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the italian fansubbing phenomenon - Università degli Studi di Sassari
Università degli Studi di Sassari
Dipartimento di Teorie e Ricerche dei Sistemi Culturali
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment
for the degree of PhD in Theory and
Practice of Translation
CICLO XXV
THE ITALIAN FANSUBBING
PHENOMENON
Supervisor: Prof. Antonio Pinna
Candidate: Serenella Massidda
ANNO ACCADEMICO 2011 - 2012
CONTENTS
CONTENTS
p. 2
LIST OF FIGURES
p. 6
LIST OF TABLES
p. 6
LIST OF SCREENSHOTS
p. 7
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
p.9
1.1 RESEARCH CONTEXT
p. 18
1.2 REFLECTIONS ON THEORY AND METHODOLOGY
p. 21
CHAPTER 2
THE STATE OF THE ART OF ITALIAN AVT:
DUBBING VIS-À-VIS SUBTITLING
p. 29
2.1 A BRIEF HISTORY OF DUBBING
p. 31
2.2 THE SUBTITLING INDUSTRY IN ITALY
p. 35
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
2
CHAPTER 3
FANSUBBING
p. 39
3.1 THE HISTORY OF FANSUBBING:
JAPANESE ANIME FROM SASE TO DIGISUBS
p. 41
3.2 CO-CREATIVE LABOUR:
THE ORGANISED FAN INDUSTRY
p.44
3.3 THE ITALIAN FANSUBBING PHENOMENON
p. 48
3.4 ORIGINS OF ITASA AND SUBSFACTORY
p. 53
3.5 THE FANSUBBING MACHINE
p. 55
3.6 PIRACY OR PROMOTION?
p. 58
CHAPTER 4
SUBTITLING AND FANSUBBING STANDARDS:
A HYBRID PROPOSAL
p. 61
4.1 STANDARS IN PROFESSIONAL SUBTITLING
p. 62
4.1.1 SUBTITLING CODES OF CONDUCT
p. 64
4.2 FANSUBBING GUIDELINES
p. 70
4.2.1 THE ITASA METHOD
p. 71
4.2.2 SUBSFACTORY‘S MODUS OPERANDI
p. 75
4.3 A HYBRID PROPOSAL
p. 82
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
3
CHAPTER 5
EVOLUTION OF ITALIAN
FANSUBBING COMMUNITIES
5.1
p. 93
LOST: FROM A STRUGGLING BEGINNING
TO A HAPPY ENDING
p. 94
5.1.1 KEY FEATURES OF FANSUBBING
p. 95
5.1.2 LINE LENGTH AND CHARACTERS PER SECOND
p.96
5.1.3 TEXT ON SCREEN AND POSITION OF SUBTITLES
p.98
5.1.4 MEASUREMENTS AND CONVERSIONS
p.102
5.1.5 INTERFERENCE FROM DUBBESE
p.103
5.1.6 MISTRANSLATIONS:
WHEN PROFESSIONALS GO WRONG
p. 106
5.2
p. 114
EVOLUTION OF ITASA AND SUBSFACTORY
5.2.1 FAITHFULNESS IN TRANSLATION:
PROS AND CONS
p. 116
5.2.2 TEXT COMPRESSION AND OMISSION
p. 124
5.2.3 TYPOGRAPHICAL CONVENTIONS
p. 132
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
4
CHAPTER 6
CENSORSHIP AND HUMOR
IN CALIFORNICATION
p. 136
6.1 SEX, HUMOR AND FOUL LANGUAGE
p. 138
6.2 POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
p. 148
6.3 ADAPTION AND MISTRANSLATION
p. 151
6.4 CONCLUDING REMARKS
p. 158
CHAPTER 7
CONCLUSIONS: A STEP INTO THE FUTURE
p. 160
REFERENCES
p. 164
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
5
LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE 1
p. 19
FIGURE 2
p. 72
FIGURE 3
p. 74
FIGURE 4
p. 77
FIGURE 5
p. 80
LIST OF TABLES
TABLE 1
p. 100
TABLE 2
p. 110
TABLE 3
p. 111
TABLE 4
p. 139
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
6
LIST OF SCREENSHOTS
SCREENSHOT 1 A-B
p. 96
SCREENSHOT 2 A-C
p. 97
SCREENSHOT 3 A-B
p. 98
SCREENSHOT 4
p. 99
SCREENSHOT 5 A-B/6 A-B
p.100
SCREENSHOT 7 A-C
p. 101
SCREENSHOT 8 A-C
p.102
SCREENSHOT 9 A-B
p. 103
SCREENSHOT 10 A-B
p. 104
SCREENSHOT 10 C-D
p. 105
SCREENSHOT 11 A-B
p. 106
SCREENSHOT 11 C/12 A-D
p. 107
SCREENSHOT 13 A-D
p. 108
SCREENSHOT 14 A-D
p. 109
SCREENSHOT 15 A-D
p. 111
SCREENSHOT 16 A-B
p. 112
SCREENSHOT 17 A-C
p. 113
SCREENSHOT 18 A-C
p. 116
SCREENSHOT 19 A-B
p. 117
SCREENSHOT 19 C-D/20 A-D
p. 118
SCREENSHOT 21 A-D
p. 119
SCREENSHOT 22 A-C
p. 120
SCREENSHOT 23 A-D
p. 121
SCREENSHOT 24 A-C
p. 122
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
7
SCREENSHOT 25 A-D
p. 123
SCREENSHOT 26 A-F
p. 125
SCREENSHOT 26 G-H/27 A-D
p. 126
SCREENSHOT 27 E-H/28 A-B
p. 127
SCREENSHOT 28 C
p. 128
SCREENSHOT 29 A-D
p. 129
SCREENSHOT 30 A-C
p. 130
SCREENSHOT 31 A-B
p. 132
SCREENSHOT 32 A-B
p. 138
SCREENSHOT 33 A-B
p. 139
SCREENSHOT 33 C-D
p. 140
SCREENSHOT 34 A-D
p. 141
SCREENSHOT 35 A-B
p. 142
SCREENSHOT 35 C-D/36 A-B
p. 143
SCREENSHOT 36 C-D
p. 144
SCREENSHOT 37 A-D/38 A-B
p. 145
SCREENSHOT 38 C-D/39 A-D
p. 146
SCREENSHOT 40 A-D
p. 147
SCREENSHOT 41 A-B
p. 148
SCREENSHOT 41 C-D
p. 149
SCREENSHOT 42 A-D
p. 150
SCREENSHOT 43 A-B
p. 151
SCREENSHOT 43 C-D
p. 152
SCREENSHOT 44 A-D
p. 153
SCREENSHOT 45 A-D
p. 154
SCREENSHOT 46 A-D/47 A-B
p. 156
SCREENSHOT 47 C-D
p. 157
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
8
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
“An expansion of crowd-sourced
translation risks obscuring the essential,
but already underappreciated distinction,
between subtitling a movie and
translating its words.”
(Paletta 2012)
The quotation above was chosen as a brief example illustrating the
prevailing opinion concerning the fansubbing phenomenon worldwide. Both
academics and professionals can rest assured that we might agree with this
statement to some extent. Yet, the purpose of this study is not to demonstrate
the superior quality of fansubbing over subtitling, since the aim is to explore
the origin and evolution of the amateur translator‘s practice and beliefs, with
particular reference to the impact that this phenomenon has had on audiovisual
translation methodologies in Italy.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
9
The inspiration behind this research into amateur translation came long
before the PhD career path became a viable option. At that time, I was enrolled
in the MSc programme in Scientific, Technical and Medical Translation with
Translation Technology at Imperial College London (ICL). When the time
came to decide on a topic for my final dissertation, I immediately thought of
fansubbing as the most attractive option, since it represented a new research
field with considerable potential. The fansubbing project had, in fact, started
three years before in Italy: I had been following the movements of fansubber
from their inception, so that I was already familiar with their practices and
methodologies, and considering my background as a teacher of English and
translator, they obviously exerted a strong fascination over me.
Unfortunately, I was forced to focus on another topic as far as the master‘s
dissertation was concerned, since I realised that a longer period of investigation
was mandatory for a field of audiovisual translation that four years ago was
largely unresearched. In fact, three years ago, when the PhD research project
started, the first and foremost difficulty encountered was the absence of a
substantial review of literature on the subject matter. I, thus, embarked on a
long journey in search of relevant material not only on the same field of study,
but also on correlated areas of research that might be of use to the project.
It was thus that I came into contact with Media Studies, to find that various
academics had studied the phenomenon of ‗crowdsourcing‘ from an angle
other than linguistics, namely from the point of view of the fans.1
1 The term, resulted from merging the words of ‗crowd‘ and ‗outsourcing‘,was coined by
Howe in 2006, in his Wired magazine article ‗The Rise of Crowdsourcing‘. According to
the author, ―thanks to the technological advances the gap between professionals and
amateurs has shrunk, allowing companies to take advantage of the talent of the public‖
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
10
The discovery was enlightening since I came to realise that, in order to
understand fansubbing thoroughly, I had to shift my perspective from the point
of view of the researcher to the perspective of the fan. This is, then, the story of
a PhD candidate who became a fansubber.
Initially, I approached ItaSA by emailing them in order to take the test as a
would-be-fansubber. As a result, I was sent a link to a video, a file with time
codes and a link to the subtitling software necessary for the process. When it
was ready, I submitted my translation and had to wait a week before finding
out I was a member of ItaSA as a junior translator. A tutor assisted me during
the trial period in which I was to produce a certain number of translations for
the community. The worst part at first was the mastering of a variety of
subtitling software programmes which required long hours of practice, and in
that particular phase of my research I could not find enough time to explore
these aspects. As a consequence, my contribution to the community lasted only
a few months, and ended with the decision to leave it because I was unable to
perform as many translations as they needed from me.
After a year, during a visit to the department of Humanities (ICL), I decided
that it was about time to get in contact with the other fansubbing community:
Subsfactory. Upon successful completion of the entry test for translators, I
became a SIP.2
2
(Anon. 2012:11).
―Subber in prova‖, or would-be fansubber, the equivalent of ―junior translator‖ for ItaSA.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
11
A helpful tutor introduced me to the community and a proficient ―master
syncher‖ taught me how to cue the subtitles using the customised software.
The trial period was hard, as I spent long hours attempting to master the
timing process using open source resources, certainly less user-friendly than
the professional ones I was already accustomed to. Yet, after a couple of
months I became a fully-fledged ―master subber‖.
The community was pleasantly welcoming and I found myself at ease with
them. Once I was part of the fansubbing machine, I was able to grasp how the
organization operated from the inside, namely the motivation behind their
work, their passion as fans, along with their desire to learn English and share
the fruit of their work with fellow fans. I also discovered that the fansubbers at
Subsfactory took their ―job‖ very seriously, showing a profound respect for the
hierarchy (the revisers and administrators of the site) and particularly for the
responsibility associated with the fansubbing process. Admittedly, I started to
develop a dual personality: the researcher on one hand, and the fansubber on
the other. Retrospectively, despite the considerable commitment required, I
believe that participating in the community as a full member allowed me not
only to collect valuable information about the fansubbers‘ workflow and
organization, which would otherwise have been impossible for me to obtain,
but also to develop a wider perspective concerning the phenomenon.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
12
The present research study builds on prior research concerning amateur
translation conducted by Łukasz Bogucki, and found in Díaz-Cintas and
Anderman‘s Audiovisual Translation: Language Transfer on Screen (2009).
In his paper, Amateur Subtitling on the Internet, the author affirms that the
rise of crowdsourcing was due to the widespread use of internet technologies,
thanks to the advent of Web 2.0, the so-called ―web revolution‖ giving rise to a
new audiovisual translation mode, that of amateur subtitling.
After a brief overview of the phenomenon, Bogucki made it clear that the
problem with fansubbing ―lies not so much in squeezing the gist of what the
original characters say into 30 or so characters per line […]; the problem, it
seems, lies mostly in the quality of the source material and the competence and
expertise of the translators‖ (2009:50).
In the concluding remarks of his paper, the author ultimately deems the
work of fansubbers to be unfeasible, since the lack of access to original scripts
makes their work highly unpredictable, while their linguistic incompetence
severely undermines its credibility. However, he also argues that if amateur
subtitling were to reach near-professional standards, the resulting fansubs could
be subjected to translation quality assessment and thus contrasted with
professional subtitling. Since the quality of Italian fansubbing translations has
greatly improved with time, being produced under conditions almost
comparable with those found in a professional environment, as well as
fulfilling the requirements proposed by Bogucki, continued research into the
field was felt to be appropriate.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
13
The phenomenon under analysis, in which emphasis is placed on the
amateur translation of American TV series, has mainly emerged as a response
to the demands of fans, primarily as a means of avoiding the long waits
between seasons due to bureaucratic processes, as well as an alternative to
dubbing, which is nowadays perceived as an outmoded, unreliable, and
ultimately unsuitable mode of audiovisual transfer.
The key-factor in the phenomenon under analysis is the growth of the
Internet, with its almost infinite storage capacity, enabling anyone to watch,
download and upload a wide selection of content. This is the reason why,
during the past decade, with the widespread use of the Internet, younger
generations of Italians have come into closer contact with American culture.
Being exposed to American TV programmes in their original version on a daily
basis, they began to perceive that the Italian dubbed versions, addressed to a
stereotyped, homogeneous and monolithic audience, had undergone a process
of ‗nationalisation‘ (Danan 1999), which was no longer acceptable.
According to Cantor and Cantor (1986), ―programmers care primarily that
their product appeals to large numbers of viewers [...] and care little about the
meanings, significance, or ritual that television fulfils as a cultural product to a
core audience of dedicated fans‖.
Italian fans have felt, in some way, betrayed and grossly underestimated by
the policies of these dubbing companies. They have felt compelled to take the
lead in the current Internet revolution by gradually developing into organised
communities capable of creating their own alternative modes of translation for
themselves.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
14
Guided by the subculture surrounding fandom, fans have abandoned
mainstream broadcasting channels in order to experiment with unconventional
pathways built by grassroot networks of fans, the most popular of all being
ItaSA
(www.italiansub.net),
immediately
followed
by
Subsfactory
(www.subsfactory.it).
In this study, the phenomenon of Italian fansubbing is examined from its
origins until now in order to understand the profound transformations
experienced by Italian audiovisual translation to date. The focus of this
research project primarily involves the context within which the fansubbing
revolution began, followed by a review of the fandom and ‗co-creational
labour‘ (Banks 2009) seen from the perspective of Media Studies.
According to Banks, formerly passive TV consumers have ended up
becoming the primary actors in a major revolution, a collective subculture able
to resist the hegemony of more powerful institutions (Jenkins 1992).
Having contextualised the phenomenon from the angle of Media Studies, in
the third chapter the driving forces at the roots of this practice will be
examined, namely the creation of the first online communities, their
hierarchical structure and the roles adopted by fansubbers along with the
protocols and the technicalities employed in order to edit, produce and release
the fansubbed versions of the shows. In chapter four the comparisons between
subtitling and fansubbing norms will be investigated, as well as the ideological
aspects of this phenomenon.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
15
In the light of the theories propounded by Lewis (1985), Nornes (1999),
and Venuti (2008), relevance is given to the approach employed by fansubbers,
an approach which relates to ―foreignization‖ and ―target-orientedness‖ as
opposed to ―domestication‖, which is the guiding principle of mainstream
subtitling. The last section in the chapter focuses on subtitling based on brand
new guidelines deriving from a hybrid approach to both fansubbing and
mainstream practices. A ‗hybrid proposal‘, resulting from the merging of both
the professional and the fansubbing worlds, should aim to take into account the
needs of the viewer, while striking a balance between professional standards
and common sense. A set of norms with these features might, indeed, be
welcomed by a wider audience of Italian viewers who might choose to opt for
subtitling instead of dubbing.
In chapter five, a number of case studies will be described in order to
examine the main features of amateur subtitling, providing evidence for the
evolution of the communities under analysis in terms of quality and workflow
organization. The first case study focuses on Lost, a sci-fi TV programme with
a complex, nonlinear storyline developed with an extensive use of the ‗flashsideways‘ technique and a multiple narrative perspective device known as
‗polyphonic narrative‘ (Cate 2009). The case study in question is a comparative
analysis of episode one of the second season and episode one of the final
season of Lost aiming to identify the key features of fansubbing and trace the
evolution of amateurs‘ methodologies over time.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
16
The second case study addresses the topics of censorship and humour, as
well as the défaillances of both fansubbers and professionals. It is an analysis
of the pilot episode of Californication, a TV series treating the life of a novelist
à la Bukowski dealing with a writer‘s block as well as battling with his
addictions: sex, drugs and alcohol, a set of hot topics expressed in rather
explicit language.
Through a set of examples based on the failings of professional audiovisual
translators, there has also been an attempt to emphasise and discuss the reasons
for the deepening crisis in the subtitling market, as well as the current
transformation in the role of subtitler. Awkward though the failings of
professionals may be, they clearly indicate that the sphere of professional
translation is undergoing a critical phase, or as Gee and Hayes put it, ―the crisis
of the experts‖ (2011: 44). Thus, the conclusions derived from this study
transcend a merely qualitative linguistic analysis to encompass a wide range of
sociological aspects relating to the status of professional translators and the
professional opportunities facing translators in the future.
The thesis concludes with a consideration of fansubbing and the new avenue
of research connected with this study. By way of conclusion, it is argued that
Italian fansubbing has led to a redefinition of subtitling standards by both
professionals and academics. Indeed, the reshaping of subtitling norms — a
hybridisation of approaches, merging professional and fansubbing conventions
— might be advisable and is likely to happen in the future, and it might also
represent an interesting trend concerning research into Translation Studies,
which is likely to be forthcoming in the future.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
17
1.1 RESEARCH CONTEXT
The process of devising a methodological framework for the research is
dealt with in the introductory chapter of this thesis. The multidisciplinary
approach adopted here necessitated an investigation of different theoretical and
methodological studies, since the thesis includes both empirical and speculative
components, namely the theoretical investigation concerning norms in
mainstream subtitling and fansubbing, and the linguistic observation carried
out in the comparative case studies described in chapter 5 and 6. Therefore, the
speculative and practical nature of the project needed to be contextualized and
placed within definitive areas of research within Translation Studies as a
discipline.
The motivating force behind this research was if, and to what extent,
fansubbing has influenced audiovisual translation practices in Italy. It also
includes the dominant and recurrent inquiry posed in this project, the question
which is recurrent in every section of the dissertation, which we have
attempted to answer from a cultural, sociological and professional perspective.
The first step involved in the process was the selection of the audiovisual
material to be investigated, material which included a large archive of fansubs
(belonging to ItaSA and Subsfactory), videos, and DVDs with multilingual
features needing to be scanned in search of salient features peculiar to
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
18
fansubbing, as well as being useful in order to make parallels with subtitling.
Needless to say, the data collection stage proved to be relatively long and
laborious, since it involved viewing three versions of the same audiovisual
product several times.
In order to exemplify the empirical methodology adopted during this phase,
a screenshot has been included, showing the organization of a number of
videos and text files as they appeared on the computer screen during an
examination of an episode of the TV series under analysis (see figure 1).
Fig. 1
For the purpose of this research, the approach devised was of a qualitative
rather than a quantitative nature, even though a quantitative approach was
adopted initially by emailing a set of questionnaires to both ItaSA and
Subsfactory in order to acquire information about fansubbing communities.
