“Overcoming the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles”: The Oscars and multilingualism

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Below is a guest post by Tihomir Rangelov.

The Korean film Parasite’s landslide success at the Oscars this year has been called "a cultural breakthrough". Was it a linguistic breakthrough as well?

For the first time in its 90-year history, the US-based Motion Picture Academy chose a foreign-language film for its Best Picture award.

During an earlier award acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, Parasite’s director Bong Joon Ho talked about "overcoming the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles".

He was referring to the well-known tendency for many in the USA and other (mostly English-speaking) countries to avoid films with subtitles. Subtitles feel “unnatural”, as someone put it. “Subtitled movie is itself a derogatory term, which refers to artsy, boring works that only cater to certain movie buffs,” film critic Gang Yoo-Jeong said.

Such subtitle-avoiding societies tend to be linguistically diverse (both in terms of indigenous and heritage languages) but also surprisingly monolingual. “This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish”, as Mr. Trump once summarized the situation.

It is well known that multilingualism is the norm rather than the exception around the world (see this lecture on the topic by Nick Evans), so monolingualism in countries like the USA is at least as unnatural as subtitles on a movie, if not more so.

In his speeches and interviews, director Bong Joon Ho consistently code-switches between English and Korean (e.g. here). This is another novelty. Code-switching is not commonly seen on American TV. I loved his half-apologetic, half-cheeky laugh when he said in perfect English: "I am a foreign language filmmaker so I need a translator here. Please understand." The interpreter herself has been in the spotlight as well.

All of this has not gone unnoticed. Ellen DeGeneres noted it, just before mispronouncing Taika Waititi's name.

Taika Waititi (another 2020 Oscar winner) himself has pointed out how many people in his native New Zealand mispronounce Maori names, hinting at a stubborn love for monolingualism in NZ, even though the country has two official spoken languages.

There was a lot of talk about racial and social inclusion around this year’s Oscars. Perhaps we are witnessing the beginnings of linguistic inclusion as well.

Above is a guest post by Tihomir Rangelov.


  1. Andreas Johansson said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 12:39 am

    Having grown up with subtitles, I find it hard to think of them as somehow unnatural – or at least more unnatural than TV and movies as such.

  2. Bob Ladd said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 12:45 am

    The author bashes the Anglosphere too hard over monolingualism and disdain for subtitles with the parenthetical comment "(mostly English-speaking)". Dubbed films and TV shows are the norm in both Italy and Germany, to cite two examples I'm familiar with, and my guess is that other languages with sufficiently large populations support significant dubbing industries as well.

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 12:52 am

    Bored to tears with the mainstream dross that characterises terrestrial television and Hollywood films (with the odd exception such as The Revenant and Kill Bill), and stimulated by the immediate availability of foreign films when travelling long-haul on Etihad, I have for the past fifteen years or so watched mainly films from overseas, especially the far east. The Chinese historical dramas shewn on CCTV have played a major part in my life, and I have also enjoyed offerings such as <Malaikat tanpa sayat (Indonesian), Mongol (Mongolian, Mandarin) and Yokkakan no Kiseki (Japanese). I thought that Parasite was superb, as were many other Korean films I had watched previously.

    As I was for some years the organiser of a local film club in Kent (South_East England), I took the opportunity to ensure that the programme included some of these, but I cannot say with honesty that they were well received. A few found them interesting and enjoyable, but the majority were put off by the subtitles. For myself, the subtitles posed no barrier whatsoever, but I am clearly in the minority. Dubbed films I regard as complete anathema — I remember many years ago watching Seven Samurai with Japanese on the main sound system, English in the earphones, and French sub-titles. The English dubbing was so awful that even though I spoke not a word of Japanese at the time, I listened to the main sound system and augmented my understanding with the aid of the sub-titles.

  4. MattF said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 2:48 am

    I remember, many years ago, watching a James Bond movie in Switzerland– through three sets of subtitles. I prefer subtitles– you get to hear the actor's voice– but three different subtitle languages was a lot.

  5. Ross Presser said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 2:59 am

    Either because of my own sub-clinical hearing issues, or because my family has a persistent habit of talking over the TV, I have grown to be thoroughly addicted to closed captioning on everything, even videos voiced in English that I watch when I am completely alone in the living room.

    Watching a subtitled movie with voice in a language I don't understand still feels a little stilted, and I sometimes bounce off it. The need to watch that bottom inch sometimes makes me feel like there is a barrier between me and the actors. But it's often worth it, and on a second viewing, the issue is much less.

  6. KeithB said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 3:00 am

    When I lived in Downey, CA, I went to see one of the Star Wars movies at a theater in Bell Gardens. It was subtitled. In Spanish.

  7. Rose Eneri said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 3:09 am

    My husband & I are used to subtitles because we often watch TV with the closed captioning on. We started doing this with "The Wire" because we could not understand the urban language. We also use closed captioning for British shows that feature several different accents. We can get used to one accent, but not several spoken in one show.

  8. ajay said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 3:14 am

    I'm with Bob Ladd on this one – what makes English-speaking societies unusual is not that they avoid films with subtitles, but that they don't watch films that have been dubbed.

  9. ajay said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 3:15 am

    "We started doing this with "The Wire" because we could not understand the urban language."

    Ah, yes, that tricky urban language.

  10. Twill said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 3:49 am

    Overdubbing is a good point to raise. Many languages have a dubbing industry for children's programming and blockbusters but inevitably use subtitles elsewhere. From that perspective, English language media is remarkably subtitle-*embracing*, as dubbing is stereotyped as being of poor quality (the kung fu movie gag) and patronising, as compared to perception in e.g. Italian or Spanish media. Anecdotally, it's true that many English speakers dislike subtitles, but so do many speakers of other languages (in particular people seem to be aghast at my preference to use subtitles spoken in the same language as the media for whatever reason, at least as soon as they realize I'm not relying on them as closed captions). I really have no idea what the idea the Anglosphere (or countries of similar linguistic backgrounds?) is notably averse to subtitles is founded on.

    On another point, is it really code-switching to carry some of a conversation in the language of your interlocutor while otherwise relying on interpretation?

  11. Jonathan Smith said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 3:57 am

    The main problem with subtitles/dubbing in my experience is the uneven-to-say-the-least quality of the translation. Since writing/language matters in (worth-watching) film, etc., even a pretty damn decent job with the titles gets you maybe MAYBE 50 cents on the dollar in terms of experience via the second language.

  12. BZ said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 4:36 am

    Subtitles make it almost certain that you miss some of the action while reading the subtitles and vice versa. I strongly prefer dubs as long as they are high quality.

  13. bks said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 5:07 am

    While I have to subtitle modern English movies with English subtitles, this is due to the emphasis on mumbling realism by modern directors. Movies made in, say, 1940 are completely understandable despite the primitive recording technology.

    However stand-up comedy just doesn't work, as the subtitles completely negate the timing of the comedians.

  14. George said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 5:16 am

    One sign of an excellent film is when you stop being conscious of reading the subtitles a few minutes in. So, basically, if it's worth seeing, it's worth seeing with subtitles.

  15. Phillip Helbig said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 6:05 am

    The author bashes the Anglosphere too hard over monolingualism and disdain for subtitles with the parenthetical comment "(mostly English-speaking)". Dubbed films and TV shows are the norm in both Italy and Germany, to cite two examples I'm familiar with, and my guess is that other languages with sufficiently large populations support significant dubbing industries as well.

    Sadly, this is true. In fact, it is one of my two main complaints about Germany (where I have lived most of my life) (the other is exaggerated federalism). The size of the population probably has something to do with it, as subtitles are cheaper. This is also a reason why, compared to, say, the Dutch or Danes, Germans tend to speak other languages less well. Considering that dubbing was invented in southern Italy for illiterate audiences, the fact that dubbing is the norm in Germany should be embarrassing for the Land der Dichter und Denker.

  16. sicherhalten said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 6:46 am

    I watched the Indian movie PK with subtitles and loved every second of it. My parents of course thought it was dumb, but I think they had trouble reading the fast subtitles. Of course, when you grow up without them it is going to be difficult. Anyway, at my high school, every movie has subtitles. There was some sort of law or procedure or something about deaf people. I did actually like it. Movies can be so dramatic (too dramatic): either too loud, or too quiet, so, it was helpful that I could at the very least understand what they were saying… shouting or whispering.

  17. Geoff M said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 7:59 am

    Following on MattF's remark, I grew up going to the opera in Toronto, the birthplace of surtitles, and could never understand the aversion some people have to them. Now that I live in Montreal, where surtitles are shown simultaneously in French and English at each performance, I find the screen a bit busy.

