Areas and Methods of Audiovisual Translation Research

Third Revised Edition

by Łukasz Bogucki (Author)
©2019 Monographs 172 Pages
Open Access
Series: Lodz Studies in Language, Volume 30


«This little gem offers the reader an overview of the various practices that form part of the ever increasing field of audiovisual translation (AVT) and makes brave inroads into the less glamorous but definitely needed areas of theory and research. Covering a wide range of topics in research in AVT, and admittedly questioning «whether a universal methodology for audiovisual translation research is feasible», this volume theorises about the nature of AVT, helps to frame some of the current trends, and points to potentially new research avenues. The style is reader friendly and to the point; a most welcome addition to translation studies.»
Jorge Díaz Cintas, University College London

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface to the Third Revised Edition
  • Introduction – Translation in the Age of Multimedia
  • Chapter One Taxonomising Audiovisual Translation
  • Toward appropriate nomenclature and categorisation
  • In lieu of a historical perspective: dubbing and subtitling in audiovisual translation research
  • Voice-over: the orphan child of audiovisual translation
  • Beyond the triad
  • Media accessibility – audio description and subtitles for the deaf and the hard of hearing
  • From spoken to written input: respeaking
  • Beyond the screen: theatre and opera translation by means of surtitling
  • The periphery of audiovisual translation – video game localisation
  • With or without interpreting?
  • Conclusions
  • Chapter Two Characterising Audiovisual Translation
  • Mal nécessaire – the inadequacies of audiovisual translation
  • Evaluating audiovisual translations
  • The semiotics of audiovisual transfer
  • The audiovisual text and beyond
  • Invisibility of the audiovisual translator
  • Audiovisual redundancy
  • On a side note: creative uses of subtitles
  • Conclusions
  • Chapter Three Within and Outside Translational Paradigms – Researching Audiovisual Translation
  • Translation – between art and science, across disciplines
  • Research models in translation studies
  • Norms in general and in translation studies
  • Translation quality assessment in descriptive translation studies
  • Think-aloud protocols
  • Action Research
  • Research within audiovisual translation – theoretical framework
  • Areas of audiovisual translation research
  • Audiovisual translation as a craft
  • Made for fans by fans: audiovisual translation in an amateur environment
  • Technical issues in audiovisual translation
  • Advanced technology in interdisciplinary research – studying subtitle perception through eye-tracking data
  • Intertextuality
  • Cultural barriers in film translation
  • Language variety in audiovisual translation
  • Audiovisual transfer of humour
  • Audiovisual translation strategies and techniques
  • Multilinguality in film
  • The pragmatics of film translation – politeness and forms of address
  • Audiovisual translation in teaching contexts
  • Conclusions
  • Chapter Four Towards a Methodology of Audiovisual Translation
  • General principles
  • In search of universals in translation
  • Audiovisual translation universals
  • Reception studies
  • Multimodality
  • Multidimensional translation: the MuTra project
  • Norms in audiovisual translation
  • Relevance in audiovisual translation
  • A cognitive approach to subtitling
  • Corpora in audiovisual translation studies
  • The process of (audiovisual) translation: think-aloud protocols and Translog
  • Action Research revisited
  • A methodological proposal: tertium comparationis in audiovisual contexts
  • Conclusions: interdisciplinarity and intermethodology
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Audiovisual references
  • Series index

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Preface to the Third Revised Edition

With the rapid development of audiovisual translation (AVT) and media accessibility – understood not only as a range of professional language services, but first and foremost as a discipline – more and more researchers find themselves in need of academic sources on research methods. If you are a researcher interested in various AVT research areas and methods, this book is for you.

What you are reading is a third, revised edition. The latest edition is a result of the rapid developments in the field, which – paradoxically – lie at the heart of the major problem related to books on AVT: the information they contain becomes obsolete quickly. New updated editions are needed to keep abreast of new developments and that’s exactly the intention of this new edition. New areas of research and methods in AVT have been born since the previous edition of this book, for instance interlingual live subtitling with respeaking or AVT in immersive environments.

Łukasz Bogucki’s take on areas and research methods in AVT presented in this book is approachable and highly readable. Theoretical considerations are interspersed with real-life examples of audiovisual translation practices, either from films or the author’s personal life, particularly in the Polish context. By the Author’s own admission, the book is not intended as a manual or textbook on how to use different research methods in AVT. Instead, the author takes a broader and more theoretical view, and draws a general picture of the varied practices and paradigms used in the field.

Every discipline needs established methods and codes of research practices. As a relative newcomer to the academia, AVT necessarily draws on its elder siblings like translation studies, linguistics, literary and cultural studies, sociology or psychology, to name just a few. Modern AVT researchers may find themselves trapped between two contrasting paradigms: empirical sciences and liberal arts (see also Chapter 3). The former requires scientific rigour in conducting and reporting research, whereas the latter allows authors to make claims based more on intuition rather than empirical evidence informed by actual experimental research. Bogucki’s book discusses both types of paradigms, albeit focuses more on those traditionally rooted in the humanities rather than social sciences.

Thanks to reading this book, as an AVT researcher may become more aware of the multitude of options you have when approaching your research questions as well as when designing and conducting your studies. The author presents a broad, threefold overview of AVT research: (1) areas, including linguistic and ← 9 | 10 → cultural aspects, translation quality assessment, or multilingualism, (2) theoretical approaches, such as descriptive translation studies, norms, Relevance Theory, action research, skopos, reception studies, and (3) methods, such as think-aloud protocols, multimodal analysis, corpus research, or eye tracking.