Unfortunately, this technique was not favourably welcomed by the
fansubbers themselves, so we were forced to resort to different methods of
investigation more in tune with the research context.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
19
It was thus decided to adopt a qualitative paradigm consisting of interviews
and direct observations, owing to the fact that by developing a more informal
approach it was possible to come into closer contact with these underground
subtitling factories. Once established, the relationship with the amateur
translators went on to become a quasi-professional commitment, since it was
concluded that, in order to understand the phenomenon fully, it was necessary
to join the two communities in the role of fansubber.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
20
1.2 REFLECTIONS ON
THEORY AND METHODOLOGY
In this section the various theoretical approaches employed in the research
will be examined. In previous research focusing on audiovisual translation (cf.
Nida, 1969; Ivarsson and Carroll, 1998; Hatim and Mason, 2000), an approach
in which the study was carried out using a combination of subtitle translations
and back translations was used in order to find out whether the core meaning,
style and register of the original had been conveyed into the target text.
Drawing on this research pattern, the design of the empirical study proposed is
a comparative analysis of different translations of the same source text,
focusing on particular aspects relating to subtitling strategies, such as omission,
deletion, adaption, faithfulness and accuracy.
Toury‘s Descriptive Translation Studies (1995) was selected as the most
suitable approach for a comparative methodology of analysis, as it sheds light
on the norms at work in the subtitling process. Holmes‘ map of translation
studies (1972; 1988) formed the basis of Toury‘s Descriptive Translation
Studies (DTS), considered as one of the two main fields in Translation Studies,
the first centred on the empirical description of translation phenomena, and the
other focused on the theorisation of principles.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
21
As suggested by Holmes, the branch of DTS, in turn, is further divided into
three sub areas: ―product- oriented‖, ―function-oriented‖ and ―processoriented‖. As far as this research is concerned, ―product-oriented‖ DTS has
been used during the examination of existing translations, an examination
which involved a source text (ST) – target text (TT) comparative analysis of
several versions of the same text.
However, as stated by Toury, the three branches in question are strictly
interdependent and a thorough investigation requires a wider perspective
embracing the three aspects of DTS noted above. Seen in this light, the
―function-oriented‖ type of DTS, served to analyse the research context from a
social-cultural point of view, and the ―process-oriented‖ DTS, came into play
during the attempt made to understand the reasons behind the translational
choices made by subtitlers.
The results of the comparative analysis based on DTS were eventually fed
into the theoretical aspects of the research project, namely those relating to the
study of norms and conventions in subtiling and fansubbing. Therefore,
drawing on the initial empirical analysis, a particular emphasis has been placed
on the specific norms at work in subtitling and fansubbing, in an attempt to
describe the possible evolution of mainstream conventions as a result of the
empirical observation of translational behaviour (Pedersen 2011).
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
22
The issue of subtitling norms has attracted the interest of researchers over
the past few decades (cf. Toury 1981; Nord 1997; Chesterman 1997; Ivarsson
and Carroll 1998; Karamitroglou 1998; Hermans 1999; Carroll et al. 2004;
Pedersen 2011). Toury (1980; 1995) regarded translation as an activity
governed by specific norms which he categorised as ―initial norms‖,
―preliminary norms‖ and ―operational norms‖. ―Initial norms‖ involve the
selection on the part of the translators either of norms related to the source
language or the target language with a closer adherence to source language
norms leading to translation ‗adequacy‘ as far as the source text is concerned,
whereas ‗acceptability‘ in the target language culture is reached when
translators adhere to the norms of the receiving culture. ―Preliminary norms‖,
on the other hand, focus on the choice of the source text (e.g., text typology
and language) and ―operational norms‖ govern the process of translation. In
turn, they are subdivided into ―matricial‖ (centred on the omission and deletion
of the target text) and ―textual-linguistic‖ norms (focused on language and
style).
Conversely, Hermans (1999) proposed an alternative to Toury‘s notions of
―adequacy‖ and ―acceptability‖, using the expressions: ―source-oriented‖ and
―target-oriented‖ respectively. Hermans‘ approach to norms, together with
Chestermans‘ reformulation of Toury‘s norms will form the methodological
framework of this study.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
23
However, since there is no mutual consensus of opinion as far as the term
‗norm‘ is concerned, in the present study Chesterman‘s concept of ―expectancy
norms‖ (1997) has been used, a fact which is apparently central to the approach
adopted here, since they emanate precisely from what viewers expect and
above all demand: ―expectancy norms are established by the expectations of
readers of a translation (of a given type) concerning what a translation (of this
type) should be like‖ (1997: 64).
According to Chesterman‘s dichotomy, ―expectancy norms‖ indicate the
audience‘s expectations concerning subtitled products, while ―professional
norms‖ refer to the rules universally accepted by translators (cf. Sokoli 2011).
Chesterman holds the belief that readers are able to perceive what is either
appropriate or inappropriate in the translation of a certain text typology, thus
approving of the fulfillment of expectations related to translation. In fact, as the
author of this thesis has posited, at times there may be no shared consensus of
opinion regarding the norms imposed by the established authority.
The research departs at precisely this point, since we have speculated
regarding the manner in which fansubbing emerged in resistance to both
dubbing and subtitling conventions. The niche audience of TV show fans has,
in fact, permitted us to perceive mainstream conventions as outmoded,
inadequate and above all excessively ―target-oriented‖. In other words, ―targetoriented‖ translation norms are blamed for altering relevant aspects of
signification, idioms and register, and also for impoverishing the sense of
otherness inherent in the foreign dialogues in the name of fluency, readability
and the questionable notion of transparency.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
24
Against this background, it has been decided to employ a ―source-oriented‖
approach as constituting the core theoretical framework for this study, a
method inspired by the work of Schleiermacher (1813) and further developed
by Lewis (1985), Nornes (1999), and Venuti (2008).
The first academic to initiate the debate concerning domestication and
foreignization was Nida (1995), who was in favour of domestication. He
pointed out that potential misunderstandings should be avoided in translation
and, therefore, that it should read as fluently and transparently as possible.
However, it was Schleiermacher‘s lecture On the Different Ways of
Translation (1813) that for the first time managed to give relevance to the
concepts
of
―identity‖
and
―foreigness‖.
The
dicothomy
between
―domestication‖ and ―foreignization‖ is further explained in Venuti‘s The
Translator’s
Invisibility
(2008),
in
which
the
author,
following
Schleiermacher‘s theories, envisages an approach which gives prominence to
the cultural and linguistic difference of the source text, noting that the
translator should ―leave the author in peace and move the reader towards him‖
(ibid.:19). In contrast with the dominant domesticating approaches to
translation, he calls for a theory of the ―visible translator‖, a theory that is able
to counteract and resist ―dominant target-language cultural values in order to
convey the foreignness of the original text‖ (ibid.: 23).
Lewis‘s concept of ―abusive fidelity‖ further amplifies Venuti‘s ideological
theories on translation:
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
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―Abusive fidelity directs the translator‘s attention away from the
conceptual signified to the play of signifiers on which it depends, to
phonological, syntactical, and discursive structures, resulting in a
translation that values experimentation, tampers with usage, seeks to
match the polyvalencies or plurivocities or expressive stresses of the
original by producing its own‖. (ibid.:24)
The experimental strategies proposed by Lewis and involving various
aspects of translation, registers, dialects, styles, and lexicon for instance,
consistently adhere to the fansubbers‘ philosophy of translation. In their
adherence to the linguistic and cultural features of the source text, fansubbers,
the ―abusive translators‖, represent the genuine application of the foreignizing
theories described above. Fansubbers are not simply ―literal‖ in their approach
to translation, yet in the light of the above, they are almost revolutionary, as
confirmed by Nornes and his ―abusive subtiling theory‖ (2004).
According to Nornes (1999), the ―corrupt practices‖ of mainstream
subtitling aim to hide the otherness of the original audiovisual product by
conforming to the values, language and culture of the target audience. The
umbrella term ‗corruption‘ embraces a variety of translational behaviours
defined by Danan (1991) as ―nationalization‖, for example, the frequent
practice prevalent in Italian audiovisual translation of appropriating the source
text by converting foreign popular names into their target text equivalents, even
though the audience would be able to understand them perfectly.
These corrupt practices entail the reduced freedom of translators on
different levels. Following the global economic crisis, freelance subtitlers are
now requested to work on ‗templates‘, where time codes have already been
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
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established, so that they simply replace the source by the target language.
Needless to say, this modus operandi, meant to cut the costs of software
dongles, is also a way of retaining obsolete norms, set during the age of the
Hollywood studio system (cf. Nornes 1999; Díaz-Cintas in Anon. 2012).
In fact, the inability to perform the cueing process results in an added
curtailment of the translator‘s already limited freedom. Díaz-Cintas argued
that:
―When the timing has been done by a professional other than the
translator, the latter‘s freedom can be severely restricted. [...] if translators
could do their own spotting, they could be more flexible and make a more
rational use of the spaces needed for any given subtitle‖. (2002:2-3)
Similarly, Georgakopoulou (2006:30) highlighted the fact that ―thanks to
the development of dedicated subtitling software, subtitlers could […] spot the
film themselves and then write their translations so as to fit the time slots they
had spotted‖. Since they work outside the professional translation industry,
fansubbers, on the other hand, are able to fulfil the role of both ‗synchers‘ and
translators, and as a result, are responsible for and in greater control of the
whole subtitling process.
Therefore, whether we define our methodological framework as ―sourceoriented‖, ―foreignized, or ―abusive‖, the central idea is to move away from a
fluent, domesticated, transparent translation to an ―overt‖ kind of translation
(House 1977), in order to preserve the cultural and linguistic flavour of the
original. Thus, not only is the methodological approach used here openly
―source-oriented‖, but also ―viewer-centred‖, since the end-viewers, with their
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
27
growing demands for a revolution in the niche area of subtitling TV shows, are
central to the reshaping of subtitling norms. According to Hermans, ―norms
change because they need to be constantly readjusted so as to meet changing
appropriateness conditions‖ (1999:84).
In conclusion, a methodological overview of the multi-layered approach
employed in the investigation of the theory and practices adopted by the Italian
fansubbing communities has been provided in this chapter. Much has been
drawn from the systems theories related to translation, in particular from
Toury's Descriptive Translation Studies (1995) and Chesterman's subsequent
studies regarding norms (1997), with special reference to the notion of
―expectancy norms‖. In addition, the different approaches belonging to the
ideologies under examination within the field of Translation Studies, including
the dichotomy between ―domestication‖ and ―foreignization‖ examined by
Schleiermacher (1813) and Nida (1995), Lewis‘ ―abusive fidelity‖ (1985),
Venuti‘s concept of the translator‘s ―visibility‖ (2008), and Nornes‘s ―abusive
subtitling‖ (1999) all concurred to clarify the orientation adopted by the
fansubbing communities for their translations.
Not only were they paramount in helping to categorise and analyse the
phenomenon in depth, but also in determining a hybrid proposal — a set of
future guidelines for subtitlers — derived from mainstream subtitling and
fansubbing conventions (see chapter 4), considered as the main contribution of
this study to academic research in the field of audiovisual translation.
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
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CHAPTER 2
THE STATE OF THE ART OF ITALIAN AVT
DUBBING VIS-À-VIS SUBTITLING
In this chapter, the main audiovisual translation modes adopted in Italy are
examined, in an attempt to place them within their historical and cultural
perspectives, while highlighting the state of the art of these modes of transfer
which are currently being challenged by the radical transformation being
experienced by the increasingly globalised film industry. After a brief
introduction to the perennial dichotomy between dubbing and subtitling, the
well-known classification between northern and southern European countries
will be analysed.
While, in the first section, the tradition of dubbing in Italy is illustrated from
the advent of the first silent ‗talkie‘ in the late 1920s until the present day, in
the last section the state of the art of the Italian subtitling industry is described,
with a particular emphasis on the impact of changed market conditions, as well
as the professional identity crisis (cf. Kapsaskis 2011).
Italy is a country where dubbing is the predominant and rather systematic
form of screen translation employed, whereas subtitling is not even a secondary
option on public television, being merely confined to the niche market of film
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festivals, DVDs and pay-TV channels. Italy traditionally stands among those
European countries labelled as ‗dubbing countries‘, along with Austria, France,
Germany and Spain. In fact, geographically speaking, Europe has been
ideologically divided into two groups, namely, dubbing and subtitling
countries. This categorisation may appear to be oversimplified (cf. the
European Commission ―Study on Dubbing and Subtitling Needs and Practices
in the European Audiovisual Industry‖ 2007), but it clearly shows to what
extent other forms of audiovisual translation are eclipsed by these two
practices.
While, on the one hand, subtitling is typical of small countries — for
example, Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, Portugal, Belgium and Finland —,
characterised by a small population, the presence of bilingualism, and a high
percentage of imported films, on the other hand, dubbing is associated with
large, officially monolingual and more affluent countries. (Perego 2007).
Yet, these features alone, do not account for the choice of dubbing as the
preferred mode of translation in Italy, where historical events have played a
major role.
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2.1 A BRIEF HISTORY OF DUBBING
The origins of Italy‘s strong dubbing tradition may be traced back to the
1930s. In 1927 the American film industry released The Jazz Singer by Alan
Crosland, the first ‗talkie‘ with synchronised dialogues: though mostly silent,
the film switched to ‗talkie mode‘ whenever the star, Al Jolson, was singing.
The original version was first presented in Italy in 1929, causing a tidal
wave of adverse reaction on the part of Mussolini‘s Fascist Party which
responded with a ministerial decree aiming to ban the distribution of foreign
films with their original soundtrack. The 1930 act stated that: ―the Interior
Ministry has ordered that, from today, no permission will be granted for the
screening of films containing speech in a foreign language‖.3
The intervention of censorship, to counteract the predominance of American
film companies and to promote the Italian cinema industry, was also meant to
preserve the national language and control any information from outside the
national borders perceived by the regime as inappropriate.
Thus, the original film dialogues were replaced by captions, a practice that
was not favourably received by the audience, as viewers were forced to make
the extra effort to read while watching, and secondly because of the illiteracy
rate, which in 1930, equated to 25 per cent of a population of around 40,000
3
My translation. In the original:―Il ministero dell‘interno ha disposto che da oggi non
venga accordato il nullaosta alla rappresentazione di pellicole cinematografiche che
contengano del parlato in lingua straniera sia pure in misura minima‖(Perego 2007: 21).
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people, with 50 per cent of people experiencing problems with reading (Di
Cola 2000).
Meanwhile, American majors like MGM, Fox, and Warner Bros. in
Hollywood, attempted to re-enter the Italian market by shooting multiple
dubbed versions of the same film, in which actors of different nationalities
would employ the same script in their mother tongue. Yet, the impediment to
success of this method was that the actors — who were mainly Americans of
Italian descent —, used a regional dialect rather than the standard language, a
feature which was perceived as phony and misleading by the receiving culture.
Eventually, with the support of the fascist regime ―that realised the massive
appeal and impact film with sound could have on the masses‖ (Danan 1991:
611), the first Italian dubbing company was founded, the Cines-Pittaluga
studios based in Rome, where celebrated theatre actors were recruited as
dubbers, and from that moment on, the rest became history.
In time, the dubbing industry was to achieve a level of absolute excellence,
despite the many drawbacks involved in the practice which do not seem to
have discouraged the Italian audiovisual translation companies. Among these
drawbacks, the enormous expenses and the time required for the adaptation of
films may be singled out in particular. Following Danan, ―in an effort to build
strong nationalistic states, these countries [...] created infrastructures that are
still central to their film industry today‖ (ibid.: 611).
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PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
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Hence, the practice of dubbing, which was once mandatory under the
pressure of the Fascist regime, not only affected the contemporary mode of
transfer, but after over eighty years, it also continues to determine the
preference of the audience.
Nowadays, cinema adaptors belong to a complex, uneven hierarchical
structure. At the top is the elite, a small group of privileged people responsible
for a large number of dubbed film versions: they decide what to translate —
mainly films and high quality TV productions —, and set their own, very high
wages. At the bottom we find the largest group, which is made of adaptors
striving for a chance to work in the film industry (Pavesi and Perego 2006).
The study carried out by the authors noted above, has demonstrated that,
when asked about their training, adaptors affirmed that they did not believe it
necessary to their profession, whereas an excellent knowledge of Italian,
experience, writing skills and natural gifts seemed to be of paramount
importance. Moreover, the adaptors made it clear that they did not consider
themselves translators tout-court. Only a few of them hold a degree in
translation, since professional crafts and skills are said to be acquired on the
job. The manner in which adaptors join the dubbing industry is also quite
revealing. Acquaintances and family relations are the key factors to success in
the business, which in turn leads to an impenetrable working environment
―hardly accessible to outsiders‖ (ibid.:105).
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In recent years Italian adaptors have been facing radical changes in the
dubbing sector, ―with globalisation dictating that films should be premièred
simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic‖ (Antonini and Chiaro in DíazCintas and Anderman 2009:99), so that a film which was once adapted in three
weeks, now takes five days to be completed to the detriment of quality.
Ultimately, dubbing is expensive and time-consuming; authenticity is
sacrificed by depriving characters of their real voice, and most importantly, it
does not seem to have adjusted to the rapid changes witnessed by the film
industry in the new millennium.
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2.2 THE SUBTITLING INDUSTRY IN ITALY
“Subtitling indirectly promotes the use of
a foreign language as an everyday
function in addition to creating an
interest in a foreign culture.”
(Danan 1991: 613)
In 2011 the European Commission published a study on ―Dubbing and
Subtitling Needs and Practices in the European Audiovisual Industry‖,
contained in An Inventory of Community actions in the field of multilingualism
2011 update4, and intended to encourage linguistic diversity. This document
reveals that some countries traditionally inclined to dubbing (e.g., Italy, Spain
and France) are progressively moving towards subtitling as far as cinema
distribution is concerned, even if the costs are almost double the European
average. From this study, it also emerged that, for TV broadcasters, the choice
of whether to adopt dubbing or subtitling is mainly due to audience
preferences. Dubbing, thus, seems a ‗bad‘ habit hard to break, since ―the
general public prefers the comfort of the national language‖ (Anon. 2011).
4
A summary can be found online at:
www//ec.europa.eu/culture/media/programme/docs/overview/evaluation/studies/dubbing_s
ub_2007/ex_sum_ds_en.pdf. Accessed 07/10/2012.
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PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
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The history of subtitling started with the so-called ‗intertitles‘, which first
appeared in 1903 in E. S. Porter's Uncle Tom's Cabin, as a text inserted
between the sequences of the movie. In 1938, subtitles made their debut on
television when the BBC presented the first foreign film with English subtitles,
Robinson's Der Student von Prag; yet, it was only during the 1960s that the
first caption generators entered the market, and by the mid-70s the teletext
system had invaded the market to such an extent that in the late 1990s ―fifteen
European countries were providing a teletext subtitling service for the deaf‖
(Ivarsson 1998:25).
Nowadays, the Italian subtitling industry mainly operates within the market
for DVDs, pay-TV channels, and film festivals. Following the Subtitle
Research Project5 — a study on the Italian subtitling industry carried out by the
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in Translation, Languages and Cultures
(SITLeC), University of Bologna6 —, the subtitling market started to develop
during the 1990s with the widespread programming of DVDs and satellite
channels. Accurate information about a small number of subtitling companies
operating in Italy was collected as part of the study: Atlante, Classic Titles,
Colby, Ellemme Edizioni, Laser Film, Microcinema, Ombre Elettriche, Raggio
Verde and Underlight. Some of these companies specialise in film festivals and
opera, others are in cinema with the remainder working in DVD and television
subtitling (Angelucci 2004).
5
See more information at: www://subtitle.agregat.net/index.php/ita_open/presentation/.
