• 14th November, 2012

To dub or not to dub…

Nowadays many people decide to move abroad for a plethora of reasons: job opportunities, to study, for a change of pace and even… love. Spain is a popular choice for its laid back way of life, good weather and cheap prices.
Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you mustn’t forget to take a time out and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life… I’ve got an idea, let’s go to the cinema!

Foreigners in Spain will be all too aware that is it near impossible to take a trip to the cinema and find a film in its original version, they are all dubbed. Why are they doing this to us?
You’ll be surprised to know it isn’t because the Spanish are lazy; it isn’t because they all have reading subtitles. The “dubbing culture” is a product of the dictatorship of General Franco.

As you will know, Franco governed Spain from 1939 until 1975, so for 36 years one of the many things he imposed was an immediate dubbing (read censorship) of any foreign imports, whether film, television, books, music, etc. It was decided that dubbing all foreign material would strengthen national identity and control what information was passed on to the Spanish people. Franco was afraid that foreign ideals would corrupt his vision for the future of Spain.

Today in Spain there is no dictatorship, no Franco telling people what they can and can’t do, and yet Spain remains divided over whether dubbing is good or dubbing is bad.

All those in favour: Dubbing allows all those people who dislike reading subtitles when they go to the cinema to learn about cultures from around the world. Watching a dubbed film allows them to absorb all that film has to offer on a visual level, without missing vital parts because they were concentrating on reading the subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

All those against: Dubbing blocks the viewer from ever really experiencing the original ideas and themes of the film. The top Hollywood directors and actors are paid millions of dollars to bring a film to life. All the Spanish get to see is a blockbuster dubbed by people they have never heard of who are incapable of translating the original message, but simply interpreting what is happening on screen. Cultural nuances such as accents, regional sayings, jokes and much more is, as they say, lost in translation.
Personally, the thing that puts me off is seeing the mouths moving long after the talking has stopped!

I’m sure you will have come into contact with a German, Swedish or Dutch person who speaks nearly perfect English. We often joke that they probably speak better than us natives! This is due to the fact that they grow up accustomed to “reading” the television. Very few English programmes are dubbed and it is almost impossible to find a dubbed film in many of these countries. Subconsciously, people from these countries have contact with English and therefore find it much easier to learn. This is where the Spanish struggle. They have no contact with foreign languages, they are not accustomed to hearing them, and this results in the difficulty and even apathy in older generations to learn other languages.

So what’s your opinion on the dubbing vs. original version debate? Let us know via the usual channels: Lingualia web (where you can test your level for free!), Twitter and Facebook.

Oh, I almost forgot…

I bet you didn’t know that some international actors actually dub themselves?! For the film Puss in Boots, Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek provide the voices for the Spanish and the English version. Want to hear them speaking Español?

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