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Perego, Elisa (ed.) (2012). Emerging Topics in Translation: Audio Description.

EUT: Trieste, pp. 117, 12.00 €. ISBN 978-8-8830-3347-6.

From 16th to 18th June 2010, the Department of Language, Translation and Interpreting Studies of the University of Trieste, Italy, hosted an international conference on Emerging topics in translation and interpreting. A separate session was devoted to audio description (AD) for the blind and visually impaired. As a result of the debate held, a volume entitled Emerging topics in translation: Audio Description edited by Elisa Perego was compiled.

Composed of seven contributions and an introduction, the book covers a wide array of topics related to AD, discussed by both renowned scholars and practitioners.
The volume opens with an introduction written by Elisa Perego, where the author provides the rationale behind this work and gives an overview of its contents.

The first paper is by Pilar Orero who discusses the importance of the comprehensive reading of the film for the preparation of audio description. Using a conceptual framework based on the theories by Metz (1997), Berger (2008) and Monaco (2009), Orero argues that it is only by means of a profound analysis of the film languages and elements that meaningful ADs can be produced. The author uses some examples from RocknRolla (Guy Ritchie 2008) to illustrate her argument.

The next contribution comes from Nathalie Mälzer-Semlinger who investigates the way in which aural and visual information interact in film in support of the story line. She bases her argument on Yella (Christopher Petzold 2007) and discusses the structure of its German AD with reference to the existing audio description guidelines. Finally, the author arrives at a conclusion which encourages us to sometimes challenge certain traditional AD norms in favour of more flexibility when it comes to syntax or lexical choices.

The third paper by Saveira Arma is a study of the linguistic aspects of the Italian AD for the film Chocolat (Lasse Hallström 2000). The author compares this script with the English audio description and draws preliminary conclusions on the differences between the description styles prevalent in the two languages.

The fourth contribution by Agnieszka Chmiel and Iwona Mazur shifts the focus towards reception studies. The authors give an overview of the many stumbling blocks inherent to conducting this type of research. They also give insight into the art of conceiving a successful reception study and conclude by highlighting the importance of user-oriented research which, in spite of its topsy-turvy trajectory, is of essence for the creation of quality audio descriptions.

The next contribution by Agnieszka Szarkowska and Anna Jankowska also touches upon reception studies. Their research has to do with text-to-speech audio description (TTS AD), a fairly recent development in the media accessibility field. Szarkowska and Jankowska discuss the outcomes of a study in which Volver (Pedro Almodóvar 2006), audio described using TTS, was shown to the Polish end users. The intention of the authors was to verify whether the target audience would accept TTS AD as a temporary or even permanent alternative to the traditional way of delivering audio description.

The last two chapters of the book represent a slightly different approach. The one by Bernd Benecke shows the practitioner’s point of view of how subtitles can be dealt with when audio describing films in a dubbing country (Germany). Riitta Lahtinen and Russ Palmer close the volume with their contribution on environmental description, in which they discuss the many techniques available to describe the environment to multiple sensory impaired people. In their contribution, the authors go beyond the traditional concept of film audio description for blind and visually impaired and thus add yet another dimension to the book.

Emerging topics in translation: Audio Description offers a multidisciplinary insight into AD. Not only does it cover a wide range of research areas (film analysis, linguistic aspects of AD script, reception study), but it also provides contributions by members of academia and practitioners. Furthermore, it gathers insights from countries with different languages (German, Italian, Polish) and varying AVT landscapes (dubbing, voice-over).

This book comes out at a time when audio description is growing to become a separate field of research, and as such can be a valuable point of reference for novice scholars. It contains contributions which express critical views on the existing guidelines, encourage a debate on what used to be the status quo of AD and open new horizons to the use of technology.

Versatile in its nature, Perego’s volume is a refreshing, thought provoking and entertaining resource for all those investigating and collaborating in the field of audio description.


Anna Maszerowska
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona