Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling The Good Dinosaur Film | October 2016 | Translation Journal

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Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling The Good Dinosaur Film

With the advancement of computers, television, cinema and video, the power of screen has taken over the society and also the demand of multimedia translation. Translation study has been developing in the last century. A field under translation studies namely the audiovisual translation was born and dedicated to the screen translation. One of the three ways of translating audiovisual program is subtitling. This paper will only focus on the subtitling of English language as the source text and Indonesian language as the target
text in a film. The purpose of this paper is to understand whether the subtitles are already consistent with the subtitle criteria both technically and linguistically. Hopefully, this paper can help others to learn more about subtitling and its criteria. This paper will analyze the subtitle of a film with the title The Good Dinosaur. The audiovisual data of the film is in the form of Digital Video Disc (DVD) and the Indonesian subtitle is obtained from subtitle website provider in the Internet. Based on the subtitling criteria, there are several linguistics inconsistencies in the subtitles though some of its technicality is already correct.
Keywords: Audiovisual Translation, English Language, Indonesian Language, Subtitle
Translation is a process of changing the original language in to another language without reducing the meaning. In order to produce a good translation, a translator must have a good understanding of the context in the source language and good language ability in the target language. This is when a translator – person who is eligible to do the translation – must understand the important elements in translation. Translation studies has developed not only highlighting the corpus-based but also on the audiovisual translation. The growth of audiovisual translation had been noted by previous scholars such as Katharina Reiss, Titford and Mayoral also Dirk Delabastita. They do not explicitly mention about audiovisual translation yet they already set the foreground by including partial terms about audiovisual translation (Munday 2001, p. 182). What makes audiovisual translation interesting is that the current era is a screendominated
era which people are more consumed by everything presented through television screen. The audiovisual translation is the advanced and modern translation practice of the 21st century. A most notable field in the area of audiovisual translation is subtitling. In many foreign films or television shows, we often see a text in the lower side of the screen which purpose is to tell what the speaker in the screen image is talking about. The text is usually in another language from the speakers’ language, although sometimes it can be in the same language as the speakers.
The subtitle in a film is necessarily put in place because of the producers’ request. With subtitling the show or film into another language, it will increase the film or show’s popularity. Viewers from other country and languages can easily enjoy the show by watching it and reading the subtitle in the lower area of the screen. The subtitle does not only transfer the speakers’ language into the viewers’ language but also conveying the meaning of the speakers’ dialogues. Most of the film dialogues are not only a short conversation; it requires a good translation comprehension from the translator so the message of the conversation could be transferred
without losing its originality.
In order to accommodate all of the Indonesian viewers, many of those western films are subtitled in to Indonesian language. For those who are not fluent in English language, the subtitle will be very useful in understanding the plot, the story of the film. Indonesian viewers who are fluent in English language can understand the storyline without reading the subtitle. Sometimes, the subtitle of western series is not correctly translated in to Indonesian language. It can be a small mistakes or it can be a rather bigger mistakes in understanding the content of the conversation. A good translation is needed to produce an accurate and equivalence subtitle from English language to Indonesian language.
In many western films broadcasted in Indonesia, some of them are subtitled in to Indonesian Language. The Indonesian Language translation sometimes does not have the equivalence level of context with the original English language. The English language conversation that is translated in to Indonesian Language sometimes has a slightly different meaning and it will affect the conveyed meaning of the conversation. Hopefully, with a further discussion on important criteria on subtitling English language into Indonesian Language, the number of mistakes in the film subtitling can be reduced. Significantly, each of the English language conversation in films can be equivalently translated into Indonesian Language. Therefore, the Indonesian viewers will not miss the conveyed meaning of the conversation in the films.
It was Gambier (2003) who discussed the terms audiovisual translation, screen translation and multimedia translation (Munday, 2001, p. 184). Jorge Díaz Cintas (1999) described up to ten ways of audiovisual translation, but there are only three that stand out, such as dubbing, voice over and subtitling. Dubbing or also known as lip-sync, is a process of replacing the original voice speech in source language with voice speech in target language as closely as possible in timing, phrasing and lip-movements (Munday, 2012). On the other hand, voice over is defined as a technique using a narrator speaking in target language, following the original source language. Both dubbing and voice over are considered as complex, time consuming and costly. In the early twentieth century, subtitle has taking over the use of dubbing and voice over. Subtitling is defined as a translation practice consists of presenting a written text, in the lower parts of the screen with the purpose to tell the original dialogue of the speakers, the discursive elements appear in the image, and also the soundtrack that comes along with the image (Cintas, 2014, p. 8). Subtitling have a positive reputation than dubbing and voice over, thus many film producer decided to use it in their films.
