Audiovisual Translation – Research and Use

2nd Expanded Edition

by Mikolaj Deckert (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 312 Pages
Open Access
Series: Lodz Studies in Language, Volume 53


This book explores two strands of Audiovisual Translation referred to as «research» and «use». As their points of convergence as well as divergence are brought to light, the contributors show that the two tend to overlap and cross-pollinate. The volume’s inquiries of linguistic, cultural, sociological, computational, educational and historical nature give a comprehensive up-to-date account of AVT as an expanding and heterogeneous, yet internally coherent, field of scientific and professional endeavour.
«The book offers a good balance of chapters dealing with new topics and chapters dealing with more established AVT topics from new angles. It is a must read for TS students and academics but also for practitioners and for translators from other domains, given the increased prominence and diversity of AVT modes both in TS research and translation practice.»
(Professor Aline Remael
University of Antwerp
Chair of the Department of Applied Linguistics, Translators and Interpreters)

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction (Mikołaj Deckert)
  • Mapping audiovisual translation investigations: research approaches and the role of technology (Anna Matamala)
  • Exploring the potential of machine translation and other language assistive tools in subtitling: a new era? (Rafaella Athanasiadi)
  • Problems of AVT in the 1980s and 1990s (Janusz Wróblewski)
  • Polish audience preferences regarding audiovisual translation: a reception study (Mikołaj Deckert / Łukasz Bogucki)
  • AVT in the Media: Emergencies through conflicting words and contradictory translations (Federico M. Federici)
  • Media accessibility in the Czech Republic (Veronika Šnyrychová)
  • Power, society and AVT in Turkey: an overview (Ayşe Şirin Okyayuz)
  • When intertextual humour is supposed to make everyone laugh… Even after translation (Rebeca Cristina López González)
  • Official and non-official subtitles in Iran: a comparative study (Hussein Mollanazar / Zeinab Nasrollahi)
  • Respeaking crisis points. An exploratory study into critical moments in the respeaking process (Agnieszka Szarkowska / Łukasz Dutka / Olga Pilipczuk / Krzysztof Krejtz)
  • Old questions, new answers: computational stylistics in audiovisual translation research (Agata Hołobut / Jan Rybicki / Monika Woźniak)
  • Factors that influence the occurrence of partial subtitling in Malayalam polyglot movies (Minu Sara Paul)
  • Multilingualism in the movies. Languages in films revisited (Camilla Badstübner-Kizik)
  • Teaching AVT research at BA level: didactical reflections from a local perspective (Gernot Hebenstreit)
  • Gaining more benefits from a film lesson: integrated subtitles (Anna Rędzioch-Korkuz)
  • Notes on contributors
  • Series Index

← 6 | 7 →


Audiovisual Translation: Research and Use

Audiovisual Translation (AVT) is now widely considered the most thriving and exciting subfield of Translation Studies. At the same time, due to the fast pace of developments it continues to be visibly under-researched and criticism of the traditional type is voiced with regard to the postulated gap between theory and practice. In response to that, the volume’s objective is to explore two strands of AVT that are tentatively referred to as “research” and “use”. Vitally, rather than to argue that these two are mutually exclusive or even easy to delineate as discrete categories in the first place, we hope to show they tend to overlap and cross-fertilise. The collection seeks to bring to light their points of convergence, as well as divergence.

The research component in its most common sense naturally covers the discussion of scientific studies, which is the case in this book, too. However, the component also deals with two other salient dimensions. One has to do with illustrating translation research methodologies that effectively supplement the more traditional ones – such as electroencephalography (EEG) and computational stylistics. The other dimension is focused on the challenges of training prospective researchers. The use part, in turn, deals with subjects such as the agendas motivating AVT mode selection as well as accessibility of multimodal content within particular institutional and national configurations. It also looks into the didactic facet of using AVT – in the language teaching classroom.

The collection opens with Anna Matamala’s article “Mapping audiovisual translation investigations: research approaches and the role of technology” which provides an overview of the thematic foci of AVT. As the author takes a primarily technological vantage point, in addition to talking about the past and present she comes up with predictions. Technology is also central to the contribution by Rafaella Athanasiadi. In her article “Exploring the potential of machine translation and other language assistive tools in subtitling: a new era?” the author conducts a user-oriented scrutiny of current advances that enable process optimisation. A more historical account of translation practice, again making use of the prism of technology, is given by Janusz Wróblewski in the paper “Problems of AVT in the 1980s and 1990s”. The author talks about numerous authentic examples of issues faced by the translator, of both prototypically translational and more general professional nature. The paper “Polish audience preferences regarding audiovisual translation: a reception study” by Mikołaj Deckert and Łukasz Bogucki has been translated from Polish to offer yet another practically-oriented perspective in ← 7 | 8 → this second edition of the book. The authors discuss the findings of a study on perceptions of AVT across modes and audiences.

