I recently travelled by train and when I logged onto the in-train Wi-fi got this image:
It was offering me a suite of films in either German or their original language. The image reminded me of the dubbing lessons in my Translation Studies degree. Any worthwhile training or degree in translation includes at least some lessons in dubbing. There is a lot of dubbing and less subtitling in Germany, so with my language combination this is a market which should not be ignored.
Matching the mouth
Many “monolinguists” think that us “multilinguists” can just turn something from one language into another without any effort. Unfortunately, even with something relatively average, like this blog post, it is not always easy to find the right tone or word. When dubbing, even more factors come to bear. The dubbed text should not be longer than the original. Nobody will believe Will Smith is still talking if his mouth has stopped moving. With close-ups it is really important that the lips only touch when there is an F or a P or similar labial sound in the German word.
We were given the task of translating a close-up of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction and then record our translation. The number of syllables needed to match, the lip movements needed to match and at one point you can see her rolling her tongue, so a sound needed to be found to work for that too. And of course, the meaning needed to be the same in German as it has been in English!
Experts for everything
As is so often the case, there are experts for most things, including dubbing. And it was absolutely clear to me during those classes, that translating for lip synch dubbing was not for me! Experienced dubbing translators can apparently come up with a broadly matching translation at the first attempt, which is used by the voice artists to record the synchronised soundtrack. I am going to stay in my comfort zone – finance, economics and air sports!