Audiovisual Translation: Cinema and Culture

Culture versus Translation

The culture of a country, most notably its modes of dress, behavior, food, celebrations, events, etc., is transmitted directly and indirectly on the big screen, as well as on the small screen.

Of course, in the world of audiovisual phenomena, artistic, cultural and economic are mixed together to create the final product. It is said that film, besides being the seventh art, is industry: an important pillar for the survival of national and continental cultures and an important medium for learning about other countries, people, cultures, et al.

All films contain some sense of documentary because they are laden with images and information about the country of origin. Through dubbing and subtitling, a film is able to reach a wider audience. In today’s world there literally are no boundaries. Probably, in the smallest, most remote and isolated town in Spain, cinema goers are able to recognize landscapes, modes of dress, cities and customs of distant countries, although they have never had the opportunity to visit.

By dubbing movies, they become bicultural products. We see a Bollywood actor speaking as we would ourselves, with our slang and our idioms. In fact, we have two elements: the image, which represents a culture and is immovable; and a language, which is different in each country where dubbing is done, each with their own characteristics.

The translator needs not only language training but also must be familiar with the culture of both languages ​​in order to properly transmit the message and do their job; this is another key aspect of the importance of culture, of having cultural references, in translation. This task is not easy in any type of translation, but less so in audiovisual dubbing, where we have an image that complements the words being used, as many times, when translated literally, text and image are contradictory.

Moreover, the viewer does not always understand the cultural and social connotations embedded in a visual text. For this reason, we have established translation strategies to seek formal equivalents, e.g. loan words, direct translation, paraphrasing, adaptation to the culture of the target language, etc. But to solve problems of a cultural nature for audiovisual translations few contributions have been made. The most widely used strategy is perhaps cultural adaptation, which involves taking certain risks, since by changing one celebrity for another, or a historic date, a name, etc., to fulfill a very specific function, you can confuse the viewer and disrupt communication. Therefore, it is important that the translator analyze the degree of closeness of the two cultures and the knowledge that the intended audience has of the source culture.

(Versión en español: