Subtitling might not be the first word you think of when you hear the phrase ‘language services’, but it represents an important facet of our work here at AML-Global. Subtitles are a tool that can be used to translate foreign language video, to enhance training and sales videos for corporate America, or to render spoken audio into same-language text for the benefit of deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.
Like other language services, subtitling is about facilitating communication, building bridges and enabling access. Every day, subtitles allow people to enjoy foreign films and media that they might never have experienced otherwise, and they give the deaf community an equal opportunity to enjoy the media that makes up such a large part of our culture. Maybe they’re used by someone who simply doesn’t want to miss any dialogue! At American Language Services we are proud to be a part of these efforts.
Recently, we completed the subtitling for Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, a crowdfunded full-length environmental documentary. We delivered subtitling in ten languages on a rush basis, which will be used for an international screening tour.
In this month we also completed the subtitling of ten videos into English, French, and Spanish for Nomad Pictures.
We were happy to assist with the subtitling of video interviews for Hole-in-the-Wall Education Ltd., which is pioneering child learning in India and Bhutan.
American Language Services is a proud provider of subtitling, translation, interpretation, transcription and media services to private industry government at all levels, education and non-profit organizations. Our thousands of linguists around the world and teams of dedicated professionals are ready to serve.
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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.
Dubbing and subtitling are the two methods of making movies live up to their proud billing as “the universal language of the screen”. Without language translation there would never have been a film industry with worldwide appeal. Many Americans, living in the largest of English-speaking countries, would be surprised to find out how dependent Hollywood is on foreign box office. Poor countries, especially ones with minority languages, have often have to put up with inferior translation, while wealthier, often European countries pride themselves on flawless conversions into the local tongue. Television demands even more translation work than feature films do.
In the days of silent films, it was usually easy to make movies accessible to foreign audiences; skilled editors just snipped out the English title “cards” between scenes and spliced in translated ones in the local language. Some studios actually went to the trouble of making sure that the fake stores and restaurants in the background of their studio backstreet sets had very few words painted on them, a subtle way to make it easier for overseas audiences to accept the movie as “theirs”. In 1927, all films were silent except one—“The Jazz Singer”, starring Al Jolson. They could be easily adapted to be shown in any silent cinema anywhere. But by 1931 all films were sound except one—Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights”. For a couple of years, cinemas all over the world converted their equipment to show sound movies, and suddenly audiences everywhere could hear the sounds of American English. There are reports that London audiences couldn’t help laughing at the diction of early Hollywood “talkies”.
But outside of the English-speaking countries, the film industry had a massive new financial challenge. The richest companies in the film Industry tried to regain their world audiences by shooting each scene several times, in several languages, but this proved to be expensive, slow and impractical.
Gradually Hollywood met the challenge with the new technique called “voice doubling”, which became the more familiar “dubbing”: a voice specialist watches the lip movements of the actor in the film and matches them as closely as possible with new words spoken in the target language.
Dubbing was the financial savior of the movies, giving Hollywood its world audience back. Most overseas sales territories for American films and TV have long-established arrangements to have new productions translated and dubbed into local languages.
It’s a little known fact that sometimes English speaking actors have had to be dubbed into English! The movie “Singing In the Rain”, a famous musical comedy about the arrival of sound in Hollywood, shows a mythical version of the invention of dubbing when a silent beauty queen’s piercing East Coast U.S. accent has to be replaced with another actress’s warm, cultured voice. Although the story is fictionalized, it’s based on truth; replacing actors’ voices became possible very early on, but in Hollywood it’s mostly been used as it is in “Singing In the Rain”, as a desperation move to rescue a picture. Even in modern times, the 1980 film “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” became legendary in the Industry for only one reason: the studio decided it never liked the leading man’s voice, so every word he spoke in the entire film had to be replaced with someone else speaking the lines.
If dubbing plays only an occasional supporting role in Hollywood’s domestic production, it plays the central leading role in Hollywood’s export business. Of course, when a feature film leaves the theaters and enters the DVD market, it is possible and customary to include several choices of language on the soundtrack.
Subtitling is the other major method for making films accessible to foreign language audiences. Though subtitling has also 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.
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. Although many factors come into play with dealing with film and television projects, there is one thing that remains constant. Translations should be done by experienced, professional translators with the proper and necessary experience to ensure the best quality service possible. We at American Language Services have been providing just that for over 26 years. AML-Global is happy to assist you with your dubbing and subtitling needs. Please contact us at the numbers listed below for more information or to schedule translation for your next dub session or script mark-up for subtitling.