  18. Julian said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 8:14 am

    Watching Italian opera in Budapest with Hungarian surtitles was a bit mind-bending. I came out knowing how to say 'let's go' in Hungarian

  19. Christian Weisgerber said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 8:43 am

    Alas, Korean has side-stepped the question what exactly qualifies as a "foreign language" in the US. Spanish? Navajo?


    Those who have traveled across Europe—or looked up the topic on Wikipedia—know that there are three different schemes deployed across the continent when it comes to dealing with foreign language movies/TV:

    (1) A large swath of Europe including Spain, France, Italy, and Germany uses dubbing.
    (2) Many predominantly smaller countries use subtitles and only dub children's programming.
    (3) Some countries such as Poland use a lector: The original audio is left in the background and a single voice (or a male and a female) reads a translation of all dialog.

    An objective observation is that most of the people who have grown up with one of these schemes consider it to be evidently the best at dealing with the issue and they know that the other two alternatives are vastly inferior.

    And of course Netflix has famously found out that if you ask American audiences, they'll tell you that they prefer subtitles, but if you observe their actual choices, the majority picks dubbing.


    Much ink has been spilled on the quality of translations. One issue that hasn't attracted much attention yet is the fact that, if one of the languages involved isn't English, then subtitles (or presumably the initial script for a dub) are frequently no longer directly translated from source to destination language, but instead via English as an intermediary.

    This can be readily observed by comparing the multitude of subtitles available on Netflix. A particular glaring example are the German subtitles of Netflix's La casa de papel (Money Heist). Both Spanish and German have an equivalent T-V distinction in their second person pronouns, but obviously all text has been flattened from tú/vosotros/usted/ustedes into English "you" and then by blind guesswork split again into du/ihr/Sie. The result is plausible on its own—I doubt German viewers will notice problems—but it doesn't correspond to the original. And things get a bit silly when characters explicitly talk about switching from formal to informal address, the English translation extemporizes with something like "let's be less formal", and this is then faithfully translated into German.

  20. David L said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 9:30 am

    Many years ago, in Finland, I saw The Longest Day, the 1960s D-Day movie. I'd seen it before, with all the spoken dialogue in English, but what I didn't know until the later viewing was that the movie was made with French and German actors who spoke their lines in their own language. So what I saw in Finland was a trilingual movie with bilingual subtitles, in Finnish and Swedish. Fortunately the plot was simple and familiar and not hard to follow. But the subtitles took up quite a bit of space.

  21. KevinM said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 10:18 am

    Some of the most appalling subtitling I can remember seeing was on a marvelous film, the 1964 Russian-language Hamlet. Instead of just drawing on the Shakespearean original, in crucial scenes they had somebody translate the Russian translation back into English, with predictable results. And it didn't matter. Dir. Kozintsev, Russian trans. Pasternak, score Shostakovich-wow. (Criticized for being heavily cut, but no more so than, e.g., Olivier's, or the one with (!) Mel Gibson).

  22. Chas Belov said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 12:20 pm

    The first subtitled movies I encountered would have been in my teens, and I do prefer that strongly over dubbing.

    I can read perhaps 300 Chinese characters and can often tell the difference between written standard Chinese and written colloquial Cantonese. In the 90's when I was studying Cantonese and San Francisco Chinatown had three theatres showing films from Hong Kong – alas, today there are none – most films were shown in Cantonese with English and standard written Chinese subtitles. At some point I started encountering the occasional Cantonese film subtitled in English and colloquial Cantonese. I remember being surprised by that and still wonder why it was done, whether it was an accommodation for blind people, a way to save money on the subtitles, or something else.

    An example of a Cantonese film that was subtitled in English and colloquial Cantonese would be Queen of Temple Street (1990). Not sure whether that would be true of current prints/downloads.

  23. John Swindle said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 12:57 pm

    There's controversy in Mexico over a proposal to require foreign films to be dubbed into Spanish and at least one Mexican indigenous language. Theaters could still show films without dubbing if they had at least as many screens showing dubbed versions at the same time. The proposal is intended to support Mexican voice actors.

  24. D.O. said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 3:07 pm

    Being monolingual and needing subtitles are not all that strongly connected. I doubt that most people are proficient listeners in more than 3 languages. If the movie is not shot in one of them… And at any rate, suppose L1 Anglophone Americans suddenly develop the love of other languages, some would learn Spanish, others German, French, Russian, one of the Chinese, some Korean, a few Japanese and some dedicated group learns Nahuatl. How exactly this reduces the need of subtitles/dubbing?

