Subtitling and Voice-over for Globalization

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

Subtitling and Voice-over for Globalization artTo begin, let’s go over again what “globalization” means. Globalization is the process of cultures, business and nations interacting with and borrowing from each other with the help of international trade. Of course, technology has played a pivotal role in this process, giving people all over the world access to more or less the same information. Translators have more work than ever before translating entire websites for companies and organizations who have realized the potential that they could unlock if only they went global. The same is true for those in the business of film, be it educational videos, TV shows, or movies.

As we talked about before in earlier posts, there are two different ways to deal with translating a film, show, or video. Subtitles are one option, and are a very good and cost-effective one compared to voice-over or dubbing. When subtitles are needed for a film, translators who specialize in subtitles are the only extra personnel that need to be hired. Not having to hire and work with voice actors saves time and money, but you run the risk of making the audience feel like foreigners who have to read in order to know what the characters are saying.

Voice-over, also known as “dubbing”, is the other option you have when trying to adapt your film or show to a foreign market. This process takes much more time and resources, including studio time and hiring voice actors. First, a translator has to translate the dialogue, which is then used by the voice actors. Sometimes this translated dialogue is created in such a way that it matches with the movements of the original actors’ mouths, which adds extra work in terms of the translator having to make sure and choose words with sounds that fit the mouth shapes and movements of the actors.

The two methods also differ in terms of how they are perceived by the target audience. While the source audience, the audience the film was intended for, understands everything going on generally, in terms of cultural context and other cues, there are things that must be explained maybe in the subtitles for the movie to make sense to a different audience. Sometimes references need to be changed, or entire jokes rewritten because they don’t make sense in the context of the target language and culture.

Subtitles may be seen as more “globalizing” in that they generally preserve everything about the film or show, and just add text in the target language. Of course, some things might be missed due to cultural differences, but it makes for a more immersive experience culturally because the audience is hearing one language but reading another.

Voice-over, on the other hand, may be a less globalizing option, since it caters directly to the target audience with voice actors speaking in their language and sometimes even their dialect and accent. Some would argue that this means the source culture doesn’t shine through as much, and therefore has less influence on the target culture. However, it might be just as effective or more so than subtitling, since an audience might be more likely to absorb and digest new concepts and ideas when they are being explained in their native language. Basically, as long as your translation is good, both subtitles and voice-over are good options for making your film, show, or video a global hit.

For an overview of Alpha Omega Translations’ expertise, visit our audio and video translation service page.

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Category: Translation Services