Accessed 20/10/2010
6
Dipartimento di Studi Interdisciplinari in Traduzione, Lingue e Culture, Università di
Bologna.
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PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
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The first Italian subtitling company was created in the mid-80s, but it was
only during the second half of the 1990s that the majority of subtitling
companies entered the market. On the whole, Italian companies are relatively
small with no more than fifteen employees, and hire freelance professionals
when necessary. The companies interviewed in the research project referred to
above, agreed on the fact that the most important parameter when assessing the
quality of subtitling is readability, followed by reduction, the conciseness of
the subtitles, and finally faithfulness to the source text. They did not seem to
focus much on spotting technicalities, on translation accuracy and above all on
the need to differentiate the approach to subtitling standards depending on the
specific target viewers addressed (Angelucci 2004:119).
As far as the profession is concerned, subtitlers are currently facing major
challenges relating to the increasingly tight deadlines of translation projects, as
well as the significantly dropping tariffs, to the extent that they cannot make a
living through subtitling alone.
The European Commission has recently published a report on ―the status of
the translation profession in the European Union‖ (Pym et al. 2012),
emphasising that it is, in fact, the current market disorder that has become the
main focus of professional translators. Among the causes of the crisis are the
declining prices, exacerbated by the widespread availability of cheap, poor
quality translation, and also resulting from tight deadlines which are wholly
incompatible with an adequate output, not to mention the increasingly high
proportion of part-time and freelance contracts current in the translation
industry as a whole.
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PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
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Among professionals, the vast majority of subtitlers assert that fansubbing
and crowdsourcing in general are affecting the market, putting the blame on
―the rise of the amateur‖ (O‘Hagan 2011:11) and absolving themselves of their
own guilt. It is, in fact, ―the crisis of the experts who undervalue what they do
not know and overvalue what they do‖ (Gee and Hayes, 2011: 44).
Any criticism of professionals by this reference is unintentional, although it
seems that they should be more aware of the changes taking place in the
translation environment. According to the European report on the status of the
translation profession, the changes brought about by fansubbing practices seem
to have had a major impact both on translation theory and practices, not to
mention on the audience‘s perception of subtitling (Pym et al. 2012). The study
also reports that ―even though crowdsourcing is still a niche activity and affects
the sector only to a limited extent, its influence is bound to grow and there are
useful lessons to be learnt concerning good practices for professional
translators as well (ibid.: 37).
The concepts, emerging from the 2012 European report, are elaborated in
chapter four which focuses on the comparison between subtitling and
fansubbing norms and in which possible future subtitling standards are
proposed.
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CHAPTER 3
FANSUBBING
The purpose of this chapter is to examine the phenomenon of amateur
translation by monitoring the progress of fansubbing practices in Italy by
analysing the beliefs of online communities.
Fan translation is a new ‗genre‘ within the field of audiovisual translation
and has mainly been examined in connection with Japanese anime. The state of
the art of Italian fansubbing relating to the subtitling-based mediation of
American TV shows is the focus of this study. We will begin by investigating
the motivation behind this practice, the creation of the first online
communities, their hierarchical structure and the tasks performed by fansubbers
along with the various phases involved in the process, and the technicalities
needed in order to edit, produce and release the fansubbed versions of a TV
programme. A description of the practices and beliefs of fansubbers will be
offered throughout the various sections, with an explanation of their tendency
to ‗speak the truth‘ rather than to ―nationalise‖ the original dialogues for the
receiving audience (Danan, 1991).
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This chapter concludes with a brief account of the ethical and legal issues
relating to the infringement of copyright issues associated with the practice and
distribution of fansubs.
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3.1 THE HISTORY OF FANSUBBING:
JAPANESE ANIME FROM SASE TO
DIGISUBS
“The earliest known reported fansub
in the United States is said to be
the VHS version of Lupin III
produced in the mid-80s”
(Kearns 2008:161)
The history of fansubbing can be traced back to the late 1980s (O‘Hagan
2009) when Japanese ‗anime‘ — the French abbreviation for ―animation‖
(Leonard 2004) —, were banned in the United States or heavily censored due
to their inappropriate content, a fact that lead to the Japanese withdrawal from
the American market in 1982. As a consequence, fans of the genre began to
gather in ‗anime clubs‘ devoted to the translation and distribution of their
favourite animations. Fans began to produce amateur subtitled copies so that
they could share them with their fellow fans. ―At the time, the Internet had not
as many users as it has nowadays, and these pioneers used to distribute
fansubbed anime on videotapes rather than in digital format‖ (Díaz-Cintas and
Muñoz Sánchez 2006).
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PhD in Theory and Practice of Translation Università degli Studi di Sassari
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Before the digital era, fansubbers employed the ‗SASE system‘7 to
disseminate their fansubs, a system through which tapes were mailed out to
fans free of charge. With the advent of high-speed Web access, along with new
software programmes capable of editing and ripping DVDs, the SASE system
was abandoned in favour of digital fansubbing (digisubbing). Digisubs made
their first appearance in the late 1990s, and were distributed through three main
channels: P2P8, IRC9 and Usenet. The most widespread P2P file sharing
networks at the time were Bitorrent and Emule. BitTorrent allowed users to
retrieve files on the net via the fansubbing group tracker — a web page
displaying the link to .torrent files in order to download the fansubs —, while
Emule, on the other hand, was much slower than BitTorrent, and supported the
searching of files by name using the ed2k network (Scarpa 2005). At the time,
the most common form of IM10 used by fansubbers was the IRC, a real time
chat ideal for group communication, forum discussion, and data transfer,
including file sharing.
Usenet was a hybrid between emails and web forums, where users could
post as well as share content on the web. Moreover, several websites were
dedicated to the distribution of fansubs. Some of the most popular were
Animefactory11, the first to produce digisubs in .avi and .DivX format, and
Anime-Fansubs12 — created in 2000 and still active —, and Elite-Fansubs13,
7
Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope.
Peer-to-peer, networking able to share workloads among peers.
9
Internet Relay Chat, a real-time text messaging and chat.
10
Instant Messaging, a form of real-time chatting communication.
11
www.animefactory.org
12
www.anime-fansubs.net
13
www.mayday-anime.com/forums
8
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popular for having heated arguments with the online communities mentioned
above (ibid.: 2005)
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3.2 CO-CREATIVE LABOUR:
THE ORGANISED FAN INDUSTRY
This section is devoted to the fansubbers themselves so as to facilitate a
thorough comprehension of the phenomenon, by examining their behavior
through a sociological lens, that is to say the theoretical perspective of Media
Studies. Much of the academic attention concerning fandom has focused on the
definition of ―fan‖ and in recent years, a large number of scholars have tackled
the issue in conjunction with networked subcultures.
The term ‗fan‘ comes from the Latin word ―fanaticus‖, and the English
derivation ―fanatic‖ refers to someone obsessed by an interest or enthusiasm
for a particular activity (Costello and Moore 2007). Thus, the authors
mentioned above, differentiate fans from traditional consumers as their
approach to consumption is regarded as ‗excessive‘.
In his book, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture
(1992), Henry Jenkins distinguished between ‗viewers‘ and ‗fans‘, suggesting
that while viewers follow an isolated model of media consumption, far from
simply consuming a product, fans participate in discussions and reflections on
their experience, and are involved in a varied range of interactive activities:
writing letters to producers, conversing with other fans on forums, and
attending fan events for example.
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As a consequence, if we agree with Jenkins‘s definition, being a fan implies
the possession of a social and cultural identity not shared by the ordinary
viewer. Moreover, fans do not perceive themselves as consumers, since for
them ―the dichotomy between production and consumption, the supply-side
and the demand-side, breaks down‖ (Beilby et al. 1999:37).
Over the past few decades, the widespread use of Internet technologies has
empowered fans, turning formerly passive media consumers into the principal
actors in a major revolution, making media as co-creators and circulating usercreated content incorporated into the products owned by media companies
(Banks 2009). Hence, the traditional connotation of the term ―fan‖, as defined
by Jenkins, has undergone a profound shift towards the concept of ―co-creative
user‖ (ibid.: 2009). These unofficial producers have been reshaping the
paradigms of the world media scenario — particularly as far as commercial
television narratives are concerned —, building up a force, a co-creative
labour, that, in the case of Italy, could be regarded as a challenge to audiovisual
translation practices.
An instructive case study was offered by the Italian dubbed version of the
American TV show The Big Bang Theory. In order to acknowledge the strong
influences of fansubbing on audiovisual translation practices in Italy, this case
study as presented by Innocenti and Maestri at ―MM2010. Le frontiere del
‗popolare‘ tra vecchi e nuovi media‖14 is examined.
14
Available at:
www.amsacta.cib.unibo.it/3036/1/Il_lavoro_dei_fan._Il_fansubbing_come_alternativa_al_
doppiaggio_ufficiale_in_The_Big_Bang_Theory.pdf Accessed 05/09/2012
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In their paper, ―Il lavoro dei fan. Il fansubbing come alternativa al
doppiaggio ufficiale in The Big Bang Theory”, the authors explore the
American TV show The Big Bang Theory, focusing on the phenomenon of
fansubbing as an alternative to dubbing. According to Innocenti and Maestri,
the majority of fans would rather watch their favourite TV series in the original
rather than in the dubbed version, as they are fully aware of the disgraceful
alteration of dialogues once they have been adapted into Italian. The supposed
alteration involves both the original soundtrack, which is replaced by different
voices, as well as the translation in which much of the humour expressed by
culture-bound words is cut out as well as inside jokes and foreign references,
mostly unknown to the Italian audience.
The Big Bang Theory is a sit-com starring four characters similar to the very
fans under analysis in this paper: they are ‗nerds‘15 just like fansubbers. Once
Mediaset had acquired the copyright for the show, the programme was dubbed
by Post in Europe (PIE) in Rome and broadcast on the pay-TV channel Steel in
2008. When the first dubbed episodes of The Big Bang Theory appeared on
TV, the fans, who had been following the show since 2007 thanks to
fansubbers, noticed that, owing to the ‗italianisation‘ of the dubbed version, the
whole nerdy-related content had been dumbed down, making the product
unbearably dull. The adaption had levelled down the language to such an
extent that the programme did not appeal at all to the target audience who
criticised the work of the dubbing company harshly.
15
Slang word used to describe someone devoted to academic, scientific or technical
pursuits but socially inept.
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Hence, a bitter controversy carried out by fans of The Big Bang Theory
sparked several online blogs leading to dramatic changes to the dubbed
production. From episode nine of the first season, the dubbing director, Silvia
Pepitoni was replaced by Leslie La Penna and the whole team of adaptors was
entirely replaced. As a result, the new team carried out a better adaption,
characterised by more faithful and coherent dialogues (Innocenti and Maestri
2010). The effective resistance of the Italian active audience made it clear that
the patronising authority of the dubbing technique has been losing its grip in
Italy.
In an attempt to describe the concept of ―resistance‖ in translation, Nornes
(1999) has pointed out that dubbing is clearly the most extreme exemplification
of domestication, with the foreign language becoming a mere "cultural
disadvantage" which needs to be smoothed over, polished and restored for the
receiving culture. ―This is the logic of corruption [...] practiced by distributors
for whom translation serves little more than surplus value.‖ (ibid.: 1999:4)
In the light of the case study analysed by Innocenti and Maestri, and
according to Vellar (2011:8), ―subbers are now recognised as experts by fan
cultures and by mass media‖, as is shown by important web-radio shows,
Versione Beta and Dispenser on Radio216; important national magazines, like
Wired Italia17, and the popular TV programme Sugo18 on Rai4 which a
substantial part of the show has been dedicated to fansubbing as a
phenomenon.
16
See a full list of online references here:
www.italiansubs.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5251&Itemid=86
17
Available at: www//mag.wired.it/rivista/storie/sub-wars-dal-tramonto-all-alba-traducendolost.html
18
Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaZ37YRGaos
The Italian Fansubbing Phenomenon Serenella Massidda
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3.3 THE ITALIAN FANSUBBING
PHENOMENON
"If we were living in the 12th century [...]
the practitioners of dubbing would be
burnt in the marketplace for heresy”.
(Jean Renoir 1974:106)
In recent years, Italy has witnessed the emergence of a fan-based,
underground form of audiovisual translation in opposition to mainstream
practices. The word ―fansubbing‖ resulted from merging the words ―fan‖ and
―subtitles‖, which then became a neologism defining the activity of amateur
translators producing the subtitled versions of American TV shows in order to
make them accessible to fans.
Although, as we seen, the activity of fansubbers was initiated more than
twenty years ago in association with Japanese anime (see section 3.1), in the
new millennium the focus has shifted towards American TV series.
The project started with the most popular TV show of all time: Lost. The
first episode of Lost was aired in Italy in 2005, and from that moment on, the
interest surrounding this show resulted in an ever-increasing fan base.
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It soon developed into online communities devoted to translating the episodes
into Italian, in an attempt to counteract the long waiting periods between
seasons due to the fact that the dubbing process is rather a time-consuming
activity.
Hence, in an effort to allow fellow fans to watch their favourite show almost
in real time with the United States, a new figure emerged on the Internet: the
fansubber. The lives of fansubbers are characterised by sleepless nights spent
watching the recording of a TV episode, translating the English subtitles or
even translating by ear if necessary, in order to release the Italian subtitled
version as soon as possible after the episode has been aired in the USA.
This revolutionary mass phenomenon has given rise to two main fansubbing
communities, ItaSA and Subsfactory, producing more than a dozen soft subs19
every day. Soft subs, unlike hard subs, which are encoded into the video itself,
are .srt files which are separate from the video clip loaded by users onto
specific video players such as VLC.20 The choice of soft subs over hard subs,
meaning that the subs are not merged with the video, is probably due to the
problems relating to copyright infringement, a delicate issue that will be
discussed later on (see section 3.6).
In addition to the reasons considered so far, Italian fansubbing communities
supposedly emerged in opposition to dubbing, as a form of resistance against
its supposed authenticity and the unchallenged idea that dubbing might
unequivocally represent ‗the best of all possible worlds‘.
19
Soft subtitles can be read by some video-players (e.g., Videolan) separately from the video
file.
20
VideoLan media player.
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While adaption might be perceived as smooth, Italian-sounding and easily
comprehensible to the average viewer, the process of domestication it
undergoes does not allow for a good quality product in terms of linguistic and
cultural mediation (Antonini and Chiaro in Díaz-Cintas and Anderman
2009:100).
Fansubbers and their followers perceive dubbing as an interference
depriving viewers of the sense of ‗otherness‘ and leaving them with a
―transnational decultured product‖ (Ascheid 1997: 40).
In 2008, Rai4 broadcast a special edition of the programme Sugo devoted to
the phenomenon. As explained by the amateur translators belonging to ItaSA
and Subsfactory who were interviewed, their activity is aimed at ‗restoring‘ the
foreign product, allowing fans to appreciate its original voices, soundtrack and
atmosphere while skipping the bureaucratic delays involved before the
copyright of TV shows can be acquired, the script adapted and the dialogues
dubbed.
The wider implications of fansubbing on audiovisual translation practices in
Italy — and other dubbing countries —, was clearly appreciated only four
years after ItaSA and Subsfactory were created. On May 24 2010, a unique
event took place: the final episode of Lost was aired simultaneously by NBC in
the United States, Sky1 in the United Kingdom, Fox Italia in Italy, and many
more countries worldwide. In Italy the episode was aired in English at 6.00 am,
and fansubbed by ItaSA and Subsfactory just a few hours later. It was then reaired twenty-four hours later with Italian ‗pro-subtitles‘ and eventually
broadcast on May 31 in its dubbed Italian version.
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Never before had Italians experienced such a speed in dealing with audiovisual
translation, and it is no wonder that the ‗Italian fansubbing movement‘ paved
the way for it to happen.
These significant changes were discussed in an interesting forum connected
to ItaSA in November 2010. In brief, the fansubbers stated that a great
revolution was taking place. Concerning Lost, they wrote that Sky TV had
dramatically reduced the traditional time lapse between seasons, managing to
subtitle the show only twenty-four hours after the airing in the United States.
All of them ultimately agreed that they had had ‗some hand‘ in it. It is,
therefore, apparent that Italian amateur translators are unashamedly
opinionated concerning translation matters.
Exactly who these fansubbers are is a difficult questioned to answer. The
majority of them are relatively reserved, preferring to take a backseat and
hiding behind nicknames. When asked about their ‗real life‘ they appear to be
very evasive. However, judging from a set of online interviews conducted with
the leading figures of both communities (see section 3.2), and thanks to a
collaboration with both ItaSA and Subsfactory (a three-year field research
project which was spent in regular day-to-day contact with amateur
translators), it can be concluded that the people who initiated this underground
activity were young people between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five,
belonging to a generation which had grown up in a globalised context, were
linguistically aware and educated — either to an undergraduate or postgraduate
level —, and united by a slavish addiction to American TV shows (see section
3.2 for more details).
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The founders of these communities — who allegedly collaborated for a
short period of time —, are best known as, e.g., LordThul, Superbiagi
Metalmarco, Tutorgirl, and Chemicalchiara, very well-known nicknames to the
adherents of fansubbing.
In the next section detailed description is offered, differentiating between
the two fan groups previously analysed, in terms of their approach to
translation.
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3.4 ORIGINS OF ITASA AND SUBSFACTORY
In the previous section we have described how in the new millennium, the
focus of fansubbing shifted in favour of American TV series. After an initial
outline of the Italian fansubbing phenomenon, the coordinating mechanism
underlying the two major online communities, ItaSA and Subsfactory, will be
introduced. The former was created in 2006, in the wake of the exceptional
interest aroused by Lost. It is a large community of fansubbers, much larger
than Subsfactory (see fig.2 and 4, chapter 4), more popular and ‗younger‘ with
staff members aged between sixteen and thirty with end-user in the same age
group. The latter, Subsfactory is supposed to be the first Italian fansubbing
community — its genesis as a fan base dating back to 2003 when a small group
of fans started to translate Japanese anime —, although their website was, in
fact, created much later in 2006.
Subsfactory is smaller, older — subbers are aged between seventeen and
sixty —, and less popular than ItaSA, even though it has recently been gaining
increasing success, thanks to the widespread use of social networking sites,
such as Facebook and Twitter. Although there are rumours to the effect that
they collaborated for a short while in 2006, these communities currently
occupy the opposite ends of the spectrum.
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Apart from the fact that they hold different views on translation —
Subsfactory claims to be more faithful to the source text and ItaSA admits to
leaving more space for the creativity of the subber (Barra and Guarnaccia
2009) —, they also differ concerning their main starting point with ItaSA
aiming to ‗get there first‘, releasing the subs as soon as possible after the airing
of the American TV show, while Subsfactory proudly claims to give priority to
accuracy rather than speed (ibid: 2009).
There is evidently an intense rivalry as well as more positive spirit of
competition between the two communities, pushing them towards high levels
of performance.
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3.5 THE FANSUBBING MACHINE
This well-oiled machine made of standard routines
closely mirrors professional companies practices.
Yet, fansubbing communities are no-profit groups
solely driven by personal motivation, a flare for
sharing and maybe a little bit of narcissism”21
(Barra and Guarnaccia 2009:2)
Given the enormous commitment in terms of hours, the activities of
fansubbers resemble a job more than a hobby. The ‗fansubbing factory‘ can be
likened to a strategic pyramid-shaped structure, made of progressive
hierarchical subdivisions in terms of tasks. These unofficial workers are
organised into teams committed to the translation of a specific TV show, and
coordinated by an appointed reviser.
