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Díaz-Cintas, Jorge, Anna Matamala and Josélia Neves (eds.) (2010). New Insights into Audiovisual Translation and Media Accessibility—Media for All 2.

Amsterdam/New York: Editions Rodopi, 310 pp. 62 € / US$ 93  ISBN: 978-90-420-3180-7.

Three of the most renowned figures in the field of audiovisual translation in Europe present New Insights into Audiovisual Translation and Media Accessibility, a selection of papers from Media for All II, aconference held in Leiria, Portugal, in November 2007, as part of a series of conferences and publications in audiovisual translation organised by the Transmedia Research Group since 2005, and which established the visibility of audiovisual translation in the new millennium. The volume also includes new articles by scholars who were not conference participants.   

The book is structured in three sections, namely Subtitling and dubbing, Media accessibility and Didactic applications of AVT, comprising a total of 18 articles. In them, AVT is explored through theory and practice in a number of European countries, and tangentially the US. Attention-drawing is the predominance of articles written by Spanish authors, eight altogether, although only four of them deal specifically with Spanish as translation language.

Rather than providing a comprehensive list and account of these authors and their articles, this review will introduce some of the most stimulating ideas put forward in a number of articles representative of the main four types of approaches present in the volume: theoretical discussions, case studies, field research and country-specific analyses. This choice is subjective and does not imply a negative judgment of the chapters which are not mentioned, but in a book encompassing a wide and contrasting array of topics, choosing one piece as illustrative of each approach was preferred.

Theoretical discussions

In Translation in constrained communication and entertainment, which opens the volume, Patrick Zabalbeascoa introduces some interesting new concepts connected to translation. One of them, ‘constrained communication,’ suggests that it is communication that is constrained, not translation, since historically all communicative situations have been able to address only one or two sensorial channels, whereas an ideal form of communication would involve the use of as many as four or five senses. Translation should therefore not be merely concerned with translating texts, but it should, with the aid of new technologies, strive to help pursuing effective communication.

Case studies

InTowards a creative approach in subtitling: a case study, Anna Foerster analysesthe aesthetical elements present in the English subtitles of the Russian film Night Watch (2004). On the one hand, technical aspects such as reading speed or cueing are assessed against the Code of Good Subtitling Practice. The result is that they often fail to meet the conventions of standard subtitling practice. On the other hand, the subtitler has made use of a series of resorts that make this an innovative an interesting piece of work. Subtitles dissolve, fade out, go out of focus, change size, position or colour, come in word by word, or echo speech in order to achieve stylistic effects. The author concludes that a more inventive approach in the industry would leave more room for creative subtitling while keeping up with recent developments and trends. Yet such creativity should not neglect traditional practice and aim to comply with its most sensible conventions.

Field research

The results of two experiments on how viewers receive live subtitles are assessed by Pablo Romero-Fresco in Standing on quicksand: hearing viewers’ comprehension and reading patterns of respoken subtitles for the news. The participants in both experiments were hearing proficient English readers and habitual subtitles users. In the first experiment, the participants were exposed to live subtitles displayed at different speed rates. One of the findings of this experiment was that most of the viewers did not gather enough information from the subtitles at a rate of 180 words per minute, which is a speed often used by broadcasters. The second experiment aimed at finding out, by means of an eyetracker, the way in which viewers read word-by-word subtitles, normally used on live broadcasts, in comparison to block subtitles. The results showed that block display offers a more solid ground for reading. As a conclusion of the analysis, a suggestion is made to slow down, by means of heavier editing, the speed at which subtitles are showed and to try to provide a layout more stable than scrolling subtitles.

Country-specific analyses

With Accessibility to the media by hearing impaired audiences in Poland: problems, paradoxes, perspectives, Agnieszka Szarkowska gives an overview of the current situation of SDH in Poland, where around four million people out of a 38 million population have a hearing impairment. According to the author, the provision of SDH in a country considered a stronghold of voice-over is “inadequate,” since most TV channels do not provide subtitles for both foreign and domestics productions. Paradoxically, foreign films in Polish cinemas are generally screened with interlingual subtitles, granting hearing impaired viewers an accessibility which they are deprived of when it comes to national productions. EU regulations on accessibility, the development of digital technologies, and a more active and demanding position by the deaf community are key factors to further the widespread of SDH in the country.   

All in all, New Insights into Audiovisual Translation and Media Accessibility is an essential reading for anyone interested in audiovisual translation, its intricacies, latest professional and didactic trends as well as in the challenges it faces for the future.

Gilen Mejuto, Roehampton University, London, UK