  25. Alexander Pruss said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 4:30 pm

    I prefer to watch everything with subtitles, including films in my dominant language (English) and in my native language (Polish). I've gotten used to doing it this way, and my older children for whom English is native and dominant watch English-language stuff with subtitles even when I'm not around. (I recall that my daughter used to also watch scary stuff with the audio turned off, and subtitles on, to make it less scary.)

    Getting the dialog both in writing and in speech feels like the best way to get the best comprehension.

    When I watch something without subtitles, with the exception of when I am in the movie theater (where somehow I have gotten conditioned to the lack of subtitles), it feels like something is missing from the experience; it is less enjoyable as I have to work harder to understand.

    I am one of those people for whom the written form of a language feels primary. I suppose we're a minority in the general population, but probably not uncommon in academia.

    By the way, it's an interesting experience for me when the audio is in a language that I know but not very well, and the subtitles are in English. I then sometimes can't tell whether my understanding of the dialog came from the spoken language or from the subtitles. My brain seems to be merging the simultaneous data from both in an illuminating (and quite pleasant) way. I know that at times I'm getting the understanding from the audio, as I catch some lacks of fidelity in the subtitles, but I also know that my understanding can't be all from the audio as I just don't know the language well enough. I may have a somewhat similar experience in reverse in church when I follow the spoken English Bible readings on my phone in Greek (which I'm rather mediocre at).

  26. Phil Bowler said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 4:58 pm

    "Many years ago, in Finland, I saw The Longest Day, the 1960s D-Day movie. I'd seen it before, with all the spoken dialogue in English…”
    I saw TLD when it was first released in the UK. It was remarkable for a war film (of which there were plenty in the ‘50s) in that the Germans (and French) spoke their own language (and were not treated as wicked but bumbling idiots). I checked on IMdB and found this comment:
    "One of the first World War II films made by an American studio in which the members of each country spoke nearly all their dialogue in the language of that country: the Germans spoke German, the French spoke French, and the Americans and the British spoke English. There were subtitles on the bottom of the screen to translate the various languages. There were two versions of this movie, one where all the actors spoke English and the other (the better known one) where the French and German actors spoke their respective languages.”
    Possibly it was this that first established my appreciation of subtitled films – though perhaps French and Swedish films of the '60s did more for that!

  27. James Webb said,

    February 27, 2020 @ 6:25 pm

    In regards to what Bob Ladd mentioned about Italy and Spain using dubbing, I wanted to bring up the situation in Korea. Korea rarely uses dubbing outside of children's programming. Occasionally you can find dubbing as an alternate track on blu-ray disks, but even that is extremely rare outside of Marvel movies. Television is the same, with even the largest and most popular American dramas being shown in English with Korean subtitles. So Korean audiences are pretty accustomed to watching things with subtitles. As such, it's not that uncommon for large theaters to show foreign films that would be in a small arthouse theater in the US. A majority of what is in Korean theaters is Korean films or subtitled Hollywood films, but I've been able to watch subtitled Japanese, French and Russian films on the big screen in Seoul (and a staggering number of films from various countries in indie theaters or festivals). I realize this is anecdotal, but I've found Korea to be far more open-minded to international film than the US.

  28. Rube said,

    February 28, 2020 @ 2:09 am

    Where subtitles tend to cause me the most problems is with French movies. My French is not good enough to ignore the subtitles, but is good enough to catch where the subtitles have made an odd translation choice. That's a bit distracting.
    And, of course, there are the movies where the subtitles are in white, against a white background. . .

  29. Trogluddite said,

    February 28, 2020 @ 3:29 am

    @Alexander Pruss: "I am one of those people for whom the written form of a language feels primary. I suppose we're a minority in the general population, but probably not uncommon in academia."
    This also appears to be relatively more common for autistic people, in particular those identified as as "hyperlexic"; as I was during my diagnostic assessment for Asperger's syndrome (there is still some debate about whether hyperlexia occurs in the absence of other autistic traits – my personal opinion is that it is highly likely). My progress in speech comprehension was somewhat retarded as a child, and some minor difficulties persist even in adulthood, yet I took to reading and writing like a duck to water long before it was expected of me.

    When watching TV or a movie, I feel compelled to read English subtitles whenever they are present even when the spoken language is clearly pronounced English (the only language I speak), and I experience a feeling similar to that which you described of being unsure whether the audio or the text is the source of my comprehension. It's a compulsion which can be rather distracting at times – I can struggle to follow what someone is saying if they're standing in front of a notice board, for example.

