Film and Television Subtitling is a Vital Part of Cultural Exchange and the Media Business

There are distinct reasons for using dubbing or subtitling as the primary method of reaching an overseas audience. Each has different strengths and each is dominant in certain media markets.

Subtitling is one major method for making films accessible to foreign language audiences. Though subtitling has been done since the earliest days of sound films, it is relatively rarely used compared to dubbing, since it requires more effort on the part of the viewer. Children’s films in particular are seldom subtitled since it’s hard for children to read the titles.

Nonetheless, since subtitling allows the natural sound of the film’s original language to be heard, it has long been the only acceptable option of audiences in America’s “art houses”, the specialty cinemas often found in larger cities that show international films. Translating overseas films into English using subtitles is the key to reaching the diverse intellectual urban audience, and since the early European hits of the 1950s and 60s arrived in the United States, this kind of feature film subtitling work has been an important part of the world cinema scene.

Hearing Impaired viewers are another large audience that appreciates subtitling rather than dubbing, and partly for that reason, DVDs generally also include optional subtitling. Network television has become one of the heaviest users of subtitling for that reason as well. Both protective legislation and good business suggest that providing subtitling assistance to the hearing impaired expands an audience.

Many Hollywood films with an overseas and/or a historical setting use some subtitles even in English language versions of the film; examples are the classic “Patton” and the action hit “The French Connection”. This has become a trend as modern audiences increasingly demand realism. One telling example: on the old “Mission: Impossible” TV show, everyone in every country spoke English; you were supposed to assume that our heroes were actually speaking the local language and we were somehow hearing them in English. This, of course, was true in every foreign version of the show as well; they were all dubbed into local languages. But by contrast, the “Mission: Impossible” movies, made in the modern era, always subtitle any dialog that’s spoken in a foreign language; today’s audiences have come to expect the more realistic approach of admitting that Germans speak German and Russians speak Russian. Nowadays most feature films aimed at sophisticated international audiences have learned which techniques are most appropriate for their markets.

Although many factors come into play with dealing with film and television projects, there is one thing that remains constant. In today’s interconnected world it’s important to have a knowledgeable guide to language services. Whether dubbing or subtitling, filmmakers who want the revenue and cultural outreach of multilingual audiences can always find the best language solutions at American Language Services. American Language Services® has a large collection of expert linguists that provide top quality local service in all areas of the country and the world. American Language Services ® believes in providing real value to our clients. All of our work is performed consistently and with the highest quality. Our language experts are located in hundreds of countries across every continent, covering every time zone. These highly skilled professionals are recruited, screened and tested to ensure that the quality of our work is at the highest level. Call us for a quote.


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