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Concept of the month January 2011: SUBTITLES

When a film or television programme contains speech in a different language than the viewers’ mother tongue, there are two options. In Spain, they have chosen dubbing. Personally, I am bothered by the fact that both Robert de Niro and the Chancellor of Germany suddenly speak fluent Spanish. When it comes to films, I can appreciate this as something funny, but everywhere else it gives me headaches. Fortunately, in the Netherlands we have subtitles.

The white letters at the bottom of the screen might be the reason I became a translator. I have always had blind faith in that invisible hand writing down for us what the foreign man or woman is really saying. However, as I have become more knowledgeable of other languages, I have also become more critical.

It is watching news programmes when I read the subtitles with most attention. When people are speaking English or Spanish there, I want to know how their emotions are conveyed. This month, for instance, you see Australians whose houses washed away in front of their eyes. The question is whether they can be understood by a translator from a country where water levels rise ten centimetres above normal in two tiny villages for a week, once every two years.

This is why I have decided to dedicate some of my spare time to finding answers. I have already taped the first newscasts. To be continued.

"He's cracking" (from my favourite film)
"He's cracking" (from my favourite film)
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