21
My translation. In the original: ―.[...] una macchina oliata, con routine produttive ormai
standard, con una divisione del lavoro [...] con una scala gerarchica interiorizzata dai
componenti del gruppo, con un‘organizzazione che non lascia nulla al caso. Come – e più –
che in un‘azienda. Solo che qui non ci sono fini di lucro: a far girare ogni ingranaggio
sono[...] la gratuità del dono e un po‘ di narcisismo‖.
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Before the episode is even aired in the United States, the reviser makes sure
the team is ready and available for the forthcoming task. Upon confirmation,
the team starts the operating machine, first searching for both the original video
and the .ts raw online. 22
As a matter of fact, subbers employ readymade English subtitles originating
from Chinese sources, rather than translating by ear, which they do more
rarely. Sometimes, when these resources are not available, they may rely on
transcripts obtained either via OCR or voice recognition software. 23
Once retrieved, the English subtitle file is uploaded in a private area of the
forum together with the reviser‘s subdivision of tasks and the final deadline.
Thus, subbers may choose to work directly on the .srt file, which is converted
into a .txt file or to use some open source software for different OS24 such as
Subtitle Workshop and Visual SubSynch (Windows), Subtitle Editor (Linux) or
Miyu (Mac OS X), to name but a few.
Subsequently, subbers — also fulfilling the role of ‗synchers‘25 —, start the
cueing phase in order to adjust the ‗in‘ and ‗out‘ of subtitles in perfect harmony
with both the soundtrack and the images. Subbers do not work alone.
Throughout the process, they operate as a collaborative team, supporting each
other by communicating through specific threads on the forum or via IM in real
time. 26
22
The ‗ts‘ (MPEG transport stream) is obtained by exporting and converting the closed
captions displayed on TV into a suitable format.
23
Optical character recognition software programmes allow the conversion of scanned PDF
files into editable Word documents.
24
Operating systems.
25
The role of the subber and the syncher may be played by the same person. This is the case of
Subsfactory‘s ―master subber‖, able to translate and also spot or ‗synch‘ their subtitles.
26
For example, Skype and Windows Live Messenger.
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Moreover, a set of established guidelines (see chapter 4 which focuses on
fansubbing conventions) assist fansubbers to standardise the terminology, the
number of characters and the CPS27 allowed for each subtitle, the editing and
formatting standards, the punctuation conventions, the use of accents and so
on. When the Italian version is ready, each subber submits his/her own part to
the reviser who collects the files merging them in order to finalise the process.
During this phase, the emphasis is on linguistic and technical revision, and
particularly on translation consistency and fluency. The .srt file is then
released, uploaded online to a dedicated repository ready to be shared by the
whole virtual community.
ItaSA and Subsfactory are also open to new members eager to contribute to
the cause. Would-be translators are ‗hired‘ upon completion of an entrance test.
They are given a zipped folder containing an .avi file and an .srt file to be
uploaded in Subtitle Workshop. More often than not, the subtitles in question
may be in a different language from the original soundtrack (e.g. Portuguese
rather than English) and the ripped video may belong to an unknown TV show.
These combined factors may ultimately result in a challenging task for aspiring
fansubbers.
27
Characters per Second.
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3.6 PIRACY OR PROMOTION?
The issue of legality was alluded to briefly in the opening of this chapter. As
previously mentioned, the choice of soft subs for fansubbing purposes is
largely due to the threat represented by copyright infringement.
In the disclaimer section of its forum, ItaSA makes it clear that:
All downloadable content in this website is absolutely free. The
translations available, in accordance with the current regulations, are a
free interpretation by our translators and therefore protected by law. The
content available does not include any copyrighted video or link to
proprietary materials.28
And on its homepage, Subsfactory offers the following assurance:
The website does not infringe copyright and it is 100% legal, as the
translations provided are a free interpretation by our translators to whom
we are deeply grateful! Merging the .srt files we provide with the
copyrighted video is contrary to the spirit in which they have been
produced, besides being against the law. 29
28
My translation. In the original: ―I contenuti offerti dal portale sono interamente gratuiti.
[Il sito contiene] traduzioni che, a norma delle vigenti leggi, sono interpretazioni dei traduttori
e pertanto tutelate dal diritto vigente. Il sito non contiene filmati o link a file audiovideo coperti
da copyright.‖ Source: www.italiansubs.net
29
My translation. In the original: ―Il sito non infrange nessun copyright ed è legale al
100%, considerato che le traduzioni sono interpretazioni dei traduttori. si ringraziano tutti i
subber per il loro fantastico lavoro!!! Subsfactory.it fornisce sottotitoli che sono una libera
interpretazione dei traduttori, unirli a video e' scorretto ed e' contrario allo spirito per cui sono
stati creati, oltre che illecito!‖ www.subsfactory.it
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In conclusion, what Italian fansubbers do is to release a translation
conceived as a personal interpretation of a TV programme in order to share it
with fellow fans. As a result, the way fans retrieve the copyrighted video
associated with the fansubs is therefore irrelevant to them. The impact of
fansubbing on the promotion of the vast majority of American TV shows in
Italy is no secret. What was said in the past concerning other underground
practices can easily be applied to this new phenomenon.
According to Lessig (2004:27), ―major media in the US, including films,
recorded music, and cable TV, all depended heavily on 'piracy‘ for their early
success‖. Popular culture industries such as Japanese anime have greatly
benefited from fansubbing, as is shown by the almost total absence of legal
actions taken against it. In a recent interview, Superbiagi, one of Subsfactory‘s
administrators, advises users against associating subtitles with copyrighted
videos, with the assurance that:
Our website does not have the numbers or the false pretences to
undermine the market of audiovisual translation. If we are supposed to
challenge professional subtitling, how come that SKY has not hired us
yet?‖30
30
My translation. In the original: ―Un sito come il nostro non ha i numeri né le pretese né la
presunzione di poter influenzare il mercato dei traduttori. Se le nostre produzioni amatoriali
togliessero effettivamente lavoro ai traduttori professionisti, perché allora Sky o chi per loro
non ci ha assunti tutti?‖.
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Yet, the fact that on Italian satellite channels the gap between seasons has
been significantly reduced is due to the underground work of these passionate
fans. Thus, even if they represent the proverbial drop in the ocean, to some
extent what they do really matters.
These communities, averaging 1000 daily active users, nearly 15,000
(Subsfactory) and 40,000 (ItaSA) fans on Facebook, and a record of 7,000
downloads in a few hours, inevitably play a decisive role in the success of the
programmes they translate. Not only do subbers make up for the time lag
characteristic of dubbing, but in doing so, they also control the success of
future TV shows, owing to the quality and speed with which they work.
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CHAPTER 4
SUBTITLING AND FANSUBBING
STANDARDS: A HYBRID PROPOSAL
The first section of this chapter opens with an introduction to the main
features of subtitling and closes with a brief overview of standard subtitling
practices. The codes of practice used by fansubbers are explored in the second
section, and a comprehensive description of the fansubbing guidelines used
both by ItaSA and Subsfactory is given.
A definition of the theoretical approach followed is offered in the final
section in order to advance a hybrid proposal for future subtitling norms,
following an analysis of the standards used by both professional and amateur
subtitlers.
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4.1 STANDARDS IN PROFESSIONAL
SUBTITLING
In this section a brief overview of mainstream subtitling features and
practices is given, based on previous studies carried out by a number of
academics (cf. Luyken et al, 1991; Ivarsson, 1992; Gottlieb, 1998; Ivarsson
and Carroll, 1998; De Linde and Kay 1999; Díaz Cintas, 2001 and 2003a;
Chaume, 2004; Díaz Cintas and Remael, 2007). De Linde and Key hold the
belief that ―the main condition of subtitling stems from the integration of text,
sound and image, the reading capabilities of target viewers, and the restrictions
which these two factors place on space and time‖ (1999:6).
This definition is a clever attempt at condensing a variety of fundamental
traits characteristic of subtitling into a few lines. Audiovisual translation in
general, and subtitling in particular, represents a constrained form of translation
characterised by a shift of mode from speech to writing, where the message is
conveyed by both the aural and visual channels within several spatio-temporal
limitations.
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Linguistically speaking, two main different types of subtitling may be
distinguished:

Intralingual subtitling, or same-language subtitling, for the deaf
and hard of hearing (SDH);

Interlingual subtitling, which implies the translation of one
language into another.
The second typology is the focus of this chapter, provided in an attempt to
list the stages involved in the process of subtitling. The first stage involves the
so-called ‗timing‘, ‗spotting‘ or ‗cueing‘ process. Depending on the subtitling
company, the practice of setting the ‗in‘ and ‗out‘ of subtitles can be performed
either by specific technicians, or by the subtitlers themselves. As far as
freelance professionals are concerned, the current trend is to provide them with
pre-established time codes. The next phase focuses on the translation of the
original dialogues, followed by the editing process along with the segmentation
of subtitles based on semantic-syntactic criteria, and then the final revision
carried out by the subtitlers. These are the main stages involved in a process
governed by the long-established and almost unanimously accepted rules
cursorily described in the next section.
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4.1.1 SUBTITLING CODES OF CONDUCT
Subtitling is a well-established form of constrained audiovisual translation.
Many scholars have argued that it is closer to the process of adaption
(Delabastita 1989) than to translation tout court. It is characterised by specific
communicative purposes and by the use of standard norms aimed to simplify
the source text in order to facilitate the interpretation of the original message
(Perego 2007).
Among the various features characteristic of subtitling, one in particular
makes it unique: both the source and target texts co-exist in the subtitled
version, enabling viewers to hear the original soundtrack and read the subtitles
at the same time. As a result, subtitling is exposed to all sort of criticism on the
part of viewers who, depending on their linguistic competence, may find fault
with if it does not match what they hear, thus considering it unreliable. In fact,
another relevant aspect of this mode of transfer is ―the filtering of potential loss
of information‖ (Tveit in Díaz Cintas and Anderman 2009: 21), since the
written channel does not allow for the nuances of speech to be accurately
conveyed: ―the written words cannot possibly compete with speech‖ (ibid:21).
Moreover, converting spoken language into written text often leads to the
use of ―nominalization‖ strategies in Italian, a transformation that prevents
subtitles from retaining the naturalness and orality typical of spontaneous
speech.
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Yet, despite the almost inevitable loss of linguistic nuances implied in the
diamesic shift from the oral to the written mode (Perego 2007), good subtitles
are supposed to pass unnoticed and act as guidance throughout the viewing
experience. As Minchinton puts it, viewers just ―blink down at the subtitles for
information, they ‗photograph‘ them rather than read them‖ (1993: 14–15).
Technically speaking, subtitling presents translators with two constraining
factors, space and time, profoundly affecting the way subtitles appear on
screen. Subtitles may be displayed with a maximum of two lines — with an
average of 40 characters per line in the case of Italian —, and their exposure
time ranges between two and six seconds, the ideal span of time allowing the
viewer to read at an appropriate speed (Luyken et al. 1991). Furthermore,
subtitles should be ―semantically and syntactically self-contained‖ (Díaz Cintas
and Remael 2007:172), since good quality and coherent line breaks are
supposed to facilitate readability and comprehension. Ideally, in the case of
two-line subtitles, the first line should be shorter than the second. Needless to
say, this is not always feasible, as segmentation is a relatively difficult art.
Priority should always be given to the completeness of meaning within each
line of the subtitle, while the aesthetic norm noted above is only a secondary
consideration. Due to the limited time and space available for the subtitles,
linguistic constraints may be dealt with by employing the strategy of
―reduction‖.
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According to Kovačič‘s categorisation (1991: 409), we are able to
distinguish between three levels of discourse elements: the indispensable, the
partly dispensable and the dispensable. While the indispensable elements are
essential and must be translated in order for the audience to follow the plot of a
film, the partly dispensable can be condensed, and the dispensable elements
can be simply omitted. In fact, subtitlers usually leave out some words that are
universally known (―yes‖ and ―no‖, for instance), repetitions, utterances
conveying a phatic function (―well‖ and ―you know‖, for example), false starts
and exclamations that do not need a translation as they are easily
understandable by viewers all round the world.
The ―relevance theory‖, as proposed by Sperber and Wilson (1986), might
constitute an interesting approach to dealing with the strategy of reduction in
subtitling. According to this theory, ―an assumption is relevant in a context if,
and only if, it has some contextual effect in the context‖ (Sperber and Wilson
1986:122). As a result, subtitlers should aim to express similar ―contextual
effects of an utterance in a given context‖ (Kovačič 1994:247).
Needless to say, this is not always feasible, owing to the complexity of
segmentation. Although it is true that the subtitled version of a programme is
always a condensed form of the oral source text, ―it is too limited to view
subtitling as a mere condensation of a so-called original‖ (Gambier 1994:278).
As Gambier explains, when analysing a subtitled version of an audiovisual
product, the perception of a variety of omissions and a difference in the number
of words transferred from one language to another occurs quite naturally,
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although what really matters are not these losses or additions, the focal point
being ―what is transformed and why‖ (ibid.: 278).
Hence, in the creation of interlingual subtitles, the strategy of
―condensation‖ and ―relevance theory‖ should always be balanced with the
notion of equivalence. Kruger (2001) has attempted to investigate this
relationship by using the semiotic approach as a starting point. In his opinion,
semiotics, or ―the study of signs and sign-using behavior‖, and interpretative
semiotics in particular, seem to explain this delicate balance.
According to this theory, three categories of equivalence, the ―qualitative‖,
the ―referential‖ and the ―significational‖ are identified (Gorlée 1994).
―Qualitative equivalence‖ refers to the external features of the sign (e.g. rhyme
structure). ―Referential equivalence‖ refers both to the ‗immediate object‘ of a
sign, or ―the idea called up directly by a particular sign use‖ (ibid.: 176) and
the ‗dynamical object‘, that is ―the hypothetical sum of all instances of the
sign-bound immediate object‖ (ibid.:177). ―Significational equivalence‖ refers
to the relationship between the object and the interpretant, considered as ―that
which the sign produces in the quasi-mind which is the interpreter‖ (Eco 1976:
68).
In Kruger‘s opinion, the latter is apparently the only type of equivalence to
ensure that the effect produced by the text in the source language viewers is
similar to the perception of the translated text in the target language viewers.
According to her, subtitlers can ‗deviate‘ from the source text by producing ―a
new target text which is nevertheless significationally equivalent to the
original‖ (Kruger 2001: 185).
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This overview of interlingual subtitling is not intended to be exhaustive; it is
meant to provide a general introduction to subtitling codes of conduct.
In 1998 Carroll and Ivarsson presented a proposal for good subtitling
practices31 endorsed by the European Association for Studies in Screen
Translation (ESIST). This comprehensive document covers both translation
and spotting practices, so that its use is felt to be appropriate here, since it
constitutes a standard example. It is summarised as follows.
Regarding translation, subtitlers should:
1. work on a dialogue list along with a glossary of specific terminology
and special references;
2. focus on high-quality translation, paying attention to cultural nuances,
appropriate register, and correct grammar;
3. use simple syntactic units distributed on a maximum of two lines;
4. distribute the text in syntactically self-contained subtitles, (if on a twoliner subtitle the length is unequal, the upper line should be shorter in
order to reduce eye movement);
5. avoid repetitions of names and common expressions;
As far spotting is concerned, subtitlers should:
6. follow the rhythm of the dialogues, taking into consideration shot
changes, and sound bridges;
7. pay attention to suspense and surprise when cueing the subtitles;
8. follow the seven-second rule32 (min. 1, max.7 second per subtitle), and
respect the maximum CPS (number of characters per second, around 70
in 6 seconds), in order to facilitate the readability of the message;
31
Available at:
www.esist.org/ESIST%20Subtitling%20code_files/Code%20of%20Good%20Subtitling%20Pr
actice_en.pdf
32
Note that it is common practice to follow the six-second rule (D‘Ydewalle et al. 1987;
Brondeel 1994).
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9. leave at least 4 frames between subtitles enabling to perceive the shift
from one subtitle to the next;
During the translation phase, subtitlers are faced with a variety of challenges
imposed by spatio-temporal limitations; these may be overcome by adopting a
range of strategies, for example text reduction and omission (partial and total),
condensation (at word/close level), and reformulation, which should always
sound idiomatic and fluent in the target language (Díaz Cintas and Remael,
2007).
This brief overview of interlingual subtitling is not intended to be
exhaustive. It is intended to provide a general introduction to subtitling, as it
represents a starting point from which to develop a more specific investigation
concerning the differences between the professional and amateur subtitling
guidelines.
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4.2 FANSUBBING GUIDELINES
This section, which is intended to provide information on fansubbing
practices, is based on a three-year field research project spent as a member of
the two communities under analysis, and hence in regular day-to-day contact
with amateur translators belonging to both ItaSA and Subsfactory.
In order to understand fully how the fansubbing machine works, its
guidelines will be analysed. Both Itasa and Subsfactory present fansubbers
with a set of guidelines to be followed during the translation process. The list
includes a variety of information concerning each step of the process, from the
spotting to the editing of the subtitles.
ItaSA‘s guidelines will be analysed first of all, and a description of the
organization of their workflow as shown on their website will be given.
Subsfactory‘s standards and practices, their approaches to translation and
subtitling synchronization will be presented, with a list of rules, tips and tricks
of the trade.
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4.2.1 THE ITASA METHOD
The first community to be analysed here is ItaSA, a large community created
in 2006 composed of fansubbers aged between sixteen and thirty, with the enduser belonging to the same age group. When ItaSA was first approached over
two years ago, an analysis of the homepage of their website (www.italiansubs)
and their forum was the first task. This is displayed in figure 4.
It represents the manner in which a junior translator — ―traduttore junior‖
— is able to access the private translation area or ―Pannello Itasiano‖ of the
forum. On the left, there is a list of notifications of the fansubs that have just
been submitted, while on the right there is a list of teams to which the
fansubber in question belongs. A list of TV genres translated is followed by
another table displaying the details relating to the specific episode, being
accessed under ―traduzioni‖ (―translations‖), namely the deadline (―scadenza‖),
the TV show genre, the ―status‖ — team available or unavailable —, the
number of fansubbers needed (―posti‖) and the name of the reviser (―revisore‖)
appointed for the translation of the programme.
The workflow seems very well-organized and professional for a group of
unpaid and untrained translators, a group which has currently reached almost
260 members. The roles of the ItaSA members within the community are
summarised in the following table (figure 2).
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ITASA STAFF (260 members)
Fig. 2 Average figures referred to May-June 2012.
―Junior translators‖ are the new would-be fansubbers, the translators who
have passed the entry test and must demonstrate their skills to the community.
―Translators‖ are qualified fansubbers who have passed the trial period, while
―senior translators‖ are the subbers who have been promoted to the role of
revisers after a certain period of time spent in the fan group. ―Resynchers‖ are
also listed among the various roles covered. They are responsible for adjusting
the spotting in the fansubbed version to accord with the various versions
available online33.
There are also ―synchmasters‖, who are responsible for teaching would-be
translators the art of timing, and finally the ―administrators‖ who take care of
the website and ―run the fansubbing company.34
The fansubbing ‗assembly line‘ and its internal structure have been
described in detail in chapter 2. We should, therefore, now turn to an analysis
33
For example: NORMAL or 264, HD or 720p, FULL HD or 1080p, WEB-DL from iTunes,
and DVDRip from DVDs, depending on the resolution chosen for the video.
34
In order to explain their work, ItaSA uploaded two interesting videos on www.youtube.com:
Itasa Faq 1.1: www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ixs0ogaEvek#!
