Subtitling films

Defence of national language or ideological and political reasons?

We must confess, it’s the first time, this year, we watch films in original version and subtitled in English.

One day in our weekly English practical class, our teacher said that we were going to watch a film and consequently everybody was very happy, but our smile vanished into thin air when we listened to, they spoke in English. The teacher added, “don’t worry” and she put the subtitles in English to help us understand. After having watched the film we were asked about it and we said that it was the first time we watched a film in O.V.

periodico2We had never asked us about the subtitled films, so the teacher asked us for investigating the origin of dubbing films and she recommended us to watch in Christmas the film “The artist” to try to understand the origin of the sound in films.

To say the truth, some of us, had realized that the translations of different films into the Spanish language had nothing to do with the original title, the last Roman Polanski film titled “Carnage” in Spanish is titled “Un dios salvaje” And the classical Alfred Hitchcock film “North by Northwest” in Spanish is “Con la muerte en los talones”

To get information, we surfed in the net and read an article about it. It seems that in some European countries, such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain dubbing is the most common method of language transfer, whereas the subtitling countries include Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Greece, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.

There are various reasons to explain the Spanish dubbing tradition, such as economic, cultural, ideological and political factors.

The vast majority of the audience in dubbing countries has grown up with dubbing and does not wish to see this changed. The costs involved in the dubbing process, is more expensive than subtitling.

Apart from this, dubbing is an integral part of their audiovisual industry and employs a great many people, which can be an economic reason for continuing with dubbing.

In the case of Spain, apart from the defence of the national language, we must also note that the government favoured dubbing with its censorship.

Censorship in Spain forbade production in any other language but the national language. As a result, it was necessary to hide the original script of foreign films imported to Spain.

The most important dates of censorship in Spain are 1937, when censorship offices–the Junta Superior de Censura–were established in Seville and Salamanca, and 1941, when obligatory dubbing made the showing of original versions of foreign films illegal unless they were first dubbed in Spanish studios.

Then, in November 1977 censorship in Spain was officially abolished and any director, writer, or producer could now make almost any kind of film he or she wanted to.


Translation journal Volume 8, No. 3, July 2004, M. Carmen Gil Ariza

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