Audiovisual Translation in Poland

Changing Audiences

by Olga Łabendowicz (Author)
Monographs 266 Pages
Series: Łódź Studies in Language, Volume 63


The presented overview is an attempt to identify the ongoing changes in the landscape of Polish audiovisual translation (AVT) audiences watching longer video formats online, and thus to further the research in the area of cognitive performance. The objective of this book is twofold. First, it aims to identify viewing styles, preferences, and expectations of Polish viewers towards watching American humorous productions deeply rooted in source culture with modes of AVT proper. Second, and partly as a by-product, it attempts to offer a combination of methodological tools for further exploration of eye-tracking in AVT studies, triangulating this technology with various research tools (e.g. online questionnaires) to provide a feasible and reliable data analysis. The detailed findings prove that both the AVT and the audiences in Poland indeed change – and as such, the ongoing shifts should be closely examined to initiate a wider and more inclusive discussion about what audiovisual translation of the 21st century should be like.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication Page
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Audiovisual Translation Proper in Poland: Status Quo and Recent Developments
  • A Troubled Relationship with Voice-Over
  • Immersive Quality of Dubbing
  • Subtitles (and Fansubs): Growing Popularity
  • Changing Preferences: A Shift towards Viewing Online
  • Overall Polish Audience’s Expectations and Preferences: Survey Analysis
  • Online Surveys
  • Objectives
  • Design
  • Participants
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Place of Residence
  • Recognizing Humorous American TV Series
  • Audience Preferences and Expectations
  • Comparing Translation to Original
  • Self-Evaluation: Linguistic and Cultural Competences
  • Online Surveys: Summary of the Results
  • AVs and AVT Reception and Perception
  • Audience Preferences and Expectations
  • Audience Competences
  • Reception, Perception, and Memory: Behind the Screens
  • Participants
  • Device, Software, and Set-Up
  • Design and Stimuli
  • Procedure
  • Stimuli and Feedback Analysis
  • Stimulus I (Gilmore Girls I): Voice-Over Vis-à-Vis English Subtitles and Polish Fansubs
  • Stimulus I: Descriptive Statistics Analysis
  • Stimulus I: Variant I Overview
  • Stimulus I: Variant II Overview
  • Stimulus I: Variant III Overview
  • Stimulus I: Statistical Analysis of the Feedback
  • Stimulus I: Summary of the Results
  • Stimulus II (Gilmore Girls II): Original Vis-à-Vis Polish Voice-Over and Polish Fansubs
  • Stimulus II: Descriptive Statistics Analysis
  • Feedback for Stimulus II
  • Stimulus II: Variant I Overview
  • Stimulus II: Variant II Overview
  • Stimulus II: Variant III Overview
  • Stimulus II: Statistical Analysis of the Feedback
  • Stimulus II: Summary of the Results
  • Stimulus III (South Park): Polish Fansubs Vis-à-Vis Original and English Subtitles
  • Stimulus III: Descriptive Statistics Analysis
  • Feedback for Stimulus III
  • Stimulus III: Variant I Overview
  • Stimulus III: Variant II Overview
  • Stimulus III: Variant III Overview
  • Stimulus III: Statistical Analysis of the Feedback
  • Stimulus III: Summary of the Results
  • Stimulus IV (The Simpsons): Polish Voice-Over Vis-à-Vis Polish Fansubs and Original
  • Stimulus IV: Descriptive Statistics Analysis
  • Feedback for Stimulus IV
  • Stimulus IV: Variant I Overview
  • Stimulus IV: Variant II Overview
  • Stimulus IV: Variant III Overview
  • Stimulus IV: Statistical Analysis of the Feedback
  • Stimulus IV: Summary of the Results
  • Stimulus V (Madagascar): Dubbing Vis-à-Vis Polish Fansubs and Original
  • Stimulus V: Descriptive Statistics Analysis
  • Feedback for Stimulus V
  • Stimulus V: Variant I Overview
  • Stimulus V: Variant II Overview
  • Stimulus V: Variant III Overview
  • Stimulus V: Statistical Analysis of the Feedback
  • Stimulus V: Summary of the Results
  • Cross-Stimuli Analysis
  • Conclusions
  • Annex
  • Open Online Survey
  • Preferencje dot. oglądania amerykańskich produkcji komediowych
  • Pre-Experiment Agreement
  • Informacja dla osoby badanej o celu i przebiegu badania
  • Eye-Tracking Experiment Questionnaire: Screens
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • References


The days of decisions taken by just a few agents,

Used to dictating what audiences like and dislike,

are progressively coming to an end.