Itasa Faq 1.2: www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4crg1L3pI9g
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of the fansubbers‘ guidelines, focusing on the different approaches
differentiating them from professional subtitling norms. ItaSA‘s ―Vademecum
for Translators‖ covers the following points:
1.
Software employed
Visual Sub Sync ItaSA Mod, Subtitle Workshop, Miyu, Subtitle Editor,
Jubler;
2.
Translation norms
 45 characters per line, on max. 2 lines (90 characters);
 duration: between 1-5 seconds (1 second for monosyllables or two
very short words; never reach the 5 seconds, and always keep it
lower)
 italics for flashbacks and songs (adding the hash [#] symbol);
 apostrophes instead of diacritics (since video players cannot ‗read‘
them): à,è, ì, ù, ò, become a', e', i', o', u';
 asterisks for doubts regarding translation renderings;
 standard format for the file to be submitted:
TVshow + episode + fansubber‘s nickname + part:
ex. LilBush.1x04.Boby.126-257.
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ITASA’S WEBSITE
Fig. 3. ItaSA‘s website as displayed by a junior translator (March 2010).
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4.2.2 SUBSFACTORY‘S MODUS OPERANDI
The following guidelines outline Subsfactory‘s standards for fansubbing. In
contrast to ItaSA‘s, their ―Guida del Traduttore‖ (―guide for translators‖) is
much longer and more detailed.
Its incipit, which is addressed to future fansubbers, states that:
―The guide you will read is the result of years spent translating, of
discussions between subbers and revisers. It is a sort of
vademecum for your very first translation and contains the main
Italian grammar rules. Reading the guide is not optional, on the
contrary, it is compulsory for everyone, since each translation must
follow the established conventions.‖35
Here is a resume of fansubbers‘ rules, tips and tricks of the trade:
1.
Software employed
Jubler, Media Subtitler, Subtitle Workshop, Visual Sub Sync:
2.
Subtitles
 Maximum 2 lines of no more than 45 characters each.
 Make the lines even, divide up the text into whole sentences, and avoid
subtitles like the following:
35
My translation. In the original: ―La guida che andrete a leggere è il risultato di anni di
traduzioni, di discussioni tra subber e revisori. Serve come vademecum fin dalla vostra
prima traduzione e contiene le principali regole di grammatica italiana. La lettura della
presente guida non è facoltativa, è obbligatoria per tutti e la traduzione deve avvenire
secondo le convenzioni indicate‖.
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ex. I ain't saying he shouldn't. I wasn't told to
invite him.
The following would be better:
ex. I ain't saying he shouldn't.
I wasn't told to invite him.
 Apostrophes instead of diacritics (since video players cannot ‗read‘
them): à,è, ì, ù, ò, become a', e', i', o', u'.
3.
Timing
A list of norms follows on after a set of technical instructions on how to
use various types of subtitling software (113 pages):
 1-6 seconds allowed for each subtitle.
 Subtitles expressing humour, suspense and surprise should be treated
carefully: never anticipate a piece of information (e.g., punchlines)
placing it before the speaker actually utters the sentence containing it.
 Remember to cue text from letters, signs, newspapers etc.
4.
Tips
 First of all, watch the whole episode (with English subtitles or the ‗ts‘
provided).
 Synch your part before translating, then edit your subtitles, and finally
translate.
 Avoid calques; remember that the structure of Italian sentences is
different from English ones.
 Once revised and uploaded on the website, check your translation and
read the feedback written by your reviser in order to learn from your
mistakes.
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Then a list of online resources and glossaries specific to each TV show
translated by the community is included.
Subsfactory (www.subsfactory.it, see figure 5) is smaller than ItaSA — 170
vs. 260 members (figure 4 below) —, yet judging by their guidelines, they
appear to be more accurate and rigorous as far as translation and timing are
concerned.
SUBSFACTORY STAFF (170 members)
Fig. 4 Average figures referred to May-June 2012
In addition, fansubbers and fans belonging to the community often reflect
on their work in various topics found on their forum. Some of them discuss the
difference between professional and amateur subtitles in a specific thread.
What emerges from these exchanges is that the majority find fault with the
extreme conciseness of mainstream subtitles — ―ridotti all‘osso‖, literally
reporting what they wrote, or "cut down to the bone" —, since they seem to
convey only the gist of original dialogues, leaving out their stylistic flavour and
play on words.
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They also believe that subtitles are not meant to facilitate the viewer‘s
experience of a foreign product, but that they should be in tune with the
specific audience‘ requirements concerning faithfulness and accuracy. They
affirm that the translation of TV shows should be treated more carefully, given
the ‗seriality format‘ which tends to develop a very distinctive inside talk
throughout the seasons. Mainstream subtitling is perceived as extremely
irritating and condescending so that fansubbers feel betrayed and treated like
half-wits who are unable to perceive both the visual and the written codes at
the same time. Amateur translators and their followers are the most proficient
target audience regarding subtitling, so that it might be appropriate to
differentiate between them and the average viewer. Overall, they agree on the
fact that the ability to read subtitles is just a question of training: the more you
watch subtitled products, the more proficient you become.
Figure 4 above shows the roles of the members of Subsfactory within the
community. A distinction is made between ―provisional subbers‖, the
equivalent of the would-be translator, and ―subbers‖, or translators not yet
qualified as ―synchers‖; ―master subbers‖ who translate and cue subtitles, and
finally the site administrators.
Having examined the practices of both communities, we might conclude
that a greater number of characters allowed per line is among the most
distinctive features of fansubbing, when compared to the reduced freedom
characteristic of professional subtitling. It may be argued that fansubs are
aesthetically cumbersome, yet there are some positive aspects.
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Subbers are left with more space available in order to express the necessary
nuances in the source language dialogue — for example the reproduction of an
adequate style and register —, aspects that are systematically cut out in
professional subtitling. Moreover, they rarely employ the 45 character line, and
only when the CPS allow it. The user-friendly guide suggests that, should the
lines translated exceed the 45 characters allowed, the subtitling software will
be automatically set to solve the problem by splitting the line, or to produce
two perfectly symmetrical lines. In accordance with professional subtitling
norms, semantic segmentation is paramount in fansubbing. In fact, subbers are
strongly advised to produce self-contained lines.
A long list of false friends and common mistakes with regard to punctuation
are also included in the fansubbing guidelines, for example the use of capital
letters after an ellipsis, the different uses of punctuation in English and Italian,
and above all, the correct use of diacritical marks and apostrophes. As already
mentioned in this section, apart from the freedom derived from the 45
permissible characters per line, the paramount feature of ―abusive subtitling‖ is
the ―source-oriented‖ approach to translation, a topic which will be examined
in the next section, which is devoted to the ‗hybrid proposal‘ posited in the
thesis.
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SUBSFACTORY’S WEBSITE
Fig. 5 Subsfactory‘s website as displayed by a provisional subber (March 2010)
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A screenshot of Subsfactory‘s homepage has been included at the end of this
section (see figure 5) as a way to display the main threads in the forum, namely
the regulations (regolamento del forum), translation status (stato avanzamento
traduzioni), staff area where fansubbers are able to coordinate their activities,
and a list of the current TV programmes translated.
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4.3 A HYBRID PROPOSAL
“There is a potential and emerging subtitling
practice that accounts for the unavoidable limits
in time and space of the subtitle, a practice that
does not feign completeness, that does not hide
its presence through restrictive rules.”
(Nornes 1999:13)
The issue of subtitling norms has attracted the interest of researchers over
the past few decades (cf. Toury 1981; Nord 1997; Chesterman 1997; Ivarsson
and Carroll 1998; Karamitroglou 1998; Hermans 1999; Carroll et al. 2004;
Pedersen 2011).
These norms will be analysed in the present chapter from the perspective of
Toury‘s Descriptive Translation Studies (1995). In other words, the evolution
of subtitling conventions as a result of the empirical observation of
translational behaviour (Pedersen 2011) will be examined. Since there is no
unanimous consensus of opinion as far as the term ‗norm‘ is concerned,
Chesterman‘s concept of ―expectancy and operational norms‖ (1997) will be
referred to here, understood in the sense that, while ―expectancy norms‖
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indicate the audience‘s expectations of subtitled products, ―professional
norms‖ refer to the universally accepted rules followed by translators (cf.
Sokoli 2011:21-27).
In his 1998 paper, ―A Proposed Set of Subtitling Standards in Europe‖,
Karamitroglou has attempted to classify a series of subtitling standards
enabling European countries to operate as a single unit. He argues that,
although the sudden departure from long-established conventions might seem
difficult at first, the introduction of minor changes to these established norms
could be gradually accepted over time. Despite the challenge involved in
keeping up with the very latest developments and cultural trends, production
companies, customers commissioning the subtitles and professional translators,
should all make an effort to adapt to this constant process of social and
technological transformations (Hermans 1999).
The subtitling conventions covered by Karamitroglou (1998) are analysed
below:
1.
General aim Facilitate access to audiovisual products by favouring the
readability of the subtitles produced.
2.
Layout Subtitles, which are positioned on the lower part of the screen,
should be displayed on a maximum of two lines with around 35
characters per line (40 characters would reduce the readability); the font
colour should be white.
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3.
Duration The average reading speed (viewers aged from fourteen to
sixty-five, from an upper-middle socio-educational class) ranges between
150-180 words per minute (between 2.5-3 words per second).
4.
Segmentation In a two-liner each subtitle should display a
semantically self-contained sentence, ―as equal in length as possible,
since the [...] eye is more accustomed to reading text in a rectangular
rather than a triangular format.‖ (ibid: 1998).
5.
Omission Translators are not requested to transfer everything, ―even
when this is spatio-temporally feasible‖ (ibid: 1998). As a consequence,
the elements that are classified as irrelevant are normally sacrificed in
subtitling, including false starts, redundant words (repetitions, indicators
of politeness), discourse markers (e.g., well, so, but), down-toners and
intensifiers (e.g., nearly, almost; utterly, really).
However, sometimes, these apparently nonessential features have the
valuable function of conveying both characterisation and the style of an
audiovisual product (for further details, see the case studies analysed in
chapter 5).
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By using Karamitroglou‗s codes of practice as a benchmark, it is possible
to single out the main deviations detected in the translational behaviour of
fansubbers. Concerning their general aims, subbers belonging to both ItaSA
and Subsfactory, state that the main purpose of their translations is faithfulness
to the source text within the set of spatio-temporal constraints that allows for
up to 45 characters per line (a limit seldom reached). As far as reading speed,
punctuation and segmentation parameters are concerned, amateur practices are
almost identical to professional ones. Conversely, the topic of omission is
treated rather differently. Subbers aim to convey ‗everything‘ belonging to the
original dialogues, deeming it of paramount importance to detach themselves
from the mainstream practices of ―domestication‖ and the excessive
conciseness of professional subtitling, while, ―moving the viewer towards the
movie‖, to paraphrase a well-known assertion made by Schleiermacher in 1813
(Lefevere 1977:74).
The majority of subtitling manuals suggest that perfect subtitles should pass
unnoticed and guide the spectator through the viewing experience by
minimising any graphical ‗disturbance‘. As a consequence, after being suitably
adapted to the receiving culture, they should flow naturally as if written in the
local tongue. Yet, in 1999, prior to the Italian fansubbing phenomenon, Nornes
argued that it was time to rethink audiovisual modes of translation, given the
significant function played by multiculturalism and diversity in our societies.
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Since the new millennium, which was characterised by major technological
breakthroughs, for example the advent of Web 2.0, a factor that dramatically
altered the essentially passive role of consumers concerning audiovisual goods,
following the same routines has proved to be unacceptable.
Seen in this light, what professional subtitlers discard a priori as a textual
and graphic violation, may end up costituting a new experimental field in
translation. This is fansubbing‘s major contribution to translation studies.
The first scholar to have introduced the concept of ‗abusive translation‘
was Lewis in 1985. His post-structuralist approach sheds light on current
fansubbing norms, highlighting the fact that translation should represent an
accurate interpretation of the source text, even if the adoption of a ―sourceoriented‖ approach leads to profound alterations of the syntactic and structural
boundaries imposed by the target language. Venuti (2004) clearly described the
task of ‗abusive subtitlers‘ by quoting Nornes in The Translation Studies
Reader:
―The abusive subtitler assumes a respectful stance vis-à-vis the
original text, tampering with both language and the subtitling
apparatus itself‖ so as to signal the linguistic and cultural
differences of the foreign film. He imagines a range of
experimental procedures that include different styles of the
translating language to match the stylistic peculiarities of the
screenplay, as well as changes in the font, colour, and positioning
of the subtitles to complement the visual and aural qualities of the
film. (Venuti, 2004:332)
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More recently, Colm Caffrey (2009) has pointed out that the advent of Web
2.0 has had a major influence on the development of co-creative online
communities, allowing untrained and amateur subtitlers to translate and share
‗abusive subtitles‘ that break free from professional graphic and linguistic
norms in order to produce a more transparent and authentic translation.
Abusive subtitling appears to challenge the ‗corrupt‘ mainstream procedures
which obscure the original from its end-viewers (Nornes 2004).
While Jenkins (1992) was the first academic to perceive amateur practices
as a form of resistance to the media industry, Nornes was the first to define
mainstream standards as ‗corrupt practices‘ aiming to hide the original
otherness by causing it to conform to a strictly ―target-oriented‖ and
conservative structure (1999).
The umbrella term ‗corruption‘ embraces a variety of translational
behaviours defined by Danan (1991) as ‗nationalisation‘, for example the
almost systematic and relatively widespread practice current in Italian
audiovisual translation of aggressively appropriating the source text by
converting foreign popular names into their target text equivalents, even
though the addressees are perfectly capable of understanding them.
In addition, owing to the global economic crisis, freelance subtitlers often
work on Rich Text files exported from subtitling software programmes, or
‗templates‘, where the source language is simply replaced by the target text.
Needless to say, this modus operandi, which is meant to cut the costs of
software dongles, is also a way of retaining the obsolete norms set during the
age of the Hollywood studio system (Nornes 1999; Díaz-Cintas in Anon.
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2012). In fact, the very fact that they are precluded from performing the cueing
process can only further reduce the already limited amount of freedom open to
the translators themselves. Díaz-Cintas argued that:
―When the timing has been done by a professional other than the
translator, the latter‘s freedom can be severely restricted. [...] if translators
could do their own spotting, they could be more flexible and make a more
rational use of the spaces needed for any given subtitle‖. (2002:2-3)
According to Kapsasis, the current subtitling trend in which the work is
performed directly on template files is inadvisable:
―Until the early days of DVD subtitling, the subtitling process consisted in two major tasks: a
technical task, […] the timing of the subtitles, […] and the translation, directly from the
audiovisual material. Often the same person would carry out both tasks, thus fully
―originating‖ a subtitling file.‖ (2011:2).
Similarly, Georgakopoulou (2006: 30) highlighted the fact that ―thanks to
the development of dedicated subtitling software, subtitlers could […] spot the
film themselves and then write their translations so as to fit the time slots they
had spotted‖. Conversely, fansubbers, working outside the professional
translation industry, and fulfilling the role of both ‗synchers‘ and translators,
are responsible for, and are in greater control of the whole subtitling process.
In this study, the limits of mainstream practices will be explored in order to
encourage a debate on new approaches more in tune with the demands of the
contemporary target audience and specifically addressing the issue of
compartmentalisation of subtitling audiences.
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In his study on fansubbing, Pérez-González writes:
―Fansubs are subtitled versions [...] that fans (amateur subtitlers) produce primarily to express
their disagreement with commercial subtitling practices and to impose linguistic and cultural
mediation strategies of their own‖ (2007:4).
The fans‘ complaint concerns the process of dissimulation of the source
text, and as a result, its distorted representation, since ―subtitles [are] rarely
used to enhance viewer awareness [...]. The defamiliarizing effect of subtitles
is thus played down, since they no longer bring about a rupture of the filmic
flow.‖ (Kapsaskis 2008:8).
Against this background, a ‗hybrid proposal‘ was felt to be appropriate,
namely a well-balanced blend of the best resources used both by professionals
and amateurs. In this regard, Chesterman‘s concept of ―expectancy norms‖
(1997) appears to be central to this approach, as it originates precisely from
what viewers expect and above all demand: ―Expectancy norms are established
by the expectations of readers of a translation (of a given type) concerning
what a translation (of this type) should be like‖ (ibid.: 64).
Provided that the use of this theoretical framework is accepted, ―sourceorientedness‖ will be the core approach of this proposal, a method inspired by
the work of Schleiermacher (1813) and further developed by Lewis (1985),
Nornes (1999), and Venuti (2008).
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Whether we define this method as ―foreignisation‖, ―abusive fidelity‖, or
―source-orientedness‖, the idea is to move from a fluent, domesticated,
transparent translation to an ―overt‖ kind of translation (House 1977), in order
to preserve the cultural and linguistic flavour of the original.
The successful outcome is ―a translation that values experimentation,
tampers with usage, seeks to match the polyvalencies [...] of the original by
producing its own‖ (Lewis 1985:41). Hence, not only is this approach openly
―source-oriented‖, but also ―viewer-centric‖, since the end-viewers, with their
growing demands for a revolution in the niche area of the subtitling of TV
shows, are central to the reshaping of subtitling norms. Thus, having outlined
the theoretical approach to translation it is now appropriate to return to the
concept of expectancy norms for which translation standards are set by the
expectations of the receivers.
Among the main complaints made by the adherents of fansubbing is the
style employed by professional subtitling, described as flattening and
inconveniently imprecise. Other characteristics include the incompetent
rendering of special jargon (e.g. nerdy slang), cultural references — tributes to
cult movies and TV shows—, and inside jokes, only accessible to true
connoisseurs of a specific TV series. Ultimately, this translates into a set of
minor modifications to the traditional subtitling apparatus, which will be
outlined below.
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1. General aim To allow viewers to appreciate the audiovisual product by
strictly adhering to the style, the flavour and the cultural and linguistic
diversity of the original dialogues, paying particular attention to the niche
audience addressed.
2. Layout Normally positioned on the lower part of the screen (on the upper
part when on-screen text appears), subtitles should be displayed on two
lines with a maximum of 45 characters per line (between 42-43 being the
best option). The font colour should usually be white, but it could also be
of a different colour if necessary.
3. Omission Translators are requested to transfer everything they can within
the spatio-temporal constraints imposed. Repetitions, false starts and
redundant elements should be left out, while cultural references and
semantic voids should always be rendered by employing loanwords (e.g.,
cultural-bound expressions explicitated by notes), neologisms (e.g.,
derived from youth culture slang) in order for obscure foreign concepts to
enter the target culture.
As for duration, punctuation and segmentation, the codes of practice are
exactly the same as those described in Karamitroglou and Ivarsson and
Carroll‘s guidelines. In conclusion, this proposal stems from specific
theoretical approaches giving prominence to faithfulness in translation in order
to come to a set of norms allowing increased freedom to subtitlers.
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Thus, subtitles would no longer act as guidance, but as a vehicle able to
convey cultural and linguistic ‗otherness‘ where the touch of the subtitler is
made visible.
In the next chapter, which is focused on the case study of the American TV
show Lost, the consequences of the resistance of amateurs will be examined in
depth, showing how subtitling professionals seem to have taken advantage of
fansubbed versions without acknowledging their contribution.
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CHAPTER 5
EVOLUTION OF FANSUBBING
COMMUNITIES
The following section is devoted to the analysis of a case study focusing on
the TV show Lost.
It is a comparative analysis of episode one of the second season and episode
one of the final season of Lost, aiming to identify the key features of
fansubbing and trace the evolution of amateurs‘ methodologies over time.