    I wonder whether this might be even more pronounced for those people who experience so-called "ticker-tape" synaesthesia, who perceive visually words which are physically only heard (they have their own internal subtitler, so to speak). I've read accounts by some who describe impaired comprehension when they are unable to form an image of the words, and that the images may include their own idiosyncratic spellings of words which they have never seen written. I don't recall seeing any accounts of whether or how this is affected by hearing speech in a known secondary language or the person's fluency in that language.

  30. David L said,

    February 28, 2020 @ 6:50 am

    @Phil Bowler: Interesting, I didn't know that there were two versions. I must have seen the English-only version when I was quite young, and in retrospect assumed it had been dubbed.

  31. Ed Rorie said,

    February 28, 2020 @ 7:48 am

    I often use captions when watching English-language movies and television programs that involve mumbling (which you don’t usually find in old movies made before method acting came along) and those in which background noise and music make spoken dialog difficult to hear (something that is getting worse as time goes by, probably through a combination of trends in sound editing and a decline in my hearing). Recent stuff usually has pretty accurate captioning, but old TV shows that have probably been captioned retroactively are often full of mistakes that I assume to be caused by generational and/or regional factors that leave caption writers without a clue as to what characters are talking about.

  32. Jim said,

    February 28, 2020 @ 8:29 am

    I have found an increasing number of people turn captioning on for any of their video watching that involves headphones or ear buds. Part of this is aging, but often the dynamic range and compression issues on these devices makes voices a bit harder to hear. And between working out, transit, air travel, and open office floorplans, a huge amount of video watching these days is on such devices.

    That should make subtitled films more acceptable over time.

  33. Leo said,

    February 29, 2020 @ 4:50 am

    Is the accusation against 'subtitle-avoiding societies' that they prefer dubbing, or that they eschew foreign language films altogether?

    When I watched TV in Russia, English-language shows were dubbed, but with the original English voices still faintly audible beneath the Russian, and indeed with a slight pause before the dubbing cut in.

  34. Rodger C said,

    February 29, 2020 @ 5:28 am

    generational and/or regional factors that leave caption writers without a clue as to what characters are talking about

    As I once remarked, television subtitling seems to be done by twenty-year-olds with sharp ears and quick fingers who know absolutely nothing.

  35. Dara Connolly said,

    February 29, 2020 @ 10:58 am

    The "Scandi Noir" genre of TV crime shows has seen subtitled TV series such as The Bridge (Bron/Broen) and The Killing (Forbrydelsen) enjoy a high level of popularity in the UK. The Bridge aired on BBC with original dialogue in Swedish and Danish and subtitled in English, with viewer numbers consistently in excess of 1.5 million. This shows that there is a significant cohort in some English-speaking countries who are open to watching subtitled content.

  36. Kaleberg said,

    February 29, 2020 @ 3:11 pm

    I remember Jackie Chan's Police Story 3 which was in Cantonese with English subtitles, at least until Chan went undercover on the mainland. Then we had Cantonese subtitles, I assume, as well as English subtitles. These took up a lot of the screen, especially for an action movie. Since this was a Jackie Chan movie, I half expected him to grab some of the mass of text below and use it one of his fight scenes. Then, Chan made it back to Hong Kong and we got the best subtitle of all, in English it was "You can speak Chinese now." Some of us in the English speaking audience were sure that is what everyone had been speaking for some time. At that point we went back to English only subtitles.

    P.S. I have no problem with subtitles, but a lot of people have trouble reading them quickly enough. If you have dyslexia, even in a mild form, it can be a problem. Also, many children can't read as quickly as adults, so a family film with subtitles wouldn't work. Throw in the casual television or streaming viewers who like to listen in while grabbing a snack from the kitchen, and you've further cut your audience.

    P.P.S. A friend from Barcelona told me that the animated show known in the US as Tweety and Sylvester was released in Spain as The Cat From Seville and was dubbed with various regional accents. Sylvester was from Seville, and Tweety was from Catalonia. I gather Catalan independence protestors used Tweety in some of their political posters. Everyone knew where he was from.

  37. monscampus said,

    February 29, 2020 @ 4:23 pm

    I recently had to see a doctor, because I thought I might have become hard of hearing. I was wrong!
    The reason for missing bits of dialogue in undubbed films – and non-existing sub-titles – in my mother tongue (!) was obviously the mumbling as mentioned above. Quite often recent films contain sobbing scenes, e. g. a person being questioned. Apparently the other characters can always catch the meaning, but I can't. I rely on reading a summary or review later to find out what I missed. Obviously I'm not the only one.