The contributions that follow can be grouped around policy matters conditioned by social and political considerations. Federico M. Federici in his paper titled “AVT in the media: emergencies through conflicting words and contradictory translations” investigates the translation of online versions of newspapers in the context of crises. Drawing from the Italian mediascape, he convincingly describes cases of hybridity, with its motivating factors and implications. The article “Media accessibility in the Czech Republic” by Veronika Šnyrychová makes up for the research gap concerning the Czech regulations – and compliance therewith – on making it possible for audiences with vision and hearing impairments to access TV content. In turn, the contribution “Power, society and AVT in Turkey: an overview” by Ayşe Şirin Okyayuz addresses diachronically the socio-political underpinnings of mechanisms and practices shaping AVT, whereby it is understood both as a product and a mode.

Another group of papers shed light on some of the most conspicuous problem areas that have been isolated within Translation Studies so far. In her paper “When intertextual humour is supposed to make everyone laugh… Even after translation” Rebeca Cristina López González draws examples from a dataset of 14 productions yielding a total of several hundred cases to talk about the strategies and techniques used to render animated feature films. The article by Hussein Mollanazar and Zeinab Nasrollahi titled “Official and non-official subtitles in Iran: a comparative study” uses an appraoch that the authors define as descriptive, comparative and geared towards the target text. Applying a five-component model of translation strategies, they examine the decision patterns found in official translations and those authored by fansubbers. Agnieszka Szarkowska, Łukasz Dutka, Olga Pilipczuk and Krzysztof Krejtz in their paper “Respeaking crisis points. An exploratory study into critical moments in the respeaking process” utilise the measures of frustration and concentration to inquire into respeaker cognitive load. The technique of EEG applied here is clearly indicative of the current and future methodological developments in AVT studies. Methodology itself is key in the paper “Old questions, new answers: computational stylistics in audiovisual translation research” by Agata Hołobut, Jan Rybicki and Monika Woźniak. The authors show that stylometric examination – employing methods such as cluster analysis of the most frequent word frequencies and lexical density – serves as an invaluable source of information that can be supplemented qualitatively to gain well-informed insights into constructs such as author, genre and epoch signals, for example. As she gives an answer to the research question formulated in the ← 8 | 9 → title of her paper – “Factors that influence the occurrence of partial subtitling in Malayalam polyglot movies” – Minu Sara Paul carefully considers the parameters of viewer expectations, language pair type and the subtitles’ discursive role as the major sources of motivation. In a similar vein, Camilla Badstübner-Kizik’s “Multilingualism in the movies. Languages in films revisited” surveys the prominent models and reflects upon several cases of film multilingualism. The author also productively positions the discussion in the didactic academic setting.

The training aspect is then focused upon in two of the collection’s final contributions. In “Teaching AVT research at BA level: didactical reflections from a local perspective” by Gernot Hebenstreit AVT is discussed as a research subject to be pursued by students. The author’s detailed observations draw on his experience from a seminar conducted at the University of Graz. That thread is continued in the article “Gaining more benefits from a film lesson: integrated subtitles” by Anna Rędzioch-Korkuz. She reports on an experimental study designed to probe the potential of using subtitled clips in EFL classes, with a focus on vocabulary retention.

All in all, a total of 14 articles by established translation scholars and early-career researchers from institutions based in Austria, the Czech Republic, India, Iran, Italy, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the UK represent an impressive range of complementary perspectives. Inquiries of linguistic, cultural, technological, sociological, computational, educational as well as historical nature combine to create a fairly comprehensive and very up-to-date account of AVT as an expanding and heterogeneous, yet internally coherent, field of scientific endeavour and professional practice.

As impetus to this volume was given by the Intermedia 2016 conference held in Łódź, I wish to warmly thank all the people who made the event possible and successful: the participants, members of the Intermedia AVT Research Group and prof. Łukasz Bogucki who has been a major driving force.

Mikołaj Deckert, January 2019 ← 9 | 10 →

← 10 | 11 →

Anna Matamala, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Mapping audiovisual translation investigations: research approaches and the role of technology

Abstract: This article maps audiovisual translation research by analysing in a contrastive way the abstracts presented at three audiovisual translation conferences ten years ago and nowadays. The comparison deals with the audiovisual transfer modes and topics under discussion, and the approach taken by the authors in their abstracts. The article then shifts the focus to the role of technology in audiovisual translation research, as it is considered an element that is impacting and will continue to impact both research and practice in this field. Relevant research in audio-related, text-related and image-related technologies applied to audiovisual translation is summarised. The last section briefly discusses how technological tools can also help audiovisual translation professionals, users and researchers.

0.  Introduction

Research in audiovisual translation (AVT) is thriving. A lot has been done in recent years, and a lot can be done in the near future. The continuous transformation of a society where audiovisual content is ubiquitous, technology is paramount and citizens are becoming netizens impacts directly on AVT practices and, by extension, on AVT research. The interest in audiovisual transfer modes such as dubbing, subtitling or voice-over has expanded to include media accessibility related modalities such as audio description (AD), audio subtitling, subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) or sign language interpreting in the media. Long-established descriptive approaches are supplemented by applied investigations, by technologically-based research and by empirical studies on the process and on the end-users’ reception. Individual scholars are giving way to teams of researchers with different backgrounds joining efforts at an international level in order to approach AVT from an interdisciplinary perspective and gain a better understanding of the field. And all this research often impacts directly on society, because researchers are more and more involved in knowledge transfer activities.