Frederic Chaume (2012)

It is not a coincidence that audience is placed last in the title of this book. Even though most translators would agree that it is, indeed, the thought of the audience that drives their work, – an approach much in line with the esteemed Skopos theory – theoreticians, for some reason, have so far not devoted enough attention to this vastly diverse and changing group (or rather, groups, to be exact). It still remains uncertain whether audience reception (and perception) studies will enter the academic mainstream any time soon – although the modestly growing number of research on the topic might be a first sign that this will happen quite soon after all. Without any doubt, it should – especially in the field of Audiovisual Translation (AVT) Studies. Why? Because understanding the changing behaviors of viewers – and, by extension, audiences – in the times when the bulk of video content is moving online may equally soon become a necessity for providing user-friendly translations. Identifying the capacity and preferences of Polish viewers in their daily viewing routines with regard to watching longer video formats online in relation to their AVT choices therefore became crucial. Which is also why it constitutes the focal point of this book. The methodology and research presented in it shall, hopefully, serve as a point of departure for further exploration of Polish audiences – a quest that, even though is most likely a never-ending one, is not in the slightest futile.

Enabled by the digital age, research in humanities and collaboration between researchers progresses. However, noteworthy, available findings are still often isolated (Brown 2016: 47). Moreover, despite ever-growing developments in the field of AVT itself (see Gambier 2009a, 2013, 2016; Denton and Ciampi 2012; Perego 2016, among others), the existing research frequently lacks a deeper understanding of what Gambier (2009b) referred to as the “social dimension of AVT services” (p. 51) – which includes “a better knowledge of viewers’ needs, reading habits[,]; and reception capacity” (ibid.). Employing eye tracking is one of the solutions that help remedy these deficiencies. As observed by Szarkowska, Krejtz, Krejtz, and Duchowski (2013), “a rapidly growing number of studies is ←13 | 14→using eye movement behavi[o]r to investigate individual differences in cognitive processes, most frequently in visual attention” (p. 153). Understanding this and other related phenomena is what might contribute to gaining a better insight into how translations might need to change to keep pace with the developments in the audiovisual (AV) market.

The so-called user-centered perspective, known from Translation Studies (see e.g. Suojanen et.al. 2014), is making its way into AVT, albeit rather slowly. Even though its scope until recently was rather limited (Matamala 2017: 14), it should be borne in mind that audience reception research has been progressing rather steadily since the late 2000s. Currently, there is a strong group of Europe-based researchers who have already employed eye tracking in their experiments in audiovisual translation (e.g. Perego et. al. 2010; Moran 2012; Perego 2012; Kruger et. al. 2013; Krejtz, Szarkowska, and Krejtz 2013; see also Walker and Federici 2018) rather successfully. This proves both that a rise in popularity of audience reception research might become a major area of interest for Audiovisual Translation Studies, and that oculography is increasingly utilized in AVT research – with AVT eye-tracking laboratories introduced at various Polish academic institutions1.

The growing popularity of AVT eye-tracking studies in the country is not surprising if one considers the fact that the landscape of AVT in Poland offers a complex perspective on audience’s viewing styles and preferences. All three modes of the so-called AVT proper (Okyayuz 2017: 115) – namely dubbing, voice-over, and subtitling – are commonly produced for various types or genres of AVs and employed by the Polish viewers accordingly (see Szarkowska 2009).

Choices available to viewers in terms of which mode of AVT they may employ on TV or online have also multiplied. With the introduction of digital terrestrial television in Poland in 2010, paired with the ubiquity of compatible TV sets and remotes on the market, English subtitles have started becoming a viable option not only for assisting the deaf and hard-of-hearing, but also so-called average viewers. On March 22, 2018, the Polish National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) introduced an Act with a set of guidelines for increasing the amount of content with subtitles or audio description2, stating that by 2024 at least 50 % ←14 | 15→of all televised content must be assisted with free-of-charge services for the disabled (KRRiT 2018). At the same time, during the recommendation stage, the KRRiT acknowledged that it is not only the disabled that employ subtitles, but also “hearing people for whom subtitles constitute an additional assistance in understanding the content of a given program” (2015: 3). Although there may be various reasons for the use of captions (see Winke, Gass, and Sydorenko 2013), apart from the need to have an additional support that might assist the viewer in following the dialogues or other audial content – some of which are revealed in this book – one thing remains clear: TV providers seem to be well aware that AVT is, nowadays, a must (or at least a welcome addition) for all kinds of viewers. The trends in this field are thus changing, with service providers introducing more content with subtitles instead of traditional voice-over3 (see Stysiak 2015). This option is, however, available only to those viewers who receive digital TV signal instead of analogue (ibid.).

