RSS feed

Pérez-González, Luis (2014). Audiovisual Translation: Theories, Methods and Issues.

Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 356, £25.99, ISBN: 978-0-415-53027-9 

Luis Pérez-González's new book is essential reading for students and scholars working in audiovisual translation. It is also worth reading for people working in translation studies in general, as it offers an excellent introduction to audiovisual translation that confronts the changes happening in technology and participatory culture which are already having an effect on translation in different domains.

Audiovisual Translation is a research-informed textbook. It offers overviews of what is meant by the umbrella term "audiovisual translation" (chapter 1), the history of audiovisual translation (chapter 2), a range of models that describe and analyse translation of audiovisual forms (chapter 4) and a range of relevant research methods (chapter 5). This material is clearly and concisely explained, offering an in-depth introduction to the practices of subtitling, dubbing and audio-description, as well as surveys of the current scholarship. The book is not a how-to book, but rather positions itself as a course reader or guide to research. The focus on research methodologies as well as the guidelines for writing dissertations on audiovisual translation (chapter 8) highlights the pedagogic function of the text. Much of this material is available elsewhere in various forms, but it is very helpful to have it collected in one place and applied to audiovisual translation.

Pérez-González goes beyond the usual areas of professional practice and brings in a very interesting and timely discussion of the use of audiovisual translation as an "interventionist practice" (57). This refers to uses of audiovisual translation by non-professionals, e.g. fansubbing or fandubbing. Some of this interventionist practice is political in intent, such as the subtitling of a speech on austerity by Daniel Cohn-Bendit that Pérez-González analyses (58-61). Some of it is more aesthetic, such as the fansubbing of Japanese cartoons (78-84). Crucial here is the shift away from focusing on translation solely as a professional practice to discussing how it is being used in multiple domains for communication, community building and self-creation (234).

Two further chapters of the book focus on where the (sub-)discipline of audiovisual translation is going. Chapter 6 explains the concept of multimodality and how it relates to the translation of film, TV and video-games. The complex interactions between language, image, sound and other modes have often been difficult to describe, let alone analyze. Pérez-González offers a guide to key theories as well as recent work in the area. As he notes, the "shift from textual to multimodal literacy is stretching the ability of audiovisual translation scholars to describe and theorise audiovisual translation" (186) so the overview here is most welcome and should encourage students and scholars alike to deal with the various modes in audiovisual texts more attentively. Chapter 7 looks at non-representational forms of audiovisual translation, e.g. activist subtitling (230-252) and non-diegetic subtitling of anime (256-258). Pérez-González sees a shift here towards affectivity - eliciting or recording an emotional response - rather than the more neutral representations by professional subtitlers (253-254). Audiovisual translation thus becomes a site of commentary on the text or situation, allowing translators to connect to a larger community which shares their viewpoint. This has become much more common in the last few years as video sharing has become easier through websites such as Youtube and Vimeo. These non-professional practices are also affecting commercial subtitling, as shown in Pérez-González's discussions of subtitles in the BBC's Human Planet (267-269) and Sherlock (272-274). Both multimodality and self-mediation represent important new directions for audiovisual translation research. As a reader, I found these chapters interesting, challenging and very worthwhile.

Audiovisual Translation draws from a range of disciplines, incorporating insights from film studies, media studies and fan studies into the audiovisual translation frameworks. This gives the book a rounded, "thick" approach to audiovisual texts that can place them in their contexts of production and reception while also taking into account the effect of technology on both. I felt that it could, on occasion, theorise the agency of spectators in a more positive way, as sometimes they were regarded as passive, but one thing that fan and cultural studies have shown us over the last 30 years is that spectators are often active and discerning in their cultural consumption, just like the "prosumers" (233) Pérez-González focuses on. The difference is that prosumers leave obvious traces of their experience. That said, Audiovisual Translation does offer a nuanced view of the role of media in people's lives.

The writing is clear, well-paced and punctuated with a range of examples that demonstrate the theories under discussion. Audiovisual Translation is unique in offering examples from subtitling, dubbing, audio-description and even multilingual versions (215-217), allowing comparisons across modes of translation. Combining originality, rigour and accessibility, it is an important addition to translation studies scholarship.

Jonathan Evans
University of Portsmouth