The progress made by fansubbers as far as translation, timing and workflow are
concerned, will be traced by comparing the fansubbed and the subtitled
versions, in order to measure the quality of their work over a six-year period.
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5.1 LOST: FROM INITIAL STRUGGLE
TO HAPPY ENDING
Lost is a sci-fi TV show created by J. Lieber, J. J. Abrams and D. Lindelof
and aired on ABC from September 2004 to May 2010. It is an account of the
324 survivors of the crash of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 on a deserted tropical
island. For the first time on TV, the audience was presented with a complex,
nonlinear storyline developed with an extensive use of ‗flash-sideways‘, a
combination of flash-backs and flash-forwards, served with a pinch of
mythological elements and written using a multiple narrative perspective
device called ―polyphonic narrative‖ (Cate 2009). With such narrative
novelties, along with the large ensemble cast, and the cost of filming, mostly
set in the breath-taking location of Oahu, Hawaii, it is no small wonder that it
was to become the most successful TV drama of all time.
As a way to trace the evolution of fansubbing practices, in the case study
under analysis, episode one of the second season of Lost, broadcast in Italy in
2005, is investigated and compared with the first episode of the final season.
It was decided to start with the second season rather than the first owing to the
issue of workflow standardisation. In fact, while during the first season the
communities‘ approach to fansubbing was relatively casual and erratic, they
began to employ a set of translation guidelines and a series of cueing standards
that permitted a reliable analysis of the process from season two on.
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5.1.1 KEY FEATURES OF FANSUBBING
The following investigation takes into account three different versions of the
first episode of season two, ItaSA‘s, Subsfactory‘s and the official version
commercialised on DVD. The main traits of fansubbing will be highlighted
through the use of screenshots, and the various mistranslations, formatting and
cueing mistakes made by the two fan groups during the very first stage of their
work as translators will be examined, comparing them with professional
standards.
We will analyse a set of features common to fansubbing attempting to
distinguish among different translation issues, namely line length and
characters per second, text on screen, measurements and conversions,
terminology and mistranslations, and interference from other audiovisual
translations modes.
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5.1.2 LINE LENGTH AND CHARACTERS
PER SECOND
The first topic under analysis is line length of the subtitles, introduced by
the screenshots below (1 A-B).
Screenshot 1A - Subsfactory
Screenshot 1B (IT) - DVD
The standard characters allowed in mainstream subtitling (35-40 characters)
and fansubbing (45 characters) have been listed in chapter 4 on subtitling and
fansubbing standards. Even though fansubbing guidelines allow for 45
characters per line, the images below show an editing mistake on the part of
subbers, a one-liner composed of 63 characters that literally invades the bottom
of the screen thus making it inconveniently long and hard for the viewers to
read. On the other hand, screenshot 1B shows how the same subtitle is
rendered with a two-liner and a good formatting procedure in the DVD version.
A parallel topic is the one relating to CPS (characters per second) constraint.
It is extremely important to strike a balance between the number of characters
employed and the time exposure of the subtitle.
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Once again, Subtitle Workshop developers created an add-in programme
called CPS Auto-checker in order to verify that the harmony between the
parameters noted above is always achieved. In the following example
(screenshot 2A), fansubbers produced a two-liner made up of a total of 95
characters within a time span of nearly three seconds which is highlighted in
red a s a mistake by the CPS Auto-checker (see screenshot 2B).
Screenshot 2 A - Subsfactory
Screenshot 2 B - CPS Auto-checker
Screenshot 2 C - DVD
In the official version above (screenshot 2C), we can see that the source text
is condensed and that the characters per second limitation is balanced with the
time exposure of the subtitle.
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5.1.3TEXT ON SCREEN AND POSITION
OF SUBTITLES
In the following example (screenshot 3A-B) the issue of non-verbal visual
signs and text on screen is addressed. The images show a keyboard key sign
and its translation into Italian.
Screenshot 3 A (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 3 B - Subsfactory
In Subsfactory‘s version the visual sign is untranslated. In fact, in the early
stages of fansubbing this type of mistake was quite frequent, so that it appears
that either the subbers did not consider it appropriate to translate it or perhaps it
simply passed unnoticed.
Conversely, fansubbers added subtitles even it was unnecessary, for
example in the following image (screenshot 4) where a character utters
―shush!‖ the equivalent fansub reads ―Shh.‖.
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Screenshot 4 - Subsfactory
As a rule, interjections are always omitted in professional subtitling because
the viewers recognise the communicative intention behind them. Words like
―oh‖ and ―ehm‖ and so on do not need any translation as they are universally
understood and also because the image speaks for itself.
Yet, they are transcribed by fansubbers as if they were producing SDH
subtitles. This tendency may be due to the source text employed, the so-called
―ts‖, a sort of transcription of TV captions (see chapter 3 for more details).
Following on from the issue of text on screen, let us turn to screenshot 5A
below. Both ItaSA and Subsfactory‘s fansubbed versions display the subtitles
over the credits, making them confusing and sloppy. It might have been that, at
that time, fansubbers were not yet able to master the use of the subtitling
software employed. In Subtitle Workshop, one of the most frequently used
open source software programmes, the position of the subtitles is controlled by
a tag, hence by just adding {\an8} at the beginning of the subtitle, it simply
moves upwards. Both the fansubbed and the official versions that display the
correct position of the subtitle on top of the screen are shown in the following
screenshots (5 A-B).
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Screenshot 5 A - Subsfactory
Screenshot 5 B - DVD
A frequent mistake encountered in the fansubbed versions is the translation
of the subject pronoun into Italian. As a rule, subject pronouns are regularly
omitted in Italian, since the verb form indicates the subject. The following
figures (screenshots 6A and 6B) and the table below show how the DVD
version omits the subject pronoun in favour of a more fluent and less literal
translation. In addition the fact that fewer characters have been used allows for
a better adaption.
Screenshot 6 A - Subsfactory
Screenshot 6 B - DVD
ORIGINAL DIALOGUE
We‘ll never get everyone down in time.
SUBSFACTORY’S VERSION
Noi non metteremo tutti lì dentro in tempo.
DVD VERSION
Non riusciremo mai a far scendere tutti
in tempo.
Tab. 1
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As is shown in screenshots 5 and 6, the subtitles in the DVD version have
been moved to the top of the screen so as not to overwrite the text on screen,
while in both fansubbed versions they are located at the bottom. This practice
is sometimes used in fansubbing, but it depends on the tastes of the revisor and
on the popularity of the TV show translated (screenshots 7 A-C below).
Screenshot 7 A - DVD
Screenshot 7 B - ItaSA
Screenshot 7 C - Subsfactory
As we can see, in both fansubbed versions the subtitles have been left at the
bottom obscuring the initial credits of the show, although the same mistakes
does not occur in the DVD version.
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5.1.4 MEASUREMENTS AND CONVERSION
During the translation phase, the professional subtitling practice is to
convert measurements as a way of facilitating the comprehension of the target
audience. In screenshot 8 A-B, Subsfactory‘s version, which leaves the original
imperial measurement (feet) without converting it into its metric equivalent, is
displayed, while screenshot 8B shows that the measurement has been
converted in ItaSA‘s fansubs.
Screenshot 8 A - Subsfactory
Screenshot 8 B - ItaSA
And here is the official translation:
Screenshot 8 C - DVD
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Once again, in this stage, the behaviour of the fansubbers has proved to be
erratic. In the source dialogue the characters say: ―Kate: - 40 feet down/John: 50, tops‖. As we can see in screenshot 8C, ItaSA‘s conversion is correct, and
the translation is almost the same as the official one.
5.1.5 INTERFERENCES FROM DUBBESE
Every once in a while, other audiovisual translation modes may interfere
with amateur translation practices. Influences from ‗dubbese‘, a variety of the
language of dubbing, are prevalent in fansubbing versions. The artificial
language adopted in dubbed films resorts to calques from American English in
order to create a touch of orality. Although the neologisms created by dubbese
do not belong to the Italian spoken language, they have, nevertheless, become
part of conversational routines in film dialogues (Filmer 2011).
The following is an example of the hybridisation between this variety of
language and the amateur subtitling style.
Screenshot 9 A (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 9 B - Subsfactory
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The source text reads: ―The French woman is missing a bloody wing nut‖.
While in the DVD version the translation tends to mitigate the effects of the
original expression (back translation: ―the French woman has a screw loose‖),
in Subsfactory‘s it is rendered quite literally, using the expression ―fottuta
pazza‖ (―bloody wing nut‖), where the Italian adjective ―fottuta‖ is a loan from
dubbese, the ―hybrid language used by the Italian dubbing industry to transpose
both fictional and non-fictional foreign TV and cinema productions‖ (Antonini
2009:3). Dubbing routines, in fact, have a tendency to employ the adjectival
intensifier ―fottuta‖ in order to render the American English equivalent of
―fucking‖, ―frigging‖ and ―bloody‖. Funsubbers seem to act similarly when
dealing with these aspects of language, perhaps because they have been
exposed to dubbing for too long a period.
It is surely worth noting that the translation of the term ―dude‖ constitutes
another interesting case in the TV show, particularly when it is pronounced by
the actor playing the role of Harley (screenshots 10 A-D).
Screenshot 10 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 10 B (IT) - DVD
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Screenshot 10 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 10 D - ItaSA
In their fansubbed version, ItaSA, quite creatively, has opted for the
neologism ―coso‖ (back translation: ―thing‖ plus the male suffix -o), a choice
heavily influenced by dubbing. The example provided below attempts to shed
light on style, an aspect often neglected by mainstream subtitling. As a rule,
professional subtitling guidelines omit redundant elements considered to be
irrelevant. Yet, at times translating apparently superfluous words serves the
valuable purpose of conveying the source text style. This function is rather
important if we are to analyse the protagonist of the following scene, Hugo
"Hurley" Reyes, played by Jorge Garcia, Lost‘s comic relief.
As was previously mentioned, in the dubbed version of the show this
important aspect of translation was conveyed by employing the neologism
―coso‖ (see Screenshot 10 D above) when the character utters the word ―dude‖.
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5.1.6 MISTRANSLATIONS:
WHEN PROFESSIONALS GO WRONG
At an earlier stage of fansubbing, a distinguishing trait was that of source
text mistranslations. In the scene under analysis we have a flashback set in the
E.R. where one of the characters (Jack) used to work before the plane crashed
on the mysterous island. A patient arrives and the nurse introduces her case
saying: ―Female, late twenties, no ID‖. Subsfactory translated it as follows:
―Femmina in ritardo 20s, nessuna identificazione‖, where ―late‖ refers to the
woman who ―seems to be late‖, producing a sentence that does not make sense
at all. On the other hand, the DVD version leaves out the fact that she has no
ID and produces a two liner adding another piece of information: ―She coded
twice‖.
Screenshot 11 A - Subsfactory
Screenshot 11 B - DVD
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ItaSA‘s version reads as follows:
Screenshot 11 C - ItaSA
Another interesting case of mistranslation on the part of fansubbers is shown
in the following screenshots (12 A-D).
Screenshot 12 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 12 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 12 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 12 D - ItaSA
In the professional version the word ―lottery‖ is adapted and rendered as
―lotto‖, for no apparent reason, since ―lotteria‖ is the perfect equivalent in the
target language. The translation in the DVD version is quite arbitrary, but is
still acceptable. In Subsfactory‘s fansubs, ―burrito‖ becomes ―ice cream‖
(―gelato‖), while in ItaSA‘s translation ―frozen‖ becomes ―deep fried‖
(―fritto‖).
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This kind of mistake may unintentionally appear to be quite hilarious, yet it
reveals the level of inaccuracy of the two fansubbing communities at this
particular stage in their work.
Another example concerns the source text expression ―chicken joint‖ and is
rendered as follows:
Screenshot 13 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 13 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 13 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 13 D - ItaSA
While the DVD version translates it correctly as ―fast food‖, Subsfactory
leaves it untranslated and ItaSA makes up a neologism, ―catena di polli‖ which
has no meaning in the target language. As a matter of fact, the character in
question (Harley) used to work at ―Mr. Clucks‖, a chicken restaurant, or more
precisely a fast food joint. In the case of Subsfactory, at a very early stage of
fansubbing, a sort of ‗loanword strategy‘ was used every time the transfer of
certain concepts was unclear.
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On the other hand, ItaSA employed a calque where an Italian equivalent was
ready-made: the hypernym ―fast food‖ is sufficient to explain the source text
expression even if it does not specify the type of food served in this kind of
restaurant.
The following example focuses on the translation of the term ―folks‖, which
in American English is used to address group of people in an informal way.
This is illustrated in the following screenshots (14 A-B):
Screenshot 14 A (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 14 C – Subsfactory
Screenshot 14 B (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 14 D - ItaSA
In this scene one of the characters suggests that the party should wait for a
group of survivors who tried to get away from the island in order to ask for
help because the ‗others‘, or the enemies, were coming.
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The following table shows how the source text expression ―brave folks‖ was
rendered in the three versions:
ORIGINAL DIALOGUE
Wait for the brave folks on the raft to bring help.
DVD VERSION
Aspettare che quelli della zattera
chiedano aiuto.
ITASA’S VERSION
Aspettare i ―nostri eroi‖ sulla zattera
che ci portino gli aiuti.
SUBSFACTORY’S VERSION
Aspettiamo i popoli coraggiosi sulla
zattera
che ci portano aiuto,
BACK TRANSLATION
Wait that those of the raft ask for help.
BACK TRANSLATION
Wait for our heroes on the raft who bring
help.
BACK TRANSLATION
Let‘s wait for the brave peoples on the
raft
who bring help.
Tab. 2
The official translation opted for levelling out the source text and omitted
the adjective ―brave‖, while ItaSA‘s choice was to employ the strategy of
explicitation by transposing the concept elicited by the term ―brave‖ into the
noun ―eroi‖ (―heroes‖). Subsfactory, unfortunately, gave a literal rendering of
the expression, consequently misrepresenting the intended meaning of ―folks‖
with ―peoples‖ (―popoli‖).
Professional subtitlers occasionally make ghastly mistakes, and the
following screenshots (15 A-D) show an interesting case of mistranslation.
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In the scene in the E.R. mentioned above (screenshots 11 A-C), another
patient is brought in by the paramedics:
Screenshot 15 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 15 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 15 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 15 D - ItaSA
The following table shows the three different versions examined and
particularly how the source text term ―collar‖ was rendered.
ORIGINAL DIALOGUE
A piece of the steering column. Let‘s go. Keep that collar steady.
DVD VERSION
Un pezzo dello sterzo. Avanti.
Tenete ferma la clavicola.
SUBSFACTORY’S VERSION
Ok iniziamo... tieni quel colletto fermo.
ITASA’S VERSION
Va bene, cominciamo. Bloccate il collare.
BACK TRANSLATION
A piece of the steering column. Let‘s go.
Keep that collar-bone steady.
BACK TRANSLATION
Ok, let‘s start. Keep the collar of the
shirt steady.
BACK TRANSLATION
Ok, let‘s start. Keep the cervical collar
steady.
Tab. 3
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Here, the problem revolves around the polysemy of the term ―collar‖: it
may refer to a body part, a garment or a medical device. Its meaning is, in fact,
apparently quite clear: a wounded patient has just entered the emergency room
and is wearing a collar in order to keep his neck straight and to support the
head. Hence, just by translating what is represented in the images, it is apparent
that the correct translation is the one produced by ItaSA (screenshot 15 C).
Screenshot 16 A (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 16 B - ItaSA
Another case of mistranslation related to medical terminology is illustrated
in screenshots 16 A-B. The source text expression, ―fracture dislocation‖ is
rendered as ―frattura dislocata‖ in the DVD version, while the correct Italian
equivalent should be ―frattura scomposta‖, and the term "spine‖, rendered as
―spina‖, ought to be ―rachide‖ in the target language.
This kind of mistake demonstrates the poor quality of terminology research
on the part of professional subtitlers in contrast to ItaSA‘s more accurate
translation of the same medical expressions, where ―spine‖ is rendered as
―spina dorsale‖ which is a perfectly acceptable variation of ―rachide‖.
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The last instance of mistranslation on the part of subtitlers revolves around the
meaning of the verb ―roll around‖. In one of the many flashbacks in the TV
show, the main character‘s flow of thought sends the viewer back to a time
when, before the air crash, he used to work as a doctor and was talking to one
of his patients. The woman in question was about to get married when she had
an accident in which she was left completely paralysed.
Screenshot 17 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 17 B (IT) - DVD
The phrasal verb ―to roll round‖ defines the activity of moving on wheels,
or using a wheelchair. In the DVD version it was translated simply as ―roll‖,
which seems rather out of context. ItaSA, on the other hand, came up with a
free translation into Italian, ―comportarmi normalmente‖ (back translation: ―act
normally‖), which bears no relation to the source language verb.
Screenshot 17 C - ItaSA
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5.2 EVOLUTION OF
ITASA AND SUBSFACTORY
The final season of Lost was aired in Italy in 2010, almost in real time with
the United States. What is more, on 24 May 2010, a unique event took place:
the final episode of the series was aired simultaneously by NBC in the United
States, Sky1 in the United Kingdom, Fox Italia in Italy, and many more
countries world-wide. In Italy the episode was aired in English at 6.00 am, and
fansubbed by ItaSA and Subsfactory a few hours later. It was then re-aired
twenty-four hours later with Italian ‗pro-subtitles‘ and eventually broadcast on
31May in its dubbed Italian version. Never before had Italians experienced
such a speed in dealing with audiovisual translation. It is no small wonder that
the ‗Italian fansubbing movement‘ paved the way for this to happen. Five years
later, after the first steps into audiovisual translation had been taken by the
fansubbing communities, we are able to attest to a significant number of
developments in various areas of the phenomenon.
Firstly, fansubbers do not simply translate, as they used to at the beginning,
but they also originate the subtitles, a role carried out solely by the so-called
‗synchers‘. Nowadays, this practice has been adopted by both communities,
meaning that there are more specialised fansubbers and a brand new assembly
line.
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The changes made by the two communities over time we will be analysed in
this section and the features which have remained unaffected will also be
examined. The pros and cons of faithfulness in translation, condensation,
omission and style, and punctuation conventions will be among the topics
covered.
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5.2.1 FAITHFULNESS IN TRANSLATION:
PROS AND CONS
Episode one of the final season starts with the following images (18 A-C) in
which a ship sailing on the ocean is illustrated:
Screenshot 18 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 18 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 18 C - Subsfactory
The character uttering the words in the subtitles is complaining about the
enemies, also known as ‗the others‘. In this case, the versions produced by
ItaSA and Subsfactory are almost identical. The verb ―corrupt‖ is rendered
rather literally by the Italian ‗corrompono‘, although there is a problem in that
it acts as a transitive verb, meaning that it must be followed by a direct object
or the resulting sentence would be grammatically incomplete.
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A good equivalent is found in the DVD version where the subtitler has
opted for ―rovinano tutto‖ (back translation, ―they ruin everything‖), which
conveys the exact meaning of the source text.
After all these seasons, what seems to remain unchanged in the behaviour of
the fansubbers is the tendency to remain scrupulously faithful to the source
text, even if it is sometimes not absolutely necessary. Fansubbers apparently
strive towards a slavish adherence to their own guidelines, and believe that
faithfulness to the original dialogue should be paramount, a dominant trait
which could result in undermining their ability to adapt the original dialogues
to suit the target language and to produce a more fluent translation.
This trait becomes apparent in the following scene, where no mistake is
actually made. However, the example in question gives us a hint of their
attitude towards translation. ―Detonate‖ is translated as ―detonare‖ in both
fansubbed versions (screenshots 19 C-D), while in the official translation it is
rendered as ―esplodere.