And yet, television viewing is slowly decreasing in Europe – according to the European Audiovisual Observatory (2018a) data. Between 2012 and 2017, it declined by 0.3 % per year. Meanwhile, between 2013 and 2017, pay on-demand services observed an increase in demand by 45 % per year, with Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD)4 being the main driver for this growth (ibid.). Poland was also listed as one of “[t];he EU28 top target countries for pay-on-demand services” for broadcasters from outside of the European Union (European Audiovisual Observatory 2018b: 4) – together with France, Denmark, and Finland. This phenomenon – although being partly a result of the EU regulation related to licensing regimes (ibid.) – shows that foreign service providers had identified the country as a desirable market for localizing their productions – supplementing them with various modes of AVT. Moreover, Poland was also identified as one of the four states – together with France, the United Kingdom, and Germany – with “access to the highest number of pay-on-demand services with user-interfaces in the official languages of these EU countries” (European Audiovisual Observatory 2018b: 53). All this contributes to the increasing popularity of on-demand services in the country.

A wide range of both Video on Demand (VoD) and SVOD platforms are already available in Poland (Lesień 2018; Gajewski 2018). Nevertheless, the quality of translations offered by VoD providers is often far from perfect, with leading VoD ←15 | 16→platforms being accused of providing a lower quality of translations than those provided by amateur pirates (see Kralka 2018). Netflix alone is attempting to work out the kinks for instance, by introducing Netflix Hermes – a platform for outsourcing translations and screening potential translators, allowing also non-professional translators to work for the VoD giant (see Gajewski 2017; Adamus 2017). The provider also closely observes what does and does not work in terms of AVT (see Rodriguez 2018) in a bid to better localize their content in a given market.

Although the growing popularity of VoD platforms5 might soon contribute to the eradication of the employment of illegal streaming sites or downloading longer video formats from illegal sources and supplementing them with free amateur subtitles, the latter are still considered a viable choice for those internet users who avoid paying for the viewed content. In 2013, Łuczaj and Hoły-Łuczaj published the results of their research devoted to the so-called subtitling scene in Poland, investigating a number of phenomena related to the community of people producing free translations of foreign films and TV series, which – according to the researchers – are more and more commonly downloaded by Polish internet users (p. 53). The analysis revealed that viewers usually resort to illegal online sources when either the premiere of a given film or a TV series is delayed, or it is not going to be introduced onto the market at all (see Jenkins, Ford, and Green 2013; De Kosnik 2010; Filiciak, Hofmokl, and Tarkowski 2012). Therefore, amateur fansubs might still be a viable option for a number of Polish online viewers, and thus constitute a key part of the presented analysis.

In light of the abovementioned phenomena, the objective of this book is twofold. First, it aims to provide an overview of the identified viewing styles, preferences, and expectations of Polish viewers towards American humorous productions deeply rooted in source culture (SC). The choice of the analyzed material was a natural consequence of the fact that translating culture is commonly deemed the most challenging task any translator might face. As such, selecting a deeply problematic source AVs was supposed to serve as a template for other studies that might involve less difficult (by default) data sets.

Second, and partly as a by-product, the book attempts to offer a combination of methodological tools for further exploration of both utilization of oculography in audiovisual translation (AVT) studies, and triangulating this technology with various research tools (such as online questionnaires) to provide a feasible and reliable data analysis.

←16 | 17→

There is one more underlying assumption that may also be referred to as the primary goal of the outlined deliberations: both the AVT and the audiences in Poland change – and as such, the ongoing shifts should be closely examined to initiate a wider and more inclusive discussion about what audiovisual translation of the 21st century should be like. Hopefully, this modest contribution will be one of the building blocks.

Although this volume is an adaptation, so to speak, of a doctoral thesis entitled Impact of Audiovisual Modality on Reception and Perception of Culture-Specific References (2018), the research presented in the PhD serves here as a departing point for a much broader discussion on AVT online and the role of a translator and audiences in the process of creating AVT. The former must always have in mind the needs of the audience. The latter, on the other hand, are free to interpret the end product as they please. Therefore, it is the act of mediating the two, creating a common meeting point of sorts that is of interest to us theoreticians. Understanding how these processes permeate and impact one another is of the utmost importance in a bid to improve the efficiency and quality of both translations and viewers’ experience.

The analysis differentiates between reception and perception in order to offer a comprehensive analysis of the processes that viewers undergo when watching American humorous productions translated into Polish. The former shall be understood as “the act of internali[z];ing the content and the data (visual, audial) during the act of watching” (Łabendowicz, forthcoming). Noteworthy, as observed by Gambier (2009b), “the reception of AV output is not only about cultural assumptions, allusions or proper names – but also about expectations” (p. 41). The latter is “the effect of internalized information filtered through previous experiences and preferences” (ibid.). It should also be borne in mind that since perception is “intuitive cognition that starts during the act of receiving the audiovisual material, but which also continues after it ends (…), it may change with time” (ibid.). A joint receptive and perceptive approach thus ventures outside this perspective and extends the area of interest in order to include also viewers’ preferences and expectations in an attempt to push the field forward (Di Giovanni 2016: 61).

