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Film and Television

Broadcasters accused of clumsy subtitles – should we be dubbing all films and television programmes?

Posted by Annemieke, August 27 2013

David Blunkett, Labour’s former home secretary, who was born blind, has accused broadcasters of providing a poor service to people with hearing and sight problems. He believes they are failing to deal with the issue of an ageing population suffering from blindness and deafness. He also said that the blind were left frustrated when foreign dramas and documentaries were not dubbed.

A spokesman for Ofcom said: "Viewers have made clear to us that they have concerns about the quality of subtitling. So we recently announced proposals to improve this, working with deaf and hearing impaired viewers and groups, as well as broadcasters. We expect to finalise our plans in the next few months."
In many countries, Italy and Germany in particular, the dubbing of foreign-language films is routine and comprehensive. In other countries, such as the Netherlands, most foreign films and programmes are subtitled.

Subtitling and dubbing each have their upsides and downsides. Dubbing tends to be more costly and some of the cultural nuances of the foreign film are lost, whilst subtitles often need to summarize the soundtrack rather than provide a full translation. Dubbing, when done well, can be less obtrusive whilst subtitles may help language learning.

In an ideal world, each viewer could choose to view any film or programmed either with subtitles or dubbed, but this is not (yet) realistic. At the moment, the main deciding factor appears to be a cultural one. Dubbing is regarded as annoying in the Netherlands, while the English tend to find subtitles distracting. But with an ageing population, people with hearing and sight impairments are becoming part of the mainstream, and the need for access to films and television programmes will only increase.

If you are planning a film, documentary of television programme and would like to find out more about subtitling, please get in touch. We would love to discuss your plans with you. Please call +31 (0)23 - 2024 723 or email

  Posted by Annemieke, August 27 2013
  Film and Television, Subtitling



Cheap subtitling: an expensive mistake?

Posted by Annemieke, August 12 2013

Subtitles should enable a foreign audience to enjoy and understand a film spoken in a different language whilst maintaining the integrity of the script. Of course, the translator might need to take some freedom when translating colloquial phrases, but the subtitler should stick to the intentions of the film maker without trying to add or change meaning.

The translator who subtitled the film Pacific Rim recently was widely considered to have strayed too far from the original script. In addition, the Chinese subtitles were criticised for the quality of their translation with suggestions that they were inaccurate and unprofessional. For example, the translation of the phrase "Elbow Rocket" (a fighting technique associated with the Jaizu of Pacific Rim) into "Pegasus Meteor fist" (a technique belonging to Saint Seiya, a completely different manga) caused considerable annoyance.

Situations such as these seem to occur when the importance of accurate, aesthetically pleasing subtitles is underestimated. This may mean subtitling is not factored into the time and cost budget, resulting in a rushed subtitling process and a set of subtitles of low quality which do not do the original film or the audience justice.

To avoid mistakes such as these, it is important to plan the subtitling cost and timescales into your project from the start as well as making sure the finished titles are proofread by a professional editor. If you would like to discuss your project or find out what we can do for you, please contact us on

  Posted by Annemieke, August 12 2013
  Film and Television, Languages, Proofreading, Subtitling, Translation