Screenshot 19 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 19 B (IT) - DVD
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Screenshot 19 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 19 D - ItaSA
The tendency to extreme faithfulness can also be found in the next example
(screenshots 20 A-D), where the translation in the fansubbed version results in
a literal rendering, producing an awkwardly incoherent rendering, while a
better solution is offered by the official translation.
Screenshot 20 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 20 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 20 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 20 D - ItaSA
The back translation of the source dialogue in the DVD version reads, ―I
even can‘t remember how many people I have tortured‖, while Subsfactory and
ItaSA‘s Italian syntactic structures are almost identical to those of the source
language.
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The following example focuses on the option to translate or omit the word
―man‖ found in the source text sentence: ―you shouldn‘t let that happen, man‖.
In mainstream subtitling, this colloquial method of addressing a person is
systematically omitted, although fansubbers believe that it is important to
translate these seemingly superfluous words.
There is, apparently, no need to convey nuances of language, yet it is
sometimes essential to include them in order to characterise both the style and
register of the original version. The character uttering this sentence speaks in
an English accent, and he is also a drug addict as we can infer from the scene,
so that the addition of a simple word like ―man‖ might help to convey some of
the peculiarities of his behaviour and background. Moreover, the omission of
these apparently meaningless and redundant vocative forms (above all at the
end of subtitles) is seemingly interpreted by fansubbers as a a failing, hence
their tendency to translate everything.
Screenshot 21 A (EN) - DVD
Screenshot 21 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 21 B (IT) DVD
Screenshot 21 D - ItaSA
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As shown in the screenshots above, the DVD version omits the term ―man‖,
displaying a very aseptic subtitle, while Subsfactory translates it literally as
―amico‖ (―friend‖) in a style reminiscent of dubbese, and ItaSA attempts to
adapt it by employing the word ―bello‖ (―handsome‖), which, although it is not
used very frequently in Italian, can be found in some sub-varieties of standard
language or youth slang used in specific regions of the country.
The same behaviour can be found in the rendering of the words ―mate‖ (in
the original sentence: ―so mate, do you mind if I sit here?‖), and ―brother‖
(uttered with an Irish accent, hence strongly marked), respectively fansubbed
using the equivalent Italian term ―amico‖ and ―fratello‖, and omitted in the
professional version (screenshots 22 A-C and 23 A-D):
Screenshot 22 A – Subsfactory
Screenshot 22 B – ItaSA
Screenshot 22 C (IT) - DVD
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Screenshot 23 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 23 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 23 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 23 D - ItaSA
The translation of everything belonging to the original dialogues, which is
one of the peculiarities of fansubbing, is due to the rigid principle of remaining
as faithful as possible to the foreign audiovisual product. Yet, the reason
behind this obsessive preoccupation with inserting false starts and hesitations
could also be due to the specific cueing standards of fansubbing. As we have
already seen in the preceding sections (see chapter 4), amateur translators
believe that subtitles should start with the first sound uttered by a character,
and, even if the sound does not constitute a proper word (e.g. hesitations, false
starts, and the like), they believe that it should be rendered anyhow.
This is how fansubbers perceive the timing process and, consequently, how
they ‗synch‘ (or originate) and produce the subtitles. In addition, given that the
script employed by subbers (the so-called ‗ts‘) is derived from the closed
subtitling or captioning files meant for viewers with an aural or hearing
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impairment (SDH subtitling), the norms governing this type of transfer are
completely different, as is its end purpose.
An example based on the repetition of ―no‖ is given below (screenshots 24
A-C).
Screenshot 24 A - Subsfactory
Screenshot 24 B - ItaSA
Screenshot 24 C (IT) - DVD
On the other hand, professional versions can also sometimes be quite literal.
The original dialogues belonging to the scene shown below — once again,
focusing on time travel —, reads: ―Blown up, just like we left it, before we
started jumping through time.‖ Here the expression ―jump through time‖ has a
perfect equivalent in Italian, ―viaggiare nel tempo‖ (back translation: ―travel
through time‖). Literally transposing the verb ―jump‖ into Italian results in a
translation that reads as a ‗translation‘ (screenshots 25 A-B below).
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Conversely, while ItaSA reproduces the same mistranslation, Subsfactory,
quite professionally recognises the correct equivalent and translates it into
Italian as ―travel‖ (screenshots 25 C-D).
Screenshot 25 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 25 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 25 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 25 D - ItaSA
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5.2.2 TEXT COMPRESSION AND OMISSION
A hybrid approach to future subtitling standards is proposed in chapter 4,
which is devoted to a comparison between subtitling and fansubbing norms. In
this section the topic of condensation in subtitling will be treated so as to
clarify what is reduced in both fansubbing and subtitling translations and why.
A comparison between the amateur and professional translational approaches
may be useful in order to understand the strategies at work in both
environments.
The following (see screenshots 26 A-H) is an excellent example of how
mainstream subtitling could be less concise and much more specific. In the
original dialogue two characters on the plane talk about the possibility of a
plane crash: ―Actually, in calm seas with a good pilot, we could survive a water
landing‖. The DVD version shows an oversimplified rendering, even if the
number of characters available allow for a complete translation (back
translation: ―if the sea was calm and the pilot good, we could make it,
actually‖).
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As shown in screenshots 26 A-D, the subtitlers who produced the DVD
version have plenty of space available for a complete rendering, yet we witness
an inadvertent inaccuracy here.
Screenshot 26 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 26 C (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 26 B (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 26 D (IT) - DVD
On the other hand, the versions produced by Subsfactory and ItaSA allow
for a complete translation of the source text; while the latter is lacking in
fluency, the version offered by Subsfactory is of a better quality.
Screenshot 26 E - Subsfactory
Screenshot 26 F - Subsfactory
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Screenshot 26 G - ItaSA
Screenshot 26 H - ItaSA
Sometimes, however, ‗extreme condensation‖ is not only necessary, but is
also advisable. The following scene, in which the characters are arguing about
a bomb that went off and was supposed to change the course of time, shows
how a sequence of two subtitles can be merged in Italian, and transformed into
a single sentence. The source text is composed of the following sentences:
―You said we could stop it from ever being built!‖, and ―That our plane would
have never crash on this land‖. In the DVD we find the following rendering:
―Dicevi che impedendone la costruzione,//l‘aereo non si sarebbe schiantato
sull‘isola‖, — back translation: ―You said that, avoiding the construction//the
plane wouldn‘t have crashed on the island!‖ (see screenshots 27 A-D).
Screenshot 27 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 27 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 27 C (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 27 D (IT) - DVD
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On the other hand, the translations in both fansubbed versions are rather
literal, in accordance with established fansubbing guidelines which aim for an
extremely faithful rendering of the source text (screenshots 27 E-H).
Screenshot 27 E - Subsfactory
Screenshot 27 F - Subsfactory
Screenshot 27 G - ItaSA
Screenshot 27 H - ItaSA
Similarly, fidelity to the source text can also mean rendering nuances of the
audiovisual product style, such as informal and foul language as in the
following scene.
Screenshot 28 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 28 B (IT) - DVD
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Screenshot 28 C - Subsfactory
As we can see, Subsfactory (see screenshot 29 C) renders the source text
expression ―get your asses‖ with the quite literal ―portate il culo‖, while in the
DVD all the traces of foul language are omitted and the translation reads:
―come immediately‖. Unfortunately, and to the TV show‘s detriment, foul
language is often censored in professional versions (see section, 5.3, which
focuses on humour and censorship).
Incidentally, in this subtitle, apart from the issue of censorship, we can
discern a significant mistranslation on the part of pro-subtitlers of the term
―baggage claim‖. In airports, a ―baggage claim‖ is an area where passengers
can claim their luggage after disembarking from the aeroplane. In the Italian
version, ―baggage claim‖ becomes ―reclamo bagagli‖ (back translation,
―complaint baggage‖) where ―claim‖ acts as a false friend. Interestingly,
Subsfactory produces a perfect translation of the expression, rendering it as
―area ritiro bagagli‖ (screenshots 28 A-C).
Another case of omission relating to slang is displayed in the source
language sentence: ―That sucks!‖ which becomes ―It‘s terrible!‖ in Italian
(Screenshot 29 B).
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Once again, both fansubbing communities offer a translation that does not
level down the language or suppress the original meaning, by using an
appropriate equivalent and an adequate register in the target text: ―Che sfiga!‖
(back translation: ―what bad luck!‖).
Screenshot 29 A (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 29 B (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 29 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 29 D - ItaSA
In the final example an interesting case relating to the translation of the
word ―walkabout‖ is introduced.
On the plane two characters are engaged in a conversation in which one of
them asks the other the reason for his trip to Australia; the other character
replies that he went there for a ‗walkabout‘. The other goes on to ask: ―Like
Crocodile Dundee?‖, in an attempt to specify the kind of activity implied (IT:
―Tipo Crocodile Dundee?‖). What seems strange here is that in all the versions
produced, both fansubbed and professional, the term ―walkabout‖ has been left
untranslated (screenshots 30 A-C).
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In Australian English, a ―walkabout‖ is a ―temporary return to traditional
aboriginal life, taken especially between periods of work or residence in
modern society and usually involving a period of travel through the bush.‖36
It could also indicate a simple walking trip, or a short leave of absence from
work. In all these cases, the average viewer would probably not understand the
exact meaning of the word without an adequate translation. Yet, the reasons
behind this choice become clear if we bear in mind the fansubbing behaviours
analysed so far, to convey a sense of otherness, for instance. However, this
does not explain the decision to adopt a borrowing for this term on the part of
the professional subtitlers.
Screenshot 30 A (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 30 B - Subsfactory
Screenshot 30 C - ItaSA
36
Definition found at: www.thefreedictionary.com/walkabout.
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The examples included here are not meant to denigrate professional
translators. On the contrary, they merely highlight the fact that not all amateur
translators are as bad as is commonly thought. It is the aim of this research to
emphasise the fact that audiovisual translation in general should be taken more
seriously and involve recommended and qualified professionals, instead of
relying on ―cheap alternatives‖ (see section 3.2, which focuses on co-creative
labour).
Hence, all things considered, the behaviour of fansubbers is not arbitrary; on
the contrary, their faithfulness to the source text is a regular trait in their
approach to translation, and as we have shown in the cases cited above, it can
lead to a positive outcome as far as the expression of style and register are
concerned.
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5.2.3 TYPOGRAPHICAL CONVENTIONS
In chapter four the topic of norms has been dealt with quite extensively.
This section includes an analysis of the different treatment of punctuation
conventions in professional subtitling and fansubbing. As far as punctuation is
concerned, subtitling standards employ italics, ―to indicate an off-screen source
of the spoken text‖ (Karamitroglou 1998:2).
In the scenes below, we find one of the leading characters, Jack Shepard, in
an airport listening to an announcement over the loud speakers.
Screenshot 31 A (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 31 B - Subsfactory
While in the DVD version (screenshot 31 A), the subtitles make use of
italics to highlight the fact that the voice comes from an electronic device, in
the fansubbed version no such differentiation is made. When using Subtitle
Workshop, subbers can easily switch the typographical font from normal to
italics by simply adding the tag ―<i>‖ at the beginning of the subtitle. The use
of italics for the same purposes as in professional subtilting is established in
both ItaSA and Subsfactory‘s guidelines, yet, after analysing a large number of
versions in order to map out the frequency of italics in fansubbing, the
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conclusion has been reached that its use is relatively rare and is limited to the
translation of specific genres, (e.g., British and period dramas).
This typographical font seems to be used more to highlight an anachronistic
style rather than a contemporary one. In this case, the fact that the voice
speaking does not belong to one of the characters on screen is quite
straightforward, suggesting that subbers might have thought it unnecessary to
stress the difference.
We should now address the question of how fansubbing has evolved over
time. Apart from the fact that the constant and disproportionate faithfulness to
the original dialogues has remained unchanged, there are a number of other
changes, notably that the fansubbed versions relating to the last season of Lost
do not show the same cases of mistranslation or lack of comprehension
observed during the first seasons. Indeed, the fact that the number of characters
established in the fansubbing guidelines is religiously followed and in general
the CPS are respected means that, not only are amateur translations of a better
quality, but clearly the cueing process has also attained a standard of
excellence.
Thus, even if some subtitles might ideally be more condensed and concise,
the translation is of a good quality and at times the choices made for the
adaption are far better than the version produced on DVD. This would indicate
that an evolution has taken place within these communities over time, not only
in terms of language proficiency, but also in terms of artistic expression and
creativity, aspects frequently marginalised by professional subtitlers.
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We might conclude by asking how dissimilar professional and fansubbed
versions are one from the other. Apart from a set of accidental misprints, for
example the use of commas before the conjunction ―e‖ in Italian, the excessive
faithfulness to the dialogues, which often leads to the imitation of the same
syntactic structures in the target language, as well as a number of cumbersome
syntactic and semantic segmentations, it is impossible to pinpoint any
appreciable difference between the official and the fansubbed versions.
On the contrary, the DVD version appears to have been influenced by the
work of the amateurs, even if it is then refined, embellished and finally
polished for publication. Apart from the differences noted above, after a careful
analysis of the three versions, (the DVD, ItaSA and Subsfactory), on the whole
there is the sense that the work of professionals is frequently the result of the
best of both fansubbed products, since many renderings, adaptions and
solutions resemble those published by amateur translators too closely.
Therefore, all the evidence suggests that fansubbing, — since it is online,
free and available —, provides a convenient source for translation rough drafts
containing ideas, tips and hints, from which professionals can draw liberally at
anytime. Unfortunately, this sort of ‗legal plagiarism‘ can be perceived
throughout the episodes analysed.
The work of amateur translators seems to be better than might be expected,
not only for professional subtitlers who exploit it, but also in terms of financial
gain for subtitling companies which are able to rely on simply proofreading
free translations. According to Vellar, ―Italian professionals started to
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capitalize on the skills of fansubbers to produce professional content without
always acknowledging their contribution‖ (2011:5).
In times like these, with the global financial crisis and all its consequences,
subtitling rates have been consistently lowered, a fact which has led companies
to hire inexperienced, unqualified translators who are willing to accept
inadequate rates, while experienced subtitlers are turning to other markets in
which to make a living. Fansubbers play an important role in this respect and,
if they were to realise how crucial their co-creative labour is to the subtitling
industry, they might hold the key to great change.
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CHAPTER 6
CENSORSHIP AND HUMOR
IN CALIFORNICATION
This section focuses mainly on the topic of censorship associated with the
expression of humour, external references and slang. It begins by investigating
a set of examples concerned with censorship and humour, followed by an
analysis of cases based on specific instances of mistranslation and
undertranslation as far as adaption is concerned, due to the misinterpretation of
external references, inside jokes, and slang terms on the part of both fansubbers
and professional translators.
In the translation of audiovisual products, the practice of censorship, or the
suppression of what might be perceived as offensive on many levels — foul
language, explicit or inconvenient content, for example —, unfortunately still
remains an unresolved issue in both dubbing and subtitling.
The reason behind this peculiar attitude towards audiovisual translation is
due to various factors: not only to distribution companies and the policies of
public TV networks, ―in order [for them] to adhere to what they consider
politically correct‖ (Scandura 2004:1), but also, in the worst-case scenario it
may derive from a process of self-censorship on the part of translators, who
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lack adequate knowledge of the foreign sub-culture and sub-language, which
results in instances of undertranslation of which they are unaware.
However, when we deprive an audiovisual text of the strong language used
to express explicit references to sexual practices, the use of drugs, and
offensive or politically incorrect language, there is a sense of semantic loss,
especially when these references are not arbitrary, but strictly connected to the
expression of puns on words and humour in general. This is, in fact, the case
with the TV show Californication.
Californication is a TV show created by Tom Kapinos and aired for the first
time on Showtime in 2007. The series revolves around the main protagonist,
Hank Moody (David Duchovny), a novelist à-la Bukowski, who is involved in
a complicated relationship with his long standing girlfriend Karen (Natascha
McElhone) and daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin). In the episode under
analysis, we find him dealing with a writer‘s block as well as battling with his
addictions to sex, drugs and alcohol, which are expressed in rather explicit
language.
In Italy the pilot episode under analysis was broadcast on 6 March 2008 by
the digital satellite pay TV Jimmy. ItaSA released the fansubs on 4 June of the
same year at 23:15. The subtitled version analysed relates to the DVD
distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment Italy, and released on 20
January 2009. The fact that the distribution company provided the translation
without relying on the services of any subtitling firms has resulted in a low
quality outcome, as is shown in detail in the following analysis.
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6.1 SEX, HUMOR AND FOUL LANGUAGE
A scene in which we find the protagonist, Hank, in bed with a married
woman is depicted in the first screenshots of the section. After having sex, the
two characters are engaged in a conversation full of metaphors and references
to erogenous body parts as she is complaining about the fact that her husband
does not give her enough pleasure (screenshots 32 A-B).
Screenshot 32 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 32 B (ENG) - DVD
As we can infer from the images above, the original dialogues begin with a
metaphor referring to the act of oral sex act performed on a female, known as
‗cunnilingus‘, making use of imagery connected with ‗hoods‘ and ‗southlands‘.
The tension builds up until Hank comes up with the neologism ―vaganus‖, a
combination of ―vagina‖ and ―anus‖ to refer to the area that contains both
external openings (see table 4).
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ORIGINAL DIALOGUE
Hank: Does he [...] go downtown, tour the southland?
Woman: Never
Hank: Go under thee hood? Near the vaganus?
DVD’S
SUBSFACTORY’S
ITASA’S
Hank: Si fa mai un giro da
Hank: Lui non va mai giù in
Hank: Lui non va mai in
quelle parti, là in basso?
centro? Verso sud?
perlustrazione laggiù a sud?
Woman: Mai.
Woman: Mai.
Woman: Mai.
Hank: Va mai nel boschetto?
Hank: Nella foresta?
Hunk: Non entra nella foresta?
Vicino alla bernarda?
Vicino alla vagina?
Vicino all‘altro buco?
Tab. 4 (screenshots 32 A-D)
In the DVD, the translator employs the word ―bernarda‖ to translate the
English term, an old-fashioned expression that only refers to ―vagina‖, toning
down the strong sexual connotation of the source language and censoring the
word ―anus‖ (screenshots 33 A-B).
Screenshot 33 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 33B (IT) - DVD
Subsfactory simply chooses the easiest way by employing the neutral term
―vagina‖, while once again omitting the reference to ―anus‖ (screenshot 33 C
below).
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Screenshot 33 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 33 D - ItaSA
On the contrary, a more creative and complete translation is offered by
ItaSA‘s subbers who manage to render all the references implied in the source
text message by using a rather indirect style, ―vicino all‘altro buco?‖ (back
translation: ―near the other opening?‖). It is worth noting that, in the dubbed
version, ―vicino all‘ano?‖ (back translation: ―near the anus?‖) is chosen, as
described by Bucaria (2009) in her paper ―Translation and censorship on
Italian TV: an inevitable love affair‖.
We may assume that the DVD version may have censored the neologism, or
worse, it could be a case of oversight on the part of the professionals. However,
ItaSA at least has demonstrated a certain degree of creativity, aiming for more
care and accuracy in their version.
In the scenes below, the conversation about sexual matters between the two
characters continues, focusing on the exact position of the clitoris, as the
woman‘s husband seems to have some issues finding it. Making fun of this
inexperienced man, Hunk says: ―I just so happen to have my GPS with me.