The audiovisual translation had already attracted many scholars to study analyze it. The golden era of audiovisual translation was in 1990s where the demand of audiovisual translation increased along with many films and television shows exported outside its original country. The audiovisual translation field is still under the bigger umbrella of translation studies. The term of audiovisual translation was not very popular among the scholars, it was previously called the Film Translation since it concerns mostly on the translation practice of film or television shows. A previous study on subtitling was concentrating on the process of the subtitling. Discussing on how a translator conducting a subtitling process, the strategies on doing a good film subtitling (Simanjuntak, 2013). Based on Gotlieb’s previous research, there are ten strategies in conducting subtitling but in Simanjuntak’s research showed only six that were used by the translator. The six most used strategies are: Expansion, Paraphrase, Transfer, Imitation, Transcription, and Deletion strategies. The other four strategies, decimation, dislocation, condensation, and resignation strategies were not used at all.
Hansjörg Bittner did another research about the quality of subtitling translation. He mentioned that measuring the quality of a translation was difficult since there are no fixed criteria (Bittner, 2011). Bittner focused on the certain aspects that influenced a translator while translating the source language of a film to the target language. He referred the aspects as the translator’s daffodil. The quality of a subtitling translation depends on six aspects around the target text, which are text form, client, culture, politics, translator, and source text. These are the things that a translator needs to focus on conducting a good subtitle translation. However, with the vast growing films industry and a high demand of subtitles, there is no time to once again checking whether the translator had done the subtitle translation according to the translator’s daffodil.
There are five major criteria of subtitling: distribution format, mode of projection, technicality, time and linguistic (Cintas, 2014). The distribution format will classify subtitle into cinema, television, video / VHS, DVD, and Internet formats. According to the projection mode, subtitle can be projected by mechanical and thermal, photochemical, optical, laser, and electronic. Based on the technicality, subtitle can be printed directly on the film (open subtitles), selected by the viewer from a DVD’s menu (closed subtitles) or projected on to the screen. Based on the timing of process, subtitling can be pre-prepared (offline subtitles) and live/realtime (online subtitles). According to its linguistic dimension, subtitles can be Intralingual subtitles, Interlingual subtitles or Bilingual subtitles. The last type of subtitling gains its popularity when the era of films and television shows began to spread to other country in the form of Digital Video Disc (DVD).
In the process of translating source language to target language, translation equivalence may appear in different levels (Baker, 1992, p. 5). Grammatical equivalence appears when referring to the diversity of grammatical categories across languages; Textual equivalence appears when referring to the terms of information and cohesion between the source language and the target language equivalence. Pragmatic equivalence appears when referring to imprimaturs and strategies of avoidance during the translation process. A new way to produce an equivalent translation is by using Eugene Nida’s two basic orientations or types of equivalence (Munday 2001, p. 42). Nida discarded the previous terms of ‘literal’, ‘free’, and ‘faithful’ translation. The new types of equivalence consist of, Formal equivalence and Dynamic equivalence. The Formal equivalence focuses on the message conveyed in Source text should match the Target Text whereas the Dynamic equivalence focuses on seeking the closest natural equivalent of the Source text to the Target text. In other words, the message conveyed in the text should be translated as natural as possible.
Subtitling process may involve several operators (Cintas, 2014). The spotter is the one spotting or marking the transcript according to where the subtitles should start and stop. The next operator is the translator, the one whom translating the actual source language dialogue to target language dialogue. The last operator is the adaptors whose job is to check the language and technical aspects, ensuring that the subtitles are in sync with the picture frame. Nowadays, many subtitle provider company only use two operators, the spotter and the translator. Without the presence of the adaptors, sometimes the subtitle product is not as flawless as it should be. Moreover, subtitling sometimes accused of being ruined language form since the linguistic rules requirement on it. With the growth of film production, many films sold to other countries, which means the source language of the films are translated into various target languages. This means, although translation of source language to target language is a linguistic act but it is also a cultural transfer.
In regards to subtitling criteria, the translation strategies that often used to translate the source language text of a film into target language is to translate sentences and the smaller units of a text. The use of text reduction strategy is considered to be helpful since there are technical limitations of subtitling (Cintas, 2014, p. 146). The written form of film dialogue in subtitle is always reduced from the actual speech or verbal dialogue. There are two types of text reduction: partial and total reduction. Partial reduction is achieved through condensation and precise source text rendering. Total reduction is achieved through deletion or omission of lexical items.
Research Method
In order to understand more about audiovisual translation especially subtitling, I have conducted a case study. I will analyze the subtitles of a film based on the technical criteria of subtitling and its linguistics of subtitling. The data of this case study would be the Indonesians subtitles of film with the title of The Good Dinosaur. It is an American 3D Computer animated comedy-drama adventure buddy film. The ninety-three minutes film was released in November 2015 (United States). The language of the film is English, produced by Pixar Animated Studios, directed by Peter Sohn and screenplay by Meg LeFauve. Walt Disney Pictures distributed The Good Dinosaur worldwide.
