Book Review: Audiovisual Translation: Taking Stock

This collective book offers a solid insight into audiovisual translation (AVT) both from the academic and the translation industry perspectives. It was not that long ago that Díaz-Cintas (2008:1) claimed that “the Cinderella mantle that has surrounded this area of knowledge seems to have (partially) evaporated,” as the wealth of publications related to AVT was already being acknowledged back then and also in more recent publications such as Baños-Piñero and Díaz-Cintas (2015) and Esser, Smith and Bernal-Merino (2016). Today’s AVT landscape is one of crystallisation of this thriving discipline, with the opening of new research avenues, the organisation of numerous international research events and the publication of collective volumes on the topic. As an example of such a process of entrenchment of AVT in our society, this book is a most welcome addition to the existing body of research literature, shedding light on various AVT practices and research projects. Made up of sixteen articles, written by scholars and professionals from around the world, they are representative of the thematic variety that characterises the field of AVT today.

9781443874328.jpgIn the first chapter of this book, the editors share their views on the place occupied by AVT in academia. However incipient AVT may be as an independent research field, it has managed to grow by leaps and bounds under the umbrella of Translation Studies, although some voices have started to call for its full independence as a new discipline. The first contribution is that of Camus-Camus, who minutely drafts an analysis of the process of censorship applied to Duel in the Sun (1949) under Francisco Franco’s regime in Spain. Bonsignori and Bruti explore the use of conversational routines in film language and dubbing through a comparative analysis of a corpus comprised of ten Anglophone films (1998-2008) and ten Italian films (2001-2010). Their findings are applicable to studies on oral naturalness in AVT, as well as contrastive analyses between native discourse markers and oral features of dubbese. Also adopting a descriptive point of view, Ellender’s investigation of the English subtitled version of the French film Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (2008) aims to contradict Clifford Landers’s (2001), arguing that linguistic variation-related features can indeed be fully represented in subtitling. Her study discusses the purposeful use of Ch’timi dialectal features in the English subtitles, demonstrating that language variety can indeed be reflected in the subtitles through the use of controlled spelling distortions.

By acknowledging the inner multimodality of audiovisual programmes, Gupta tackles the transfer of nonverbal cultural references on Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959) into its English and Spanish subtitled versions. She resorts to Chaume-Varela’s (1997) synthesis of film codes and, through a set of carefully selected examples, argues that the presence of nonverbal culture has a marked influence on the decision making process of the subtitlers. Di Pietro embarks on a multimodal analysis of the first five episodes of the American TV series How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014), in which she studies how certain instances of verbal and nonverbal humour have been dealt with in dubbing. In a similar vein, González-Vera analyses the instantiation of verbally expressed humour in the dialogue of Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Dreamworks’s Shark Tale, and unravels the way in which certain linguistic, personal and cultural references have been rendered in the Spanish dubbed versions. Minutella explores the transfer of humour and wordplay in the Italian dubbed versions of the four Shrek films for which she relies not only on a solid corpus of interlingual subtitles but also on interviews conducted with the translator and the dialogue writer of the films in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the translation process. By focusing on instances of youth language found in the first four seasons of the British teen comedy drama Skins (2007-2013), Ranzato offers a most comprehensive analysis of the various translation techniques implemented by the translators. Her findings highlight the contrast that exists between the creative nature of the Italian dubbed version of the first two seasons as compared to seasons three and four, for which MTV had explicitly requested the standardisation of the translation. Along similar lines, Mälzer-Semlinger examines the occurrence of oral features in media texts, with special emphasis on the strategies adopted when adapting novels into films. To illustrate her points, she resorts to three examples from the French film Entre les murs (2008), for which she conducts a fourpart analysis that considers the French original film script and novel, as well as the film subtitles and the dubbed dialogue exchanges in German.

Written from a reception and perception studies angle, the article by De Pablos-Ortega presents a stimulating empirical study on character perception in Pedro Almodóvar’s La flor de mi secreto (1995). The results from the 200 participants shed light on cultural differences in perceiving characters. Casarini explores the impact of the Italian fan phenomenon on the audiovisual industry by studying the USA musical TV series Glee (2009-2015). Whereas 2.0 viewership is gaining ground on account of the fansubbing phenomenon, the Italian dubbing industry remains static and does not seem eager to acknowledge the existence of this new type of audience.

Caimi and Mariotti explore the potential offered by subtitled audiovisual material in the teaching of content and language integrated learning (CLIL) modules in higher education. Based on previous CLIL teaching experiences, the authors concentrate on a course on the European Union and its Member States hosted by Pavia University’s Faculty of Political Science, for which they developed the audiovisual material and designed the methodological approach. Their experience foregrounds the positive impact that the use of intralingual subtitles has in multimedial education. Another article on reception and perception studies is the one authored by Cambra, Silvestre  and Leal, who test how children in primary school react to the current parameters used in subtitling for the deaf and the hard-of-hearing. In their two-part experiment, composed of two different samples of subjects and different materials, children were exposed to TV subtitled programmes in Catalan and their conclusions point to an overall ineffectiveness of the current provision of subtitled programmes in Catalan TV channels, mainly due to the high reading speed values. Eardley-Weaver focuses on current practices in opera subtitling for the deaf and the hard-of-hearing, with a special interest on announcements, special effects, linguistic variation and spatiotemporal constraints. In her experience, surtitles do not seem to be fully effective in accommodating the varying needs of the hearing and the deaf and the hard-of-hearing audiences. The last of the contributions, written by Jiménez-Hurtado and Soler-Gallego, presents an innovative theoretical and methodological framework for the analysis of multimodal communication in the study of museums as interactive, multilingual, multimodal communicative events.

All in all, the sixteen articles briefly presented above explore new avenues in AVT and constitute valuable food for thought for scholars and research students interested in the field. I highly recommend reading this collective book, not only because the way it is structured helps the readers to establish links between the articles, but also it adds value to the discipline and contributes to expand humanities scholarship.


  • Baños-Piñero, Rocío and Díaz-Cintas, Jorge (eds) (2015). Audiovisual Translation in a Global Context: Mapping and Ever-changing Landscape. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Chaume-Varela, Frederic (1997). “Translating non-verbal information in dubbing.” Poyatos, Fernando (ed.) (1997) Nonverbal Communication and Translation: New perspectives and challenges in literature, interpretation and the media. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 315-326.
  • Díaz-Cintas, Jorge (2008). “Introduction: Audiovisual translation comes of age.” Chiaro, Delia, Heiss, Christine and Bucaria, Ciara (eds.) Between Text and Image. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1-9.
  • Esser, Andrea, Smith, Iain Robert and Bernal-Merino, Miguel Ángel (2016). Media Across Borders: Localising TV, Film and Video Games. Milton Park, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Landers, Clifford E. (2001). Literary Translation: A Practical Guide, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Alejandro Bolaños García-Escribano

University College London


The Journal of Specialised Translation, Issue 28 – July 2017 (PDF)

For more information on Audiovisual Translation: Taking Stock and to purchase a copy, click here.

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