Translation and Meaning. New Series, Vol. 2, Pt. 2

by Łukasz Bogucki (Volume editor) Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk (Volume editor) Marcel Thelen (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 337 Pages
Series: Łódź Studies in Language, Volume 43


The volume contains a selection of articles on current theoretical issues in audiovisual translation, translator training and domain-specific issues. The authors are experts in their fields from renowned universities in the world. The book will be an indispensable aid for trainers and researchers, but may be of interest to anyone interested or active in translation and interpreting. A companion volume in this series contains articles on Translation Studies and literary translation.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Section I: Topics in Audiovisual Translation
  • Audience Matters: Expectations Versus Reality of Subtitling in Poland
  • Domestication or Foreignization? The case of English to Polish dubbing – preliminary findings
  • Content simplification in Polish subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Poetik der Filmsprache in der Audiodeskription – eine kontrastive Analyse des deutschen und polnischen Manuskripts für den Film Imagine von Andrzej Jakimowski
  • Kommunikative und technische Nezessität als prägender Faktor in der audiovisuellen Übersetzung
  • Wann kann Stalin zu Einstein werden? Deonymisierte Eigennamen in audiovisueller Übersetzung.
  • Section II: Translation Didactics and Translator Training
  • Professionalisation in the translator training curriculum
  • Entrepreneurial Aspects of Translation Competence in Didactic Reflection and Practice
  • In Search of a Self. Empowerment at the Crossroads of Translation Ethics and Translation Didactics
  • The role of self-assessment in balancing the distribution of power and control in translator training
  • “What types of errors do undergraduate students make depending on directionality?”
  • Computer competence in the translation classroom
  • Translation Techniques and the Question of Uniformity Applied in the Translation into English of Proper Names of Tertiary Education Institutions in Poland
  • Borrowing from English – More Implications for Aspiring Language Professionals
  • Section III: Domain-Specific Issues within Translation Studies
  • Extra-textual Expert Knowledge and Decoding the Meaning in Medical Texts
  • Conceptual discrepancies of Polish-English terminology. Designing a corpus of microelectronics, telecommunication and computer science for scientific translation
  • Institutional Agency and Meaning in Press Translation
  • Geht es mit der Wirtschaft rauf oder runter? Deutsche und polnische Börsenberichte aus Sicht der Linguisten
  • Terminologische Interferenzen zwischen der Gesetzes- und Juristensprache am Beispiel zivilrechtlicher Vertragsbezeichnungen. Deutsch und Polnisch
  • Les néologies terminologiques du langage juridique en traduction

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When the idea for the Maastricht – Łódź Duo Colloquium on „Translation and Meaning” was born in the late 1980s, the position of Translation Studies was as different from where the discipline is now as the practice of translating in those times differed from today. The first conference took place in 1990 – in Maastricht in the spring, in Łódź in the autumn. Since then, the six editions of the Duo Colloquium have hosted the greatest minds in Translation Studies, including the late Eugene A. Nida, the late Peter Newmark, Albrecht Neubert, Gideon Toury, Mona Baker, Christiane Nord, Juliane House, Jeremy Munday, more recently Anthony Pym and Dorothy Kenny – the list certainly does go on. The fruit of the past five colloquia (1990–2005) are the ten volumes published by Universitaire Pers Maastricht, whose contents have contributed significantly to the development of the discipline and have shaped the academic careers of many a translation scholar, including the editors of this book.

As of this year, papers delivered during the Duo Colloquium will be published by Peter Lang in the Lodz Studies in Language series. Volume One published earlier this year contains papers from the Maastricht Session in May 2015, while Volume Two, parts One and Two are made up of papers read during the Łódź Session in September that year. The contents reflect the current trends in translation research, with the prominent notions of translation in digital space, intersemiotic translation and collaborative translating, while managing to shed some new light on key concepts and paradigms, such as quality assessment or translation process.

The first section of this book is devoted to a dynamically developing genre within Translation Studies, viz. Translating audiovisual texts. Olga Łabendowicz looks at the reception of subtitling in Poland, a country with diverse audiovisual translation modalities. Irmina Liczbik studies translation strategies in the case of dubbing. Paweł Aleksandrowicz focuses on accessibility, in particular subtitles for the deaf and the hard of hearing. In three papers in German, Małgorzata Korycińska-Wegner uses the movie Imagine as a case study in audiodescription, while Marcin Michoń studies communicative and technical aspects of audiovisual transfer, and Krzysztof Sakowski explores the translation of proper names in audiovisual texts from a metaphorical/metonymical perspective.

