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Federici, Federico M. (ed) (2009). Translating Regionalised Voices in Audiovisuals.

Rome: Aracne, pp. 305, €19.00. ISBN 978-88-548-2885-8

A very interesting volume edited by Federico M. Federici, and largely based on the second international conference Translating voices, translating regions, held in Durham in September 2007. The editor sets out to answer such important questions as “Does giving regionalised voices to characters or localising the news become a way to show the marginal voices and identify political and social issues?” (15), and “Is a minority language a regional voice?” (15), with a view to investigating how such issues affect audiovisual translators.

Whilst delving into these questions, Federici does not forget to include such topical issues as that of the (diminishing) quality of audiovisual translation due to the ever-increasing cuts in the field. This multi-faceted approach led the editor to include both contributions centred on theoretical reflections and articles discussing actual translation practices.

The volume is divided into four sections: “Politics and Policies in Screen Translation,” “Transfer or Wave of Translation,” “Action and Reaction,” and “Periphery, Margins and Centrality,” the editor’s choices as to its structure being motivated by “sociolinguistic perspectives on audiovisual translation” (18) as well as “theories of translation as a semiotic act” (18).

Moreover, drawing on Díaz Cintas and Remael’s (2007) assertion that in audiovisual translation a number of conversational features only make their way into the subtitles inasmuch as they serve a narrative function, Federici states that “when a regional voice appears in an audiovisual, the choice is automatically born out of identifiable narrative needs” (19).

This book is as ambitious as its editor’s premises, and it certainly contributes a great deal to the debate on audiovisual translation in general and on the translation of regionalised voices in particular, brimming as it is with interesting and thought-provoking contributions. However, since touching upon every single one of them would be beyond the scope of this review, I have chosen to focus primarily on two representative chapters.

The first one is Delia Chiaro’s “The politics of screen translation,” which opens the first section of the book. Chiaro sets out to explore the “socio-political implications of translational modalities chosen to convey screen translations” (28) accompanied by their more or less covert ideological issues. Through her very thorough “matrix of visual and verbal perceptibility” (29), she looks at the audience’s awareness of the ‘otherness’ of translated audiovisual products along with the degree of modification the SL audiovisual text undergoes in translation.

Chiaro also discusses the imbalance in the production and consumption of audiovisual material between the US and the rest of the world: “Although Europe is now familiar with high school culture and tricking and treating, it is unlikely that the US viewers are equally conscious of the cultural specificities of Spain, Portugal or France” (37). And the situation, she argues, is not likely to change any time soon.

The other chapter that needs to be mentioned in this review is Yves Gambier’s inspiring contribution, whose self-explanatory title reads “Créativité et décision: le traducteur audiovisuel n’est pas une roue de secours.” The author has his say on the very important issue of the (in)visibility of the audiovisual translator — so often perceived as “un acteur passif, invisible, mal reconnu” (179). Unlike the other participants in the process, Gambier argues, translators never gain the recognition they deserve — a consideration that is becoming increasingly central within the debate surrounding audiovisual translation.

Gambier also laments the fragmentation of Audiovisual Translation Studies, a field that is still characterised by a high number of isolated case studies. Indeed, this leads him to conclude that “Il est temps de ne plus fragmenter la recherche en TAV en problèmes partiels et ponctuels […] mais d’esquisser des convergences entre traduire un film et traduire/localiser un jeu vidéo, traduire un programme télévisé et localiser un site web, traduire un documentaire et localiser un CD éducatif” (190).

So many other chapters are certainly worth a mention: from Irene Ranzato’s reflections on the two sides of the dubbing coin in Italy — the censoring one, and the creative one — to Elena Minelli’s complex study of the factors involved in the transfer of an Italian novel to the national and then the international screen, as well as to the international publishing market; from Ilaria Parini’s study of the dubbing of Italian-American variety of English in American films, in which she reflects on the use of dialect to add to characterisation, to Jean-Louis Sarthou’s overview of the issues encountered by a professional audiovisual translator when dealing with the pressures imposed by the local and the international market and the resulting self-imposed censorship, to the interesting discussions on the role of AVT in the integration and normalisation of the so-called minority languages — two of which are centred on the ‘cine gallego’ — and many more.

Since, however, the ‘space constraints’ — to use an all too familiar expression — of this review will not allow me to go into any further detail, I would like to conclude with another quote from Chiaro’s article: “As worlds shrink and news travels at the speed of light, it would appear that translations and translators are slowly beginning to receive the space, time and acknowledgement they deserve” (40). Let it be a good omen.

  • Díaz Cintas, Jorge and Aline Remael (2007). Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing.

Adriana Tortoriello, Imperial College London