The Linguist

The Linguist 56,5 – October/November 2017

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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ALSO AVAILABLE IN SWEDISH The Swedish language film of Stieg Larsson's book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and released in 2009 26 The Linguist Vol/56 No/5 2017 OPINION & COMMENT A plea for broadcasters to stop dubbing shows and use subtitles to promote interest in foreign languages DAVID WILSON Whether or not the UK finally leaves the EU, Britain will need to increase its supply of speakers of other languages. It is a well- rehearsed cliché that modern languages have been undervalued in the UK education system, and take up at GCSE, A level and degree level continues to fall. Yet it is now easier than ever before to get hold of practice resources such as reading and listening materials in the target language. YouTube and radio/TV apps offer learners at all levels an amazing variety of audio in many languages. While immigration provides ample opportunities for UK-based learners to speak other languages with native speakers. Thanks to social media, initiating and maintaining social contacts has also become easier. But there is one area where we are still in thrall to a traditional way of communication which constitutes a huge barrier to making language learning more accessible: the routine dubbing of news and other TV shows. Not only does dubbing remove a valuable resource for learning languages, it also distances viewers from the cultures of the speakers. Arguably, dubbing fosters an 'us-and-them' mentality, bolsters a sense of insularity and promotes a misplaced sense of English-speaking exceptionalism which cuts across widely accepted values of equality and respect. In the 1990s, when I worked for several months in Denmark, I was amazed to find that international news items on TV and films in cinemas were broadcast in their original languages, and subtitling was the preferred mode for communicating the content to viewers. People of all ages routinely read books and magazines in English and other languages. As a result, language competence was high, and people showed a genuine interest and engagement with foreign language learning and other cultures. Contrast this with countries such as Spain or France, where language films and news reports are routinely dubbed and competence in English is lower than in Scandinavian countries. In the UK, TV news programmes are usually dubbed or 'voiced-over', whereas films can either be subtitled or dubbed, depending on the type of film. RESEARCH EVIDENCE A study into the relative merits of dubbing and subtitling was commissioned by the British Film Council (BFC) in 2010. 1 Researchers polled members of the audience who had just seen the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor; 2009) at three cinemas in London, Hull and Manchester. The Hull audiences had only seen the dubbed version. London audiences were given the subtitled version. Only the Manchester audiences had the choice of seeing either format. The main finding was that fans of mainstream cinema were most likely to prefer the dubbed version of blockbusters. Audiences who chose subtitled versions of films were more likely to have an interest in foreign languages and arthouse films. 65% of respondents who watched the subtitled film watched non-English-language films either occasionally or on a regular basis, compared to 34% of those who watched the dubbed version. The principal conclusion was that offering the audience a choice of subtitling or dubbing was the best option if the film industry wanted to attract the widest possible audience. So there is concrete evidence that not all audiences want to watch dubbed films. There is certainly a need for subtitled films among DUBBING: An unnecessary evil?

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