The second section of the present volume looks at issues in translation didactics and translator training. Marcel Thelen looks into professionalisation in the translation curriculum. Along similar lines, Konrad Klimkowski looks at the notion of translation competence from a new, entrepreneurial angle. Gys-Walt van Egdom ← 9 | 10 → explores empowerment as a concept positioned between ethics and didactics, while Paulina Pietrzak also discusses power and control in connection with self-assessment. Marta Chodkiewicz provides an analysis of translation errors in the light of directionality. Michał Kornacki talks about computer literacy as an aspect of translation competence. Alina Szwajczuk studies translation techniques applied in the translation of proper names. Finally, Jerzy Tomaszczyk tackles borrowing as a technique on the example of English and Polish.

The last section of this volume contains papers devoted to domain-specific issues. Ewa Kujawska-Lis studies the competence of medical translators. Aleksandra Makowska provides a sample of an ongoing research into a corpus for scientific translation. Jolanta Osękowska-Sandecka concentrates on meaning in press translations. Agnieszka Stawikowska-Marcinkowska researches market reports in German and Polish. Karolina Kęsicka looks at terminological interference in German and Polish legal texts. Finally, Ksenia Gałuskina explores aspects of legal language specific to French.

The editors

Lukasz Bogucki, Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk and Marcel Thelen

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Section I

Topics in Audiovisual Translation

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Olga Łabendowicz

University of Łódź

Audience Matters: Expectations Versus Reality of Subtitling in Poland

Abstract: Subtitling is believed to be “the type of AVT where translational constraints are at their most vivid” (Bogucki 2004). It is therefore not surprising that rendering captions which will be appealing to the target audience in a similar manner as the original dialogue score was (if it was, to start with) to the original audience, might often cause a translator a painful headache. If we add to the equation the fact that “the agents’ and the recipients’ expectations may not coincide, nor even be compatible” (Karamitroglou 2000:76, based on Nord 1991:16) and mix it with the fact that we may be dealing with a comedy production, we are in quite a pickle. The presented article gives an overview of what Polish audience expects from Polish translation of American comedy tv series with actors, what is the reasoning behind their preferences and how all this may in turn affect the work of subtitlers.

Keywords: subtitling, audiovisual translation, AVT mode, audience, Poland, expectations, preferences, American comedy tv series, reality, audienceship


I have recently taught a course in Practical Translation to the undergraduate students at my alma mater. When dealing with the topic of audiovisual translation, creating subtitles in particular, I have found myself stating that “what you shall always bear in mind is that when you create subtitles, you must embark on the task as if you were creating a translation for everyone”. And seeing the terror in my students’ eyes, I realised that that is actually the truth. As opposed to any other type of audiovisual translation (AVT), may it be dubbing applied in Poland mostly to animated productions (with a few exceptions) or the dreaded by most Polish audiences due to its numerous disparities between the source and the target versions voice-over, subtitling requires from the translator approaching the source text as if it was to be seen, read and understood by everyone. Literally. And that can be truly terrifying. ← 13 | 14 →

Nevertheless, I dare say that in the light of recent developments (ubiquitous, often free, subtitling devices that assist subtitlers in creating the translation, to start with) it appears that successfully rendered subtitles or captions, if you please, do not depend that much on how closely a subtitler follows the technical aspects (not more than the extreme 40 signs per line, no more than two lines per each caption, screening time between 1.5 and 6 seconds, to list merely the basics) but rather how well subtitlers understand what is expected of them. And the expectations can be truly high and even more diverse.

First, we need to realise that even though “audiovisual translation is one of the youngest fields of Translation theory and studies, the investigation of which is aimed at improving the results of translators’ activity to meet the expectations of recipients” (Matkivska 2014), there already is a great multitude of theories, studies or ideas devoted to its various aspects. At the same time, we seem to be at the verge of shifting or at least altering what we knew to be true for the past fifteen or even twenty years and what still lays ahead both for theoreticians and practictioners. But let us start from the very beginning.

Troubled Waters of AVT

According to Joselia Neves (2004:138), “audiovisual messages are rich in their making and are the result of constraints of all kinds”. De Marco (2012:68) believes that “AVT is the means through which not only information but also the views, the assumptions and the values of a society are filtered”. If we add to the equation the statement by Kussmaul (1995:149), who mentions that “the function of a translation is dependent on the knowledge, expectations, values and norms of the target readers, who are again influenced by the situation they are in and by their culture. These functions determine whether the function of the source text or passages in the source text can be preserved or have to be modified or even changed”, we will find ourselves in quite a pickle – not to mention the numerous technical constraints that simply must be considered while rendering subtitles.