In this article I aim to take stock of what has been done in recent years in AVT research and suggest future avenues, focusing specifically on the role of techno­logy. First, I will try to elucidate whether the optimistic tone of the first paragraph correlates with reality. This is why I will begin the article by looking back into the history of AVT research and comparing the picture I obtain to the present situation. This broad image will give way to a close-up in which the focus will be ← 11 | 12 → AVT research in relation to technology, as I consider it can have a remarkable impact on the field.

1.  Mapping audiovisual translation research

To gain an overview of the evolution of the field, the abstracts from three seminal conferences on AVT held about ten years ago and three recent conferences were collected. The events under analysis were the following:

A relevant and long-running conference such as Languages and the Media, which takes place in Berlin every two years, could not be considered due to lack of available materials within the time-frame this analysis was carried out.

The abstracts were analysed manually in order to shed light on the main transfer modes, approaches, and topics presented at the conferences from a contrastive point of view. The fact that abstracts may not always accurately reflect the final presentation and the fact that the analysis was carried out by one individual scholar are some of the limitations of the present study, but it is my believe that this tentative mapping of the field can still provide interesting insights into the evolution of AVT research.

First of all, the audiovisual transfer modes were considered. Table 1 reflects the percentages of abstracts dealing only with just one transfer mode, dealing with more than one at the same time or simply not specifying the transfer mode. ← 12 | 13 →

Table 1.  Audiovisual transfer modes in conferences


Ten years ago, dubbing and subtitling gathered approximately the attention of the same percentage of papers (26.35% for dubbing, 28.67% for subtitling), totalling more than 50% of the presentations. A remarkable 9.46% dealt with both modal­ities, probably offering contrastive studies, and voice-over presence was anecdot­ical (2.06%). Audio description and subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing concentrated around 13% of the papers, whilst around 20% did not mention or deal with a specific modality. When looking at each conference individually, one can observe that the presence of 40% of papers on dubbing in BTM impacts directly on the total percentage of dubbing, whilst the relative relevance of AD and SDH in M4A compensates for the low percentages of these modalities in the other two conferences. As far as sign language and media interpreting, they do not seem to find a good forum for dissemination in AVT conferences.

When looking at current data, a drop in dubbing research and in comparative studies including both dubbing and subtitling is observed, whilst interest in subtitling increases globally. This trend would be even more striking if data from the conference in Rome (LCRAV), with a remarkable 36% of papers on dubbing, was not considered. Voice-over remains a rather neglected mode, even in voice-over countries, despite a slight increase in numbers. And, as far as media accessibility modes are concerned, there is a slight increase overall, but lower than expected. This is probably due to the effect of the first M4A conference, where the focus ← 13 | 14 → was on media accessibility and a high number of papers were already presented on these modalities, whilst in its sixth edition (M4A-6) the approach was not so specific and subtitling for hearing audiences was given more attention. Similarly to ten years ago, sign language and media interpreting present low numbers, and a significant number of abstracts do not specify any transfer mode.

Summing up, the previous data show that in 2004–2005 the focus of interest were traditional modes (subtitling, dubbing and voice-over totalled 66.54%) and media accessibility related modes amounted 13.48%. More recently, interest in media accessibility has increased up to almost 20%, and research presented at conferences dealing with traditional modes has decreased (less than 60%). The previous data also show some regional variation, with a stronger interest in dubbing in the Italian conferences.

The second step in the analysis was to highlight the approach taken, following a top-down approach in which four categories were pre-established: theoretical, descriptive, reception and technological papers. Despite the fact that most studies are built upon a theoretical framework that is generally made explicit in the abstracts and despite the fact that reception studies can be the result of a descriptive analysis, the aim was to choose the most relevant aspect in the abstract. Results are presented in Table 2.

Table 2.  Approach to audiovisual translation research


The previous data show, first of all, a drop in theoretical approaches to AVT. A theoretical framework usually sustains research but developing theoretical proposals seems to attract less interest nowadays, at least in AVT conferences. One wonders whether other fora, like non-specific translation conferences, are seen as a more suitable venue for this type of contribution. Secondly, and contrary to my initial expectations, descriptive approaches to translation have not decreased but have actually increased, from 68.85% to 73.62%. This has been probably influenced by the conference in Rome, where an overwhelming 84% of the abstracts presented descriptive research. Similarly, reception research has increased but not as much as was expected, moving from 13.64% to 15.40%, and papers dealing only ← 14 | 15 → with technology or tools have surprisingly decreased This is probably due to the characteristics of LCRAV but also to the fact that technology nowadays permeates all the other categories.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2017 (July)
Subtitling Dubbing Revoicing Accessibility Research methodologies Technology
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 308 pp., 35 b/w ill., 52 b/w tab.

Biographical notes

Mikolaj Deckert (Volume editor)

Mikołaj Deckert is Assistant Professor at the Department of Translation Studies, University of Łódź, Poland. His research includes translation, language and cognition, media discourse as well as corpus linguistics.


Title: Audiovisual Translation – Research and Use
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