The film is obtained from the Internet. The Good Dinosaur audiovisual file does not come with Indonesian subtitle. Then, I collect the Indonesian subtitle of The Good Dinosaur from subtitles provider website. I also collect the English transcript of the film from the
Internet. The next step is watching the films with the Indonesians subtitle. While watching the film, I took notes on the technicality of the subtitle’s criteria. Then, I took another round, watching the film again, but this time, I took notes regarding the linguistic criteria of subtitling. Thus, I compared the Indonesian subtitle with the original verbal English dialogue by using the English transcript and checking for any inconsistencies in the translation.
Findings and Discussions
There are two main parts of subtitling which are the technical part and the strategies done by the translator to achieve a good subtitle or the linguistics part. According to the technical part of subtitling criteria, distribution format, the film is using the DVD format subtitling. The Good Dinosaur’s subtitle have two lines subtitles although the subtitle was obtained from the subtitle provider website. The subtitle is in a white text color and placed center alignment at the bottom of the picture, as seen below:
The Good Dinosaur 1
The timing for subtitle of the film is in line with the average timing rule, which is not more than 6 seconds before the subtitle change (Munday, 2009). It has longer characters on its first subtitle line. It is common for DVD format subtitle because it is assumed that the viewers have the control on hitting the pause, rewind and forward button. If the viewers feel they need more timeto read the subtitle, they can always pause the DVD player. From the technical point of view, The Good Dinosaur can be identified as closed subtitles. The Indonesian subtitle can be disassociated from each other, the viewers have the ability to choose whether to use the subtitle or not.
The preparation time for The Good Dinosaur’s subtitle was pre-prepared or offline subtitling. The subtitle was prepared after the film was shoot and before the film’s release date (Cintas, 2014). The translator was given enough time to conducting translation process from the English source text into Indonesians target text. According to the subtitle’s lexical density, The Good Dinosaur’s subtitle is within the limit of standardized DVD subtitle. The Linguistic parameter of The Good Dinosaur’s subtitling is bilingual subtitles. It is a subtitle category that is produced based on its geographical areas where two languages are spoken. The original language of The Good Dinosaur is English language, but for the purpose of distribution and sales, the film was sold outside the country of origin. The original English language dialogue then translated into many other languages in the form of written subtitle.
Subtitle should consist of not only the verbal source language translation but also the visual signs and codes of the image frames of the film. In The Good Dinosaur that I watched, the Indonesian subtitle only focusing on the verbal dialogue between the characters. It does not translating the signs and codes of the image in frames although sometimes the characters do not say something verbally instead the characters are doing something.
The Good Dinosaur 2
In this frame, the little boy is dragging the bug and tries to ask Arlo the Aptosaurus to eat the bug. The little boy does not say a word throughout the film only growling, but according to the principle of translation, the imagery in this frame should be subtitled. The subtitle should be written inside a bracket, [Anak laki-laki itu menyuruh Arlo memakan serangga]. The use of bracket in subtitle indicates that the subtitle does not translating a verbal dialogue but it translate the visual code in the frame. Also, from the subtitle that I obtained from a subtitle provider website on the Internet is the result of incomplete subtitling operators. The spotter and the translator are two out of three subtitling operators (Cintas, 2014, p. 146). There are some late in and out of the subtitle in some frames, which indicate that there is no adaptor operator during the subtitling process. It is supposed to be the adaptor’s job to check the in and out timing of each subtitle in each frames.
Based on the linguistic part of subtitling; a subtitle translation is considered as not a faithful translation, but it requires the translator to transfer the idea of the dialogue correctly. According to Eugene Nida, a successful translation depends on the four basic requirements of translation which are: making sense, conveying the spirit of the original, having a natural and easy form of expression and producing similar response (Munday, 2001, p. 42). Based on these requirements, the translation of the Indonesian subtitle The Good Dinosaur film is not a good translation product. Some of the verbal dialogues are not translated into a natural and easy form in Indonesian language. The choices of words are sometimes not equivalent with the intended meaning of the original language.
The commonly used strategy of translating source language to target language is the text reduction strategy. The translation form of subtitle is always a reduced form of the verbal source text of the film. It needs to be a good quality of text reduction translation as seen below (Cintas, 2014, p. 145):
The Good Dinosaur table 1
The first line is translated using partial text reduction strategy. The English dialogue is translated using concise words. The second line is translated using total text reduction strategy. The expression Get out of there if translated word per word in Indonesian should be Keluarlah / Pergilah dari sana, but in this subtitle translation, it translated as Enyahlah dari sini. It uses the word Enyahlah, which representing the speaker’s anger and harsh language. The context of the dialogue is between Henry, the father to his son Buck. Henry is not angry towards Buck but he was surprised at what Buck did, then he ordered Buck to leave the barn. It should be translated using Indonesian words like pergilah or keluarlah.