    About the quality of dubbing and/or sub-titling. Sometimes the translators are only provided with a faulty transcript without the film, persumably to "save time and money". The job isn't necessarily done by twenty-year-olds who know nothing, but by those who need the money.
    Although I very rarely work in this branch, I once shared a job with a colleague on the other side of the Big Pond. We both had the film version, but I couldn't open it. So she had to describe all the details to me before I could even start to translate my part. In the end it won an international prize, so the viewers probably got a gist of it. On the other hand, dubbing is even more demanding.

  38. Norman Smith said,

    March 1, 2020 @ 11:18 am

    I saw "Parasite" recently in Mexico. At first, the movie started with a French soundtrack and French subtitles (we also had the choice of a Korean soundtrack and no subtitles). In the end, we saw a version with a French soundtrack (i.e., dubbed voices) and English sub-titles. In any case, the movie was excellent, but I think it would have been better with the original Korean voices.

  39. Christopher Blanchard said,

    March 1, 2020 @ 1:57 pm

    I do hate dubbing. A good example is the french film "La Cage aux folles", which I think is a marvelous film. The plot, such as it complicated is, is about two blokes who happen to be queens. There is a lot of comic gay-culture mickey taking – brilliant. Then the dubbing re-creates one of the characters with the kind of diction, including high pitched trills and lisps, which one might hear in an awfull pub drag act. It was completely out of character, and worse, the plot couldn't work with a central character, sometimes in disguise, sounding so stupid. Just an example, but even if I don't understand a language I can get part of a character from how she or he sounds, so subtitles are just a support.

  40. stephen said,

    March 1, 2020 @ 3:47 pm

    I recently saw two Hindi films, War, and Dream Girl. They were dubbed; I think they were both in Telugu. But I was surprised to notice the actors sometimes randomly put in English words and phrases. Those were sti8ll dubbed in English. This raises a lot of other questions.

    Was the English really random? Is this common in films? Did the director have anything to do with it? Do people in India normally switch into other languages?


  41. stephen said,

    March 1, 2020 @ 4:19 pm

    I remember a long time ago watching part of What's Up Tiger Lily. Woody Allen took a Japanese spy movie and made it a comedy. Unfortunately I'd missed the first part, and it seems like I couldn't hear it very well, I didn't watch much of it. What did others think?

  42. Andreas Johansson said,

    March 1, 2020 @ 7:50 pm

    @Trogluddite: I was anything but hyperlexic as a kid, having considerable difficulty learning to read and write at all, yet as an adult I find myself completely unable not to read subtitles if they're present (as long as they're in a script I can read).

  43. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 2, 2020 @ 6:03 am

    There's also a WWI movie about the Xmas pause in fighting in which the characters speak in French, English, & German, according to the nationality of their character. I can't remember the name now.

    @Christopher Blanchard & "La Cage": that reminds me of an SNL (?) sketch about Jerry Lewis & France. His "Jerry's Kids" commercials had been overdubbed with his "wacky" comedic voice.

    I watch British crime shows, both serious and not so much (such as "Marcella" as well as "Midsomer Murders"), always with subtitles. In addition to the various accents, sometimes vocabulary trips me up and I always end up having to look something up to see what the heck they're talking about.

    My brother learned to speak English by watching subtitled movies (with audio in Dutch, his 2nd language. 1st was German.).

  44. ajay said,

    March 2, 2020 @ 11:41 pm

    A friend from Barcelona told me that the animated show known in the US as Tweety and Sylvester was released in Spain as The Cat From Seville and was dubbed with various regional accents. Sylvester was from Seville, and Tweety was from Catalonia.

    The Scottish detective series "Taggart" was very popular in France in the 80s and 90s and was dubbed using Marseillais accents for all the Glaswegian characters and Parisian accents for everyone else. Good choice, I thought – if you want "high-crime regional port city with a strong industrial heritage and a very distinctive accent" then Marseilles is the French for Glasgow. Though for true representation of Glaswegian vs standard English, they should have used Occitan.

    I wonder how many other examples there are of clever translations of accents by dubbing artists?

  45. Philip Taylor said,

    March 3, 2020 @ 12:32 am

    Thank you for that note, Ajay — I shall make a point of trying to source some recordings of the French-dubbed Taggart episodes of which you speak.

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