I‘ve stored it up my ass.‖ In this case, the focus of the analysis has been shifted
from sexual innuendo to the translation of foul language. The term ―ass‖ has a
perfect and straightforward equivalent in Italian, ―culo‖.
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Screenshot 34 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 34 B (IT) - DVD
Once again, in the version on DVD an edulcorated translation has been
chosen, using the equivalent ―chiappe‖ (back translation: ―buttocks‖), a term
which is reminiscent of the archaic style of the word ―bernarda‖ previously
used. In the dubbed version, the word ―sedere‖ has been used, toning down the
connotations of the source term even further. The inevitable consequence of
mitigating the offensive language of the piece is that the style of the original
dialogues is profoundly altered and the humour implicit in the strong words is
instantly destroyed.
Screenshot 34 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 34 D - ItaSA
Conversely, in the versions produced by both ItaSA and Subsfactory the
word ―ass‖ has been translated by direct Italian equivalent, ―culo‖ (screenshots
34 C-D), maintaining the original atmosphere of the TV show.
As the scene goes on, the woman‘s husband comes back home and Hank
tries to find somewhere to hide saying: ―Well, maybe I should hide under your
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clit‖, making a reference to the previous scene when the woman said that he
had no clue where her clitoris might be.
Screenshot 35 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 35 B (IT) - DVD
In the official version ―clit‖, the short, colloquial form of ―clitoris‖ is
translated by ―vulva‖. We should now turn to a comparison of the two terms.
While the term ―clitoris‖ is defined as ―the female erogenous organ capable of
erection under sexual stimulation (female homologue of the male penis)‖37, and
hence openly related to sex, the term ―vulva‖ is described as ―the external
female genitalia surrounding the opening to the vagina and that collectively
consist of the labia majora, the labia minora, and the clitoris‖38. Linguistically
speaking, we might say that the professionals have adopted a hypernym in
order to suppress an overtly sexual content and express the same content by a
more neutral solution.
37
38
www.britannica.com/search?query=clitoris
www.britannica.com/search?query=vulva
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On the other hand, faithful to the source text as usual, fansubbers belonging
to both ItaSA and Subsfactory, simply used ―clitoride‖, the perfect equivalent
of ―clit‖.
Screenshot 35 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 35 D - ItaSA
The following example serves to introduce the topic of swearwords.
Bucaria‘s study (2009), clearly indicates that, as far as Italian dubbing is
concerned,
―no recurring patterns indicating a specific rationale for the
deletion or toning down of swearwords or other potentially
disturbing elements seemed to emerge from the analysis, perhaps
suggesting a certain level of arbitrariness in the translational
choices‖. (ibid.:1)
It is suggested here that what is absolutely true for dubbing can be also applied
to subtitling. Screenshots 36 A-D constitute just one of the number of cases of
total omission of explicit words.
Screenshot 36 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 36 B (IT) - DVD
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Screenshot 36 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 36 D - ItaSA
The offensive word is ―fuck‖, extensively used throughout the programme
and apt in terms of characterising the protagonist and the style of the script.
The situation in which Hank pronounces the sentence, ―hey, what the fuck was
that?‖ appears to be relatively critical, because he has just heard a noise
meaning that the woman‘s husband is returning home and is about to find out
that his wife has cheated on him. Hence, the term in question creates a
liberating and comic effect by releasing the anxiety building up inside the
protagonist. The perfect Italian equivalent would be ―cazzo‖, which was the
choice adopted by both fansubbing communities. Needless to say, the word is
omitted completely in version on DVD with the translation reading, ―what was
that?‖.
Rather than being deleted entirely, bad words are often toned down, but
considerably toned down in the professional version, as in the following scene,
where ―why the fuck‖ becomes ―perché diamine‖ (back translation ―what on
earth‖) in the DVD, while it is correctly rendered in both fansubbed versions.
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Screenshot 37 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 37 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 37 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 37 D - ItaSA
This process of censoring explicit language on the part of professional
translators continues relatively arbitrarily throughout the whole episode, in
which we find that ―motherfucker‖ becomes ―figlio di buona donna‖ (back
translation ―son of good woman‖), instead of ―figlio di puttana‖ (used by both
communities) which is the literal translation of the original swearword
(screenshots 38 A-D).
Screenshot 38 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 38 B (IT) - DVD
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Screenshot 38 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 38 D - ItaSA
Similarly, the explicit slang term ―dick‖ becomes ―biscotto‖ (back
translation ―biscuit‖) in the DVD (screenshot 39 B), while it is rendered
literally as ―cazzo‖ by ItaSA and ―uccello‖ (―bird‖) by Subsfactory.
Screenshot 39 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 39 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 39 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 39 D - ItaSA
Among other strongly edulcorated swearwords found on DVD, the terms:
―asshole‖ and ―dick‖, frequently rendered as ―idiota‖ and ―deficient‖ (back
translation ―idiot‖ and ―moron‖), should be also highlighted; these appear,
however, as ―cazzone/coglione‖ (back translation ―prick‖) in the fansubbed
versions.
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Yet, not only do bad words magically disappear becoming slight reproaches,
but as we have observed in the previous scenes, every little reference to male
or female genitals is systematically omitted. This is the case of the source
sentence, ―that‘s the look that shrivels me testes‖, which presents a metaphor
that makes reference to male genitals, ―testes‖, being a diminutive of testicles.
In screenshot 40B, displaying the version on DVD, we can see that the
reference is deleted, and the translation reads: ―quello è lo sguardo che mi fa
tremare‖ (back translation: ―that‘s the look that makes me shiver‖).
Screenshot 40 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 40 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 40 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 40 D - ItaSA
Conversely, both Subsfactory and ItaSA have managed to keep the reference
to ―testicles‖, using an adequate register to render the humorous expression.
Subsfactory has translated testicles as ―palle‖ (back translation ―balls‖) and
ItaSA has used ―coglioni‖ which might be a little strong (back translation,
―buttocks‖), although they are both suitable equivalents.
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6.2 POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
In this section, the adaption of politically incorrect content is analysed in the
pilot episode of Californication.
In the following example Karen, Hank‘s ex-wife, teases him since he has
appeared at her home without any trousers, after escaping from the woman‘s
husband who had caught him in bed with his wife, comparing him to ―a
special-needs person that works at McDonalds‖.
Screenshot 41 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 41 B (IT) - DVD
It is a relatively strong statement, as it is a joke with a direct reference to
disabled people. In the DVD, ―special needs‖ is rendered as ―con difficoltà di
apprendimento‖ (back translation ―with different learning abilities‖), which is a
way to censor the original expression while losing the humour expressed in the
metaphor (screenshot 41 B).
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Screenshot 41 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 41 D - ItaSA
Subsfactory uses the expression ―persone disabili‖ (back translation
―disabled people‖), which is perfectly in keeping with their faithful approach to
translation in general as well as quite appropriately retaining the humour of the
target text. ItaSA, on the other hand, has opted for ―persone bisognose‖
(―people in need‖), misconstruing the original reference and producing a
mistranslation.
As been shown above, politically incorrect language may address specific
groups of people, although it can also be used to reflect a pronounced bias
towards gender, sexual orientation, culture, policies, religions, ideologies and
the use of drugs. The example given below (screenshots 42 A-D) relates to a
scene where Hank and his ex-wife are having an argument. The protagonist,
commenting on a statement made by his ex-wife, says: ―[...] then it‘s possible
that you are higher than me right now‖. The problem revolves around the
translation of the term ―higher‖ in the three versions. This word, which would
normally define a state of altered consciousness induced by the use of
narcotics, in this particular instance expresses the state of being out of one‘s
mind.
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In the DVD the metaphor disappears and ―higher‖ is rendered as ―più fuori‖
(back translation ―more crazy‖), where the reference to drugs appears to be
toned down and the general meaning altered in favour of a more politically
correct reference to psychological issues.
As usual, both fansubbing communities have opted for the more
straightforward equivalent, the slang term ―fatta‖ (back translation ―stoned‖),
which conveys the exact intention of the original dialogue.
Screenshot 42 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 42 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 42 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 42 D - ItaSA
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6.3 ADAPTION AND MISTRANSLATION
The leitmotiv of this chapter, which focuses on censorship and its
consequences, especially when it comes to the expression of humorous content,
involves the irredeemable incapacity of mainstream subtitling to produce an
adequate output in terms of faithfulness to the source text and adherence to the
original style. The manner in which fansubbing manages to restore the original
dialogues, attempting to produce faithful versions of the foreign product with
excellent results has also been demonstrated.
Apart from the topic of the censorship of offensive language, we have found
that in the episode analysed, professional subtitlers sometimes produced a
series of mistranslations totally unrelated to the expression of explicit
language.
The following example shows how the source sentence expression ―quid pro
quo‖ is rendered in the three versions.
Screenshot 43 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 43 B (IT) - DVD
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In screenshot 43 B, we can see that in the DVD version the sentence has
been left almost untranslated: ―qui pro quo‖. At this point, the meaning of the
expression under analysis should be explained. ―Quid pro quo‖ in English is
used to convey the Latin phrase meaning "something for something". In fact,
the woman is telling Hank that ―you‘re nice to me, I‘m nice to you‖. In Italian,
the same sentence has a rather different meaning, since it equates to another
Latin sentence, ―do ut des‖ (back translation "I give so that you will give").
Conversely, a ―qui pro quo‖ in Italian defines a misunderstanding, or the
substitution of one thing for another.
Hence, while the professional subtitlers seem to have completely
misunderstood the actual meaning of the source sentence, at least one of the
two fansubbing communities produced a good translation of the expression. In
this case, ItaSA used ―do ut des‖, as shown in screenshot 43D, while
Subsfactory made the same mistake as in the DVD version.
Screenshot 43 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 43 D - ItaSA
The next example focuses on the adaption of slang expressions. The source
sentence, ―Are you still feeling cute?‖ is uttered by Hank's ex-wife as a
response to his nonchalant behaviour after his daughter has found a naked
woman in her father‘s house.
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In the DVD the translation reads: ―Hai ancora voglia di scherzare?‖ (see
screenshot 44B).
Screenshot 44 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 44 B (IT) - DVD
The style used in the source sentence is quite informal, as Karen is trying to
mock Hank by questioning his nonchalance. The verb ―scherzare‖ in Italian is
neither informal nor does it have any specific connotations, hence we might
categorise it as constituting another case of undertranslation, since it does not
manage to convey either the register or the humour of the original.
In both fansubbed versions the English expression has been translated by
―Fai ancora/ti senti ancora figo?‖, where ―figo‖ is a literal equivalent of ―cute‖,
hence a perfect translation solution in terms of register and accuracy
(screenshots 44 C-D).
Screenshot 44 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 44 D - ItaSA
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Throughout the whole show, there is only a single case in which the DVD
version shows a better adaption of a slang term than the fansubbed outcome. In
the scene analysed, Hank and his ex-wife are having an argument based on
their past relationship, when a slang term comes up: ―googling‖. The humorous
sentence reads: ―sitting there, googling yourself, I saw you‖. In Italian there is
an equivalent expression, ―googlare‖, a neologism derived from ―Google‖, the
name of the browser. This time, it was only the official translation that opted
for the perfect and most commonly used equivalent (screenshot 45 B), while
both communities used ―cercarti su google‖ (back translation: ―looking for
yourself on google‖).
Screenshot 45 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 45 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 45 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 45 D - ItaSA
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The most interesting example of mistranslation in the entire episode of
Californication is illustrated in the following images. There is an ongoing
discussion between the two characters and Karen makes another remark
concerning Hank‘s flaws: ―you‘ve always been a walking id, Hank‖.
The rendering of this sentence presents a set of challenges: first of all, the
meaning of ―id‖ in the context; secondly, its contextualised meaning associated
with the adjective ―walking‖. In the DVD version, the Italian subtitle reads:
―sei sempre stato un ―id‖ ambulante‖, which is the literal translation, and
appears rather awkward since it has no meaning in the target language and
resembles a fansubbed version rather than a professional one.
The term ―id‖, as defined by the Encyclopaedia Britannica, is related to
Freudian psychoanalytic theory: it is the oldest of the three psychic realms —
ego, superego and id —, and the one containing ―a set of uncoordinated
instinctual drives‖.39 The Italian equivalent of ―id‖ is ―es‖, the more
widespread translation of the term found in the majority of books published on
the topic.
Yet, when it comes to the collocation of this term with the adjective
―walking‖, another issue arises, since the meaning of the sentence changes. The
subbers from Subsfactory attempted to adapt it by using the sentence ―sei
sempre stato un Es con le gambe‖ (screenshot 46 C), which is still quite literal,
but at least shows a certain degree of elaboration since it provides a metaphor
in which the ―id‖ (―es‖) has legs (―gambe‖).
39
www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/281641/id
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Screenshot 46 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 46 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 46 B (IT) - DVD
Screenshot 46 D - ItaSA
Conversely, the fansubbers from ItaSA, demonstrably understand the real
meaning of the source text and have attempted to use the strategy of
explicitation to make it comprehensible to the viewer: ―sei sempre stato una
mina vagante, Hank‖ (back translation ―you‘ve always been a loose cannon,
Hank‖).
Similarly, in the following scene (screenshots 47 A-B), the adaption of
―one-hit wonder‖, presents another case of mistranslation in the DVD version
that reads: ―una stella cadente‖.
Screenshot 47 A (ENG) - DVD
Screenshot 47 B (IT) - DVD
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The source term expression refers to Hank‘s job as a writer who has
published a best seller, and now cannot seem to produce a single sentence,
since is suffering from writer‘s block. Hence, he considers himself to be a
person who has enjoyed only one single success in his life. ―Una stella
cadente‖ is a ―shooting star‖ in English, therefore there is no relation between
the DVD subtitles and the original dialogues. Both Subsfactory and ItaSA
translated the expression as ―uno da una botta e via‖ (back translation ―a man
for a one-night stand‖) altering the initial meaning by changing the metaphor
for a sexual innuendo. However, their version is a good attempt at conveying
the meaning of the source expression.
Screenshot 47 C - Subsfactory
Screenshot 47 D - ItaSA
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6.4 CONCLUDING REMARKS
A set of findings from the analysis of the pilot episode of Californication
has revealed that the official translation found in the DVD version display a
range of undertranslations due to various factors. Initially, as described in the
first section, it was found that there was a tendency of professional subtitlers to
tone down and often delete possible references to sex-related content —
images connected to body parts, and sexual acts — as well as offensive content
(swearwords of different levels of intensity). Therefore, the consistent presence
of diverse forms of censorship has led subtitlers to produce poor quality
translations in terms of faithfulness to the source text language and style.
Moreover, this ―censoring behaviour‖, whether intentional or not — since
no specific pattern was found to explain the deletion of disturbing elements —,
destroyed the humour inherent in the very censored terms which were
removed, creating a totally different product, which became mostly dull,
neutralised and almost unrecognisable. Yet, censorship may be a plausible
justification for certain types of undertranslation, but as was shown in the
second section which focused on adaption and mistranslation, it cannot explain
the inadequate renderings of the original text made by the professionals
throughout the whole episode.
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We might of course accept such erratic and unpredictable behavior if it had
been found in the translation carried out by fansubbers, but we would certainly
not expect this level of inaccuracy on the part of professional translators.
On the other hand, the tendency among fansubbers to adhere to the source
text strictly, has proved ultimately successful, since for each mistranslation or
understranlation found in the official subtitled version, a good equivalent and
an adequate rendering of style and register were offered in one or both
fansubbed versions under analysis.
In conclusion, even if they were not absolutely perfect, the fansubbed
versions managed to retain the humour, style, register and core message of the
foreign audiovisual product, a rather unpredictable outcome for which we were
unprepared during the first stages of the study.
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CHAPTER 7
CONCLUSIONS:
A STEP INTO THE FUTURE
It has been mentioned repeatedly throughout this study, that the Italian
fansubbing phenomenon owes much to the TV show Lost. From the
perspective of Media Studies, Lost ―has demonstrated a tremendous ability to
encourage almost unprecedented viewer involvement and commitment both in
form and degree‖ (Askwith 2007:152). It has been proved that the potential
value of the viewer‘s engagement with television, ―the larger system of
material, emotional, intellectual, social and psychological investments a viewer
forms through their interactions with the expanded television text‖ (ibid.: 154),
plays a substantial role in the development of crowdsourcing in general and
fansubbing in particular.
The fundamental purpose of this thesis was to understand if, and to what
extent, the phenomenon of amateur translation has had an impact on
audiovisual translation modes of transfer in Italy. To this end, the wider
implications of the practices of amateurs on audiovisual translation studies
have been observed in two major ‗historical‘ events.
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In 2008, Mediaset acquired the copyright for the The Big Bang Theory, a
TV show that was eventually dubbed by Post in Europe and broadcast on the
pay-TV Steel. The reaction to the airing of the dubbed episodes on the part of
the fans — who had been following the show since 2007 thanks to fansubbers
— was immediate and relatively harsh. Owing to the ‗italianisation‘ of the
dubbed version, the nerdy-related content, which characterised the programme,
was dumbed down; the adaption had levelled down the language to such an
extent that it did not appeal at all to the target audience who criticised the work
of the dubbing company. Eventually, the controversy, which sparked several
online blogs, led to dramatic changes to the dubbed production, to the point
that the dubbing director, Silvia Pepitoni was replaced by a whole team of
adaptors. As a result, the new team carried out a better adaption, characterised
by more faithful and coherent dialogues (Innocenti and Maestri 2010). Thus,
the effective resistance of the active Italian audience made it clear that the
patronising authority of the dubbing tradition was losing its grip in Italy.
The second crucial moment came in 2010, when for the very first time, the
final episode of Lost was aired simultaneously by a large number of pay-TV
channels worldwide. In Italy, the episode was fansubbed by ItaSA and
Subsfactory just a few hours after it had been aired in its original version; it
was then re-aired by Sky Italia twenty-four hours later with Italian ‗prosubtitles‘ and eventually broadcast after seven days in its dubbed Italian
version. Never before had Italians witnessed such speed in dealing with
audiovisual translation, and it is no wonder that the Italian fansubbing
movement paved the way for this to happen.
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In fact, in Italy the practice of speeding up the audiovisual translation
process — as far as pay TV channels are concerned —, has currently been
consolidated, at least for some important TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy,
for instance. In fact, following what we might define as ‗the great AVT turn of
2010‘, Sky Italia provides the Italian subtitles for the show noted above after
only twenty-four hours and the dubbed version only after seven days after the
airing in the United States.
As a matter of fact, the key-events described clearly illustrate the crucial
role played by amateur translation in the evolution of audiovisual practices in
Italy. While such an outcome might be further perfected — owing to the fact
that subtitling practices are still criticised by the fans of TV shows for not
preserving the authenticity of the original product —, it is hopeful that it might
pave the way for future experiments and innovations in the area relating to
subtitling norms.
The issue of norms has been another relevant aspect examined in this study.
In fact, having revealed a series of interesting aspects concerning fansubbing
practices, the case studies presented in the final chapters might inspire future
research leading to the development of new subtitling standards.
A hybrid proposal has, therefore, been advanced in this study, deriving from
what we have considered as the best resources offered by both subtitling and
fansubbing codes of practice.
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The research project, which was begun with the assumption that, owing to
the amateur nature of their work, fansubbers would ultimately have a lot to
learn from professional translators, eventually reached the opposite conclusion.
In fact, despite their apparent naivety, fansubbers have proved, by
challenging long-established, fixed rules, that their collective effort might be a
source of inspiration for both academics and professionals as well as a valuable
contribution to the investigation of future subtitling norms, thus enriching the
debate concerning the reshaping of subtitling norms underlying future
audiovisual translation in Italy.
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