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Martínez Sierra, Juan José (coord.) (2012). Reflexiones sobre la traducción audiovisual. Tres espectros, tres momentos.

Valencia: Publicaciones Universitat de València, pp. 236, € 15.00.  ISBN: 978-84-370-9064-1.

The title of the present volume, Reflexiones sobre la traducción audiovisual. Tres espectros, tres momentos, augurs the beginning of a journey of 236 pages. The illustration featured on the book cover from the famous tale by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, presages an exciting travel in time around the world of Audiovisual Translation (AVT). Like the main character of this story, the reader will be visited by three different spirits: the ghost of past, the ghost of present and the ghost of yet to come. As a result of the upsurge of interest in this area and the constant advances in technology, the threefold approach adopted here becomes necessary to assess what has been achieved during these years, to ascertain the current state of affairs, and to reflect on future directions in both the professional and academic sphere.

A total of seventeen papers are gathered in this volume under the coordination of the distinguished translation specialist Juan José Martínez Sierra, who has successfully brought together the expertise of illustrious and established researchers in AVT as well as that of well-versed practitioners. The aim of the author, as he points out in the introductory part of the book, is to offer a compilation of thoughtful contributions which manages to throw some light on the evolution of AVT in Spain, thus avoiding an eminently theoretical and methodological manual. As stated by Martínez Sierra, the book is intended to reach a wide audience, including not only experts in the field but also students and the general public who are interested in translation and the audiovisual industry.

With the purpose of tackling this issue in full, he divides the dossier into five well-structured sections corresponding to the most popular audiovisual modalities: dubbing, voice-over, subtitling, subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH) and audiodescription, and videogame localisation. Additionally, the last five chapters provide a more panoramic view of the many facets of AVT.

The journey starts off with four articles devoted to dubbing. The first contribution, written by the renowned researcher Frederic Chaume, focuses on the main lines of research that used to lead the study of AVT a few years ago. In Chaume’s view, these previous theories proved to be insufficient to explain the translation phenomenon in its entirety and, in turn, scholars have increasingly adopted an interdisciplinary approach in order to gain a more comprehensive insight into this practice. Although he fosters debate on the necessity to carry out research in this field, he attempts to pave the way for new avenues of research in dubbing by highlighting its recent growth and setting out its limits. The other three papers provide an interesting overview of the dubbing world from a professional perspective. Gloria Cámara, Joan Pera and José Carlos Polo Rodríguez share their long-standing experience as dubbing actors with the readers and enable them to approach a job which, according to them, should be far more widely recognised.

Ivars Barzdevics deals with the diachronic changes undergone by voice-over in Spain. He explains that the use of this AVT mode seeks to achieve more credibility, though in doing so, the cinematic illusion is totally broken. In his opinion, voice-over will gain momentum in the near future, mainly as far as advertising is concerned. 

The topic of subtitling is introduced by Eduard Bartoll Teixidor. In his contribution, the author delves into the history of subtitling in chronological order and places special emphasis on the reasons why this mode is timidly gaining ground against dubbing. In the paper written by Santiago Torregrosa Povo, the experienced subtitler turns his attention to a specific area within this mode: electronic subtitling. His long hands-on experience leads him to contemplate translation from a practical perspective and to share some advice and knowhow. Finally, the pioneer researcher on subtitling, Jorge Díaz Cintas, focuses on the latest technological advances which have contributed to enhance the development of this audiovisual practice. His article provides a detailed account of “la internetización del subtitulado” (97) in the digital era, a new environment that has motivated the active participation of users on the Net and the collective approach to amateur subtitles, namely fansubbing and crowdsourcing.

The part devoted to SDH is written together by Lourdes Lorenzo García and Ana María Pereira Rodríguez. In their view, even though SDH has made great strides, much still needs to be done in this field, given that the presence of this type of subtitling in television continues to be scarce. Accessibility is also covered by Antonio Vázquez Martín, who provides a thorough summary of the academic as well as professional situation of audiodescription in Spain.

The fifth section of the volume concerns videogame localisation and is dealt with by the well-known specialist Miguel Ángel Bernal Merino. The author raises the question of the status of translation in the current rapidly changing market, given that, albeit the new era of digital and audiovisual communication has facilitated the translator’s job, the nature of the semiotic construct has become much more complex. For this reason, he argues that it is essential to train future localisers depending on the needs of the new market. In the same light, Carme Mangiron Hevia explains the process of localisation and the requirements that localisers should meet in a digitally mediated activity so as to achieve the same effect on the target viewership.

The last five papers explore AVT from multifarious perspectives. María Ferrer Simó reflects on how this practice has evolved in her fifteen years as a freelance translator and how the years to come seem to be somewhat discouraging for future practitioners. Conversely, in his contribution, Roberto Mayoral Asensio argues that the great attention hitherto paid to research and practice in AVT on the part of students, researchers and academic institutions indicates a promising future. He also acknowledges the importance of keeping up-to-date with the latest technological breakthroughs. The aim of Patrick Zabalbeascoa in his outstanding paper is to cast some light on the diachronic shifts that have taken place in the theoretical framework of these studies and he singles out three stages: the focus on the constrains, the search for problems and subsequent solutions and the research on AVT to understand translation in general. Francesca Bartrina Martí and Eva Espasa Borràs try to bridge the gap between teaching and research in AVT and illustrate the curricular design that they use when teaching this module at the Universitat de Vic. One of the cornerstones of their didactic programme is based on theatrical performances which allow students to play the text they have translated. Finally, María Alcón Soler devotes her paper to the advent of “la televisión autonómica” (213) in the Spanish audiovisual industry and its impact upon AVT and, more specifically, upon dubbing.

Overall, this collective volume will certainly meet the expectations of the reader by providing a compilation of articles that explore three different time periods in AVT and by bringing together the viewpoint and expertise of a large number of pundits and practitioners in this field. Except for minor typographical lapses (pages 155, 180, 181 and 185), the book contains well-written and well-researched papers that make the reader embark on an enriching adventure and reflect not only on the achievements earned but also on the goals that still need to be reached. Martínez Sierra has successfully coordinated a must-read and useful manual, highly recommended for anyone interested in travelling around this fascinating world.

Sofía Sánchez Mompeán, Universidad de Murcia, Spain
Email: sofia.sanchez@um.es