In general, the translator of subtitle should conduct the process of translation based on the principle of relevance (Cintas, 2014, p. 148). The translator should produce shorter lines of subtitle in Target language but it must relevance or having enough degree of word similarity to the source language. This is one of the reasons why there are some slightly different degree of words used in the subtitle. For example:
The Good Dinosaur table 2
The word Chores is translated to pekerjaan in Indonesian, which actually has a different degree of meaning between the source language and the target language. The word Chores in this line refers to the household task that children usually do to help their parents, which in Indonesian the better word should be Tugas. The Indonesian word pekerjaan means something that people do to meet ends need. Therefore, the translation should be Buck, lakukan tugasmu!
Some of the verbal dialogues in The Good Dinosaur uses periphrases that are very lengthy and if it is translated literally words per word in Indonesians, it would take so much space than it should be (Cintas, 2014, p. 151). The translator choose to replace those periphrases with a shorter verb forms. However, the translator’s decision seems to jump over board and resulting a different meaning of translation.
The Good Dinosaur table 3
The Indonesian translation is not the correct translation of the English source text. Not only in terms of words per words translation but also the meaning conveyed in it. The source language suggested an advice so that Arlo does not come closer to the river. It is also supported by the imagery in the frame, Arlo is not playing in the river but he was running wildly towards the river because he is being chase by a group of hen. However, for this frame, the translator wrote Jangan main-main di sungai, Arlo! which was a different meaning from the original source text. It indicates that the translator tries to simplify the periphrases the river is not something to mess around with. Unfortunately, the translator chose the wrong words, the Indonesian subtitle Jangan main-main di sungai refers to a direct order to stop playing in the river.
Another disturbing subtitle translation in The Good Dinosaur is the fatal mistake in its translation. The translator seems to make a fatal mistake in translating the verbal English sourcetext. Perhaps this is happened because the translator has a different interpretation of the frames that lead to a different form of translation.
The Good Dinosaur table 4
The lines you’re a poppa and you’re a momma suppose to be a statement told by Henry and Ida to each other. Ida expresses her gratitude of the hatched children to her husband Henry by saying that he is now a father (Poppa – southern dialect) and vice versa. The translator of the subtitle grasps this meaning with a different perspective that resulting a different translation meaning. The word Ini Ayahmu is not the correct translation because the dialogue is supposed to be between the parents – Henry and Ida – not between the parents and the newly hatched children. The correct translation should be, You’re a poppa – Kau seorang Ayah dan You’re a momma – Kau seorang Ibu.
Some of The Good Dinosaur verbal dialogues are rich with the southern American dialect. If we enjoy the film and have a fluent ability in understanding the dialogue in its original source language, then we can feel the thickness of southern dialect. Dialect refers to variety of language in its association to a set of users based on geographical area (Cintas, 2014, p. 191). In terms of subtitling, the dialect can either be translated or not depending on the linguistic variation throughout the film or only some characters use it. In The Good Dinosaur subtitling, the southern American dialect is not translated because the main characters do not continually use the thick southern dialect.
The Good Dinosaur table 5
The original verbal dialogues above are filled with southern American dialect, but when it was subtitled into Indonesians, it looses the original dialect since Indonesians language does not have the similar dialect. Moreover, the translator’s translation turns out to be incomplete and false. The line We got longhorns to round up should be translated as Kita harus kumpulkan banteng-banteng kita in Indonesians. Instead, the translator uses para banteng menanti kita, which is false.
Technically, the subtitle for The Good Dinosaur film is already precise. There are only small minor inconsistencies with the standard subtitle criteria. On the contrary, I found many disturbing mistakes linguistically. Most of them are related with the degree of words, equivalence of words that the translator chose and false interpretation of the translator. The translator of the film The Good Dinosaur tries to use the text reduction strategy. The translator uses the strategy in order to produced shorter translation lines, which comply with the technical requirement of subtitling. Unfortunately, there are some translations that are translated with different degree of words causing a different conveyed meaning from the original source language. Therefore, It is important for a subtitle translator to understand both source language and target language. A good translator needs to find good equivalence words of Target language in order to transfer not just the words but also the idea of the Source language. Also, a translator needs to have a good knowledge of the film by watching the entire film before translating it.
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Cintas, J. D. & Remael, A.(2014). Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling. London: Routledge.
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The Good Dinosaur Film. Retrieved from
Indonesian Subtitle. Retrieved from
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