Moreover, as most translation scholars dealing with the field of Translation Studies know it to be true, “translation and culture are closely interrelated” (Nedergaard-Larsen 1993: 208) thus via language and audiovisual media, “translators mediate between cultures (including ideologies, moral systems and sociological structures), seeking to overcome those incompatibilities which stand in the way of transfer of meaning” (Hatim and Mason 1990: 223). As Rachel Flynn (2014) puts it, “in order to facilitate intercultural communication via digital media, subtitles and dubbing are commonly employed, and both practices have an important role in media transfer”. She goes on to emphasise that “those in the professional ← 14 | 15 → and academic communities of translation and audiovisual translation studies are becoming aware of the ideological implications that both subtitling and dubbing practices hold” (ibid.).

Finally, Jorge Díaz Cintas concludes that due to the wide consumption around the globe, audiovisual programmes are ”an ideal and powerful vehicle for the transmission, not only of factual information, but also of assumptions, moral values, commonplaces, and stereotypes; one of the many reasons why they stand out as an object deserving of research” (2012:281) and points out that AVT is actually “connecting cultures across the globe” (ibid). All this poses in most cases a lot of diffuculties for subtitlers, who strive to connect all the dots at the same time: meet the technical requirements, render cultural considerations and please the audience. The trouble is, very rarely can a subtitler do all at once, thus sacrifices have to be made. But does it really matter?

Per ‘subtitling’ aspera, ad astra?

Audiovisual translation is a lively changing field – limiting the scope of analysis only to the cinema, tv and online1 productions, we can already observe a few significant developments in terms of the differences or the skopos of each translation type. Especially if we take into account how audiences perceive each of the three main AVT modes2 (subtitling, dubbing, voice-over) that are most frequently employed in Poland – but more on this later.

Speaking of country specifics, let us bear in mind that in Poland subtitling is mainly used for film translation for cinemas, DVDs (often as an alternative for dubbed or voiced-over version) and in some TV films for translation of songs when the general AVT mode is voice-over. Subtitles are also applied in Poland for translating foreign language parts in overall Polish dialogues. Having said that, we shall be aware of the fact that, as Bogucki (2004) indicates, “it seems that the type of AVT where translational constraints are at their most vivid is subtitling” – which is perfectly explained by the numerous technical restrictions that have to be carefully followed, otherwise the produced subtitles will either disturb the ← 15 | 16 → audience in fully experiencing the production, or basically in subtitles that are not professional sensu stricto.

The task of a subtitler gets even more tricky as “research has shown that, as compared to dubbing, subtitling is usually seen as a ‘proper’ translation, a means by which the target audience can access the source culture’s ‘preserved authenticity’” (Flynn 2014). Nevertheless, “subtitling, as a cross-medium activity (spoken to written) is much more complex, therefore translational loss is practically an occupational hazard” (Bogucki 2004). Already those two perspectives – the former statement referring to what audience tends to expect from subtitling and what can actually be provided, seems difficult to combine. Moreover, if the production undergoing translation is at the same time a comedy, we shall take note of the fact that “when it comes to translating humor, the translator has to deal with the intended effect of humor and its possible unsuccessful reproduction” (Spanakaki 2007). Thus “it goes without saying that humor is also confronted with the personal translator’s dilemma of whether to translate a bad joke or just produce a funny effect” (ibid.) as well as other considerations that may really make the task of a subtitler truly challenging, to say the least. But then again, the beauty and satisfaction comes from facing the challenge and coming out of it with the least number of unsatisfied people (may it be the translator or audience) possible.

Why all the fuss?

Subtitling is a mode of AVT in which written text supplements the original soundtrack of an audiovisual production (Nemani 2013:98). It is a diasemiotic form of translation, as meaning is transferred from speech to writing (Gottlieb 2004:86). Moreover, as it has already been mentioned, due to the nature of audiovisual translation, subtitling (but dubbing as well) may call for omissions, additions or alterations as compared to the original dialogues (Díaz Cintas 2012:284). In fact, subtitling “tends to condense the original dialogue by 20–40%” (Gottlieb 2004:87). At the same time, Díaz Cintas and Remael (2007:82) claim that “subtitling is a type of translation that should not attract attention to itself” which seems easier said than done – as we may all have experienced at times, captions leave us somewhat perplexed as to why certain elements of the original dialogues have been rendered or not in this way or another.