If you are beginning your academic journey with audiovisual translation, this book is a very good starting point. If you are familiar with AVT, it can come in useful as a quick reference or handbook. In any case, it’s a nice book to have in your bookcase.

Agnieszka Szarkowska
University of Warsaw

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Translation in the Age of Multimedia

Audiovisual translation (AVT) is a prime example of the development and redefinition of translation studies in the 21st century. Practised for tens of centuries, translation achieved full academic recognition only a few decades ago (cf. Gentzler 1993; Venuti 2000; see also the diachronic perspective in chapter one). Even today, translation studies has yet to be considered an official academic discipline in many countries (see Bogucki 2015). The practice of translation is now undergoing an unparalleled period of constant, dynamic development. The acronym GILT (Globalisation, Internationalisation, Localisation, Translation – see e.g. Cronin 2003; Hatim and Munday 2004:113) and the blend glocalisation (used predominantly in economy and sociology, e.g. Ritzer 2004, but also in translational contexts, e.g. House 2009:80) indicate the current shifts in the nature of translating. The concept of automatising translation and impressive headway in computer technology have resulted in a proliferation of computer assisted translation tools, which are now sophisticated, multifunctional software packages that have revolutionised the translation process. Specialised software is also par for the course in translating audiovisual material, the focal point of the discussion in hand.

The current age is clearly a screen-dominated era. Blackboards and chalk, concomitant with most people’s late childhood, have now been superseded by interactive whiteboards. Closed-circuit television monitors the lives of townspeople. Ostensibly unambiguous words such as “friend” or “like” now require redefining to accommodate their Facebook senses. The proliferation of “smartphone zombies” has led some towns to introduce special pedestrian lanes where “phubbers” could safely walk staring at their phones at the same time1. Giving film priority over literature, Zabalbeascoa (2010:25) sarcastically remarks that “writers are only really socially visible when they go on strike as script producers for Hollywood film and television.” On the theoretical plane, O’Halloran et al. (2010) note the necessary shift of interest from linguistic aspects of communication to models and theories rooted in social semiotics, taking into account multiple modes of communication. ← 11 | 12 →

The starting point of this discussion is that translation is no longer defined as an operation on texts in the traditional sense. While embarking on a detailed discussion on the notion of text is outside the scope of the present work, it must be noted, after Bertrand and Hughes (2005:173), that “a text is not a vessel into which meanings are poured for transmission to others, but a structure (or a ‘system of signification’) by which meanings are produced within a cultural context”. This semiotic approach to communication operates on the level of meaning; with respect to form, texts have become digitised, evolving to hypertext. Filmic messages are referred to as texts, more precisely audiovisual texts (see e.g. Petitt 2004). Gottlieb (2005:2) proposes this modern and unorthodox understanding of text:

Later in the paper, he defines text as “any combination of sensory signs carrying communicative intention” (Gottlieb 2005:3), thus favouring a very broad, interdisciplinary approach.

Though filmic messages bear no comparison to conventional texts, either in terms of volume or tradition, their role in communication is gaining importance. This change is symbolically represented by the addition of a fourth (hyper)text type to the three proposed in Reiss’ seminal approach, viz. informative, expressive and operative (Reiss 1977). Audiomedial texts (songs, comic strips, advertisements, medieval morality ballads, but predominantly filmic messages) take into account the special characteristics of spoken language and oral communication, and sit above the three basic communicative situations (providing information, expressing feelings and persuading to take action) and corresponding text types. They take into account additional information supplied by another sign system and “though put down in writing, are presented orally.” (Reiss 1981:126). Motion pictures and television have recently been supported by the Internet, a (multi)medium, more precisely a collection of digital and electronic media, whose spread and potential is massive. Audiovisual information can currently be disseminated with a speed and range never before achievable. According to BBC news, the box-office hit Avatar sold 4 million DVDs and 2.7 million Blu-rays in just four days, in North America alone2. In 2007, the most popular video on YouTube had nearly 56 million views; the number one in April 2011, ← 12 | 13 → a Justin Bieber clip, was streamed 507,455,572 times3, a ninefold increase in the popularity of the service in four years. Psy’s Gangnam Style, the number one in 2015, has been seen 3,266,366,179 times as of January 20194, but the current number one, Despacito, has had 5,891,486,339 views to date5.

This proliferation of audiovisual content raises the question of its role in culture. Zabalbeascoa (2010:33) introduces the concept of audiovisual literacy, posing the provocative question “can one call oneself an expert on Shakespeare through books alone, without having seen any stage productions or a number of film versions?” If the aim of literary translation is to make literature accessible to the general readership not conversant with the language of the original, then the mission of audiovisual translation is to allow widespread access to the art of film, not infrequently salvaging from oblivion those artistic gems whose only drawback is that they were made in a minority language. However, since the scope of AVT goes far beyond providing foreign language versions of feature films (see chapter one), its role in mass communication is even greater.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2013 (June)
subtitling voice-over audiodescription surtitling methodology film dubbing subtitling for the deaf
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2013. 3rd revised edition 2019. 166 pp., 20 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Łukasz Bogucki (Author)

Łukasz Bogucki is Professor of English Linguistics and Director of the Institute of English Studies at the University of Łódź, which he has headed since 2012. His academic interests include translation and interpreting theory, inparticular audiovisual translation (AVT). He has published widely on AVT theory and co-edits Łódź Studies in Language.


Title: Areas and Methods of Audiovisual Translation Research
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172 pages