Finally, there were several assumptions, or hypotheses, if you will, which had served as the reason for conducting the research presented in this book. These include the following observations that were to be verified:

1) The Polish audience is not a uniform group. The viewers vary in terms of competences and their expectations towards audiovisual translations.

2) The viewing styles and preferences of Polish viewers are changing. Thus, also the audiences change.

←17 |

3) Viewing styles online and audience preferences may heavily depend on the selected mode of AVT.

4) Poland experiences a shift towards watching audiovisual materials online and participatory translation – including amateur subtitles (fansubs).

5) Memory and/or the ability to recall, play an important role in the perception of audiovisual translations.

6) Reception and perception are the two legs of the same phenomena: watching and understanding.

In light of these assumptions, the message of this book is simple: audiences change, and so should our perception of and approach to them. Therefore, the presented overview is an attempt to identify the ongoing changes in the landscape of Polish AVT audiences watching longer video formats online, and thus to further the research in the area of cognitive performance.

The structure of the book therefore is as follows. The first chapter gives an overview of Polish audiences’ contemporary viewing styles – making note of the recent increase in online viewership and growth in popularity of Video on Demand (VoD) platforms. It also discusses the most recent findings related to preferences, expectations, and competences of Polish audiences. Finally, the focus shifts from the target audience to amateur subtitlers (henceforth referred to as fansubbers) in light of the abovementioned demotic turn and the participatory AVT. This serves as an introduction to the discussion and the basis for the examination of the results of two online surveys (Open Online Survey and Post-Experiment Online Survey) in the second chapter, which allows the formation of a number of observations related to audience’s preferences (with regards to AVT modes), expectations (towards American humorous productions), and competences (both linguistic and cultural).

The findings pave the way for the analysis of a series of eye-tracking experiments in the third chapter. A detailed overview employs a mixture of semi-quantitative (SQCA) and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA). This is achieved by means of descriptive statistics (DS) for the retrieved eye-tracking data and quantitative analysis of the descriptive feedback results. The combination of these allows for a more comprehensive examination of the findings. By and large, the quantitative method was the dominant method of data analysis in this study, as the experiments were designed in such a manner as to provide numerical data that could then be explored statistically.

It shall, however, be emphasized that both the presented overview and the research have their limitations. The fact that the book focuses solely on AVT ←18 | 19→proper should act as an indicator of the limited approach towards the general landscape of audiovisual translation in the country. Nevertheless, it is still crucial to include a brief overview of the position each of the three main AVT modes holds as it shows the reasons for, and the direction of, the entire study. Another constraint constitutes the selection of the research material and narrowing it down solely to American humorous productions deeply rooted in SC. This, however, as shall be evidenced in the following sections, was done in order to examine one of the most challenging varieties of AV content. Such an approach was adapted following an observation by Pym (2010) that the more a text “presupposes its place of production”, the more problematic it is to translate such content into another culture (p. 145). In spite of these few potential drawbacks, the fact that the study was placed in a wider context related to the recent phenomena and developments in the discussed research area hopefully allows us to draw parallels and conclusions on a broader scale for the betterment of the entire field of AVT.

←19 | 20→←20 | 21→

1 Including AVT Lab at the Institute of Applied Linguistics at the University of Warsaw or eye-tracking lab at the Faculty of English at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, among others.

2 Audiodescription is not the only solution offered to the deaf and hard-of hearing on Polish TV. For instance, TV Puls and PULS 2 (operated by the same service provider) screens programs supplemented also with subtitles prepared specifically for the deaf and hard-of-hearing or with a sign language interpreter (see http://tvpuls.pl/udogodnienia).

3 Among service providers that offer subtitles in Poland are the mainstream TV channels: TVP, TVN, and Cyfrowy Polsat (Stysiak 2015).

4 Available upon payed subscription.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (September)
audience reception AVT proper eye-tracking cognition translating culture
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 266 pp., 137 fig. b/w, 74 tables

Biographical notes

Olga Łabendowicz (Author)

Olga Łabendowicz holds a PhD in linguistics and is an academic lecturer and researcher at the University of Łódź, Poland. She specializes in audiovisual and written translations. Her academic interests include audience reception studies, cultural translation, and untranslatability.


Title: Audiovisual Translation in Poland