conveys the meaning of what is said rather than the feelings expressed, dubbing allows actors to reinterpret what is being said in the target language. Regarding children’s movies, for example, this difference is paramount.
Also, a translator faces more restrictions when dubbing than subtitling, one of them being time. The length of a sentence should allow for an actor to pronounce it easily. The number of syllables varies among languages; that’s why the decisions made by professionals are key.
The global film dubbing market is projected to touch USD 5 billion by 2027.
Source: Business Research Insights
Among the key elements to achieve a good dubbing, there is also acceptable lipsync, believable and realistic dialogue, cohesion between images and words, faithful translation of the source text, clear sound quality and a satisfactory interpretation and performance of the actor.
A Quest for Perfection
The demand for dubbing has risen as a result of the boom of streaming services and the growing number of audiovisual productions. This, in turn, introduced new audiences that also present new localization demands.
It is particularly noticeable in the current demand for English dub, since more and more original content is recorded in other languages. “I believe that dubbing in English is just beginning. It was a small part of the industry in the past, but now it has become more relevant,” says Manuel Carreras, Director of Operations of EVA Group.
Carreras also explains that this growth brings with it a need for accuracy. “Younger audiences prefer shorter content. The shorter the content and the more dialogue it has, the more resources per minute of content you will use to localize,” he explains.
Carreras adds that the goal of good-quality dubbing is to match the artistic intention of the product. “It should not be a distraction. As soon as the audience focuses on localization, it means something went wrong.”
Dubbing is considered to be as much as ten times more expensive than subtitling.
Source: Terminology Coordination, European Parliament
In the case of English dub, the brief nature of the language poses specific challenges: translators have to match its duration with other source languages. In most cases, expansion may require more effort than reduction. Beyond each particular project, the truth is that success is only achievable through the teamwork of many professionals, such as directors, translators, screenwriters, actors and sound engineers. In that sense, specialized translators bring not only their expertise, but also their knowledge of cultural nuances, jargon and language consumption preferences.