As Flynn (2014) points out, “an important factor that is unique to subtitling is the feedback effect in which translators must be cognisant of the source language audio (in terms of proper names and select nouns), and ensure that subtitles are shown in synchronization with the acoustic representation of these words”, which may actually impose limitations on the translator’s ability “to translate creatively” ← 16 | 17 → (Ramière 2010:103; Nedergaard-Larsen 1993). And of course, as Ivarsson and Carroll (1998:158) state, translators shall keep “as much of the image free (from subtitles) as possible” as the subtitles are always embedded into the already ‘closed’ production thus interfering with a complete piece of work by being added in the post-production process. According to Nornes (1999), mainstream subtitling usually involves the “corrupt practices” which aim to curtail the the original aspects of a given audiovisual product by conforming to the values, language and culture of the target audience. Moreover, we shall also bear in mind that viewers of subtitled audiovisual programmes already have some expectations towards a new subtitled production even prior to watching it – and these expectations “are formed by the prevalent subtitling tradition in the target culture and by the previous viewing of subtitled films” (Sokoli 2009:37), which is true of all audiences across the globe. However, the expectations may vary between different countries or audienceships (Sokoli 2009; Li 2009).

Another significant notion that is to be taken into account by subtitlers is genre. It is believed that “when subtitling classics, subtitlers will tend to be more careful with far-reaching interventions than when subtitling soaps or sitcoms”3 (Díaz Cintas & Remael 2014:215). Already this very statement may be a signal for those who deal with the latter that any kinds of interventions in the original dialogues are more than welcome. Furthermore, James (1998: 245) claimed that translators shall “produce subtitles which are accurate, credible, easy to assimilate and which flow smoothly”, which in turn implies that they should be made to “‘sound’ like their spoken equivalents” (Brondeel, 1994: 29).

While dealing with comedy, a subtitler will undoubtedly encounter issues related to translating humor. Essentially, “subtitling humour requires insight and creativity, but it is also a matter of establishing priorities” (Díaz Cintas & Remael 2014:214) and “sometimes laughter is more important than rendering the exact semantics of a passage, sometimes the reverse will be the case” (ibid.:215). It is also crucial to be aware that “some jokes are not as important as others” (ibid:215). At times “subtitlers may have received instructions” (ibid.:215) from the ordering party – that, however, seems to be rarely the case and subtitlers in Poland are often left alone in the dark and need to sort out all the problems they are facing on their own. ← 17 | 18 →

Finally, we shall also emphasize the fact that “the advent of the Internet has led to a transformation of both expectations of translation and translation practice” (Bassnett 2013) and thus “the old debates about faithfulness, equivalence, foreignizaion versus domestication, and the visibility of the translator are no longer relevant in this new context” (ibid.).

Audience versus industry and their expectations

It so often happens that what theoreticians or even practicioners have carefully planned and designed in order to suit the audience simply backfires or at least ends up with a partial disappointment on either part. This is a result of the fact that “the agents’ and the recipients’ expectations may not coincide, nor even be compatible” (Karamitroglou 2000:76, based on Nord 1991:16). This might happen because “quality can be perceived very differently by those involved in the production and consumption of translated audiovisual products depending on their needs and expectations. As such, translation scholars might criticize and question the appropriateness of some translated programmes deemed ‘fit for purpose’ by broadcasted and media companies” (Pinero & Díaz Cintas 2015:4). Similarly, “audiences might be highly critical when appraising a subtitled product as a result of its vulnerability […] or because of their very different set of expectations and understanding of quality criteria” (ibid.).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (October)
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2016. 337 pp., 18 b/w graphs, 12 b/w tables

Biographical notes

Łukasz Bogucki (Volume editor) Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk (Volume editor) Marcel Thelen (Volume editor)

Łukasz Bogucki is director of the Institute of English Studies at the University of Łódź and head of the Department of Translation Studies. His academic interests include the theory of audiovisual translation, translation studies as an academic discipline, interpreting, specialised and computer-assisted translation, as well as localisation. Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk is professor of English Language and Linguistics at the State University of Applied Sciences in Konin, where she holds the position of professor ordinarius at the Department of English and Translation. Marcel Thelen is senior lecturer of translation and terminology and former head of school at the Maastricht School of Translation and Interpreting of Zuyd University of Applied Sciences.


Title: Translation and Meaning. New Series, Vol. 2, Pt. 2