Dubbing and Subtitling

The China Experience

by Zhengqi Ma (Author) Zheng Xie (Author)
©2019 Monographs XXVI, 156 Pages


Dubbing and Subtitling: The China Experience is the first summarization in English of 70 years of film and TV translation and production in China. It is an academic retrospect on innovation in audiovisual translation (AVT) studies for the world’s largest movie and television audience and is a product based on more than 20 years of successful teaching and award-winning translation experiences.
This book offers the world academia, translation practitioners, and students a look at how the industry began and developed in China, the challenges it is facing, and the prospects that lie ahead. Dubbing and Subtitling also gives a rare look at independently developed theories and guidance for practice that are unique to English-Chinese translation. Until recently, Chinese academic researchers have had little exchange with the outside world on the subject of movie and TV translation. Readers will discover that the two independently developed schools of AVT studies are meeting at a crossroads.
This book can serve as a textbook for both graduate and undergraduate students who have an interest in AVT, especially movie and TV translation studies. It also aims to help amateur translators who wish to enhance their translations. Dubbing and Subtitling endeavors to be a reference for academic researchers in both translation and intercultural studies. Although this book is dedicated to China’s experiences, its theories, principles, and guidelines also serve a more general purpose.
China’s dream works industry is witnessing an unprecedented boom, and translated movies are taking a large share of the boom, not including the countless movies and TV productions shared online and translated by fansubbers. A lucrative and growing translation market makes this book particularly relevant to current cultural exchanges in the fastest-growing economy between one of the largest audiovisual consuming markets and producers worldwide.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Dubbing and Subtitling
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter 1. Dubbing Translation in China: An Introduction
  • I. Defining Dubbing Translation
  • II. The Concept and Theory
  • III. An Aesthetic Perspective: Procedures and Principles
  • IV. A Strategic Study: Language and Culture
  • Summary
  • Chapter 2. Sub & Dub Translation Industry in Contemporary China
  • I. Translated Films: Products of Language Exchange
  • II. Gatekeeper: Mission of Dubbing for Import
  • III. Accelerator: Functions of Minority-Language Dubbing
  • IV. Easy Mover: Strategy of Dubbing for Export
  • Summary
  • Chapter 3. Understanding Sub & Dub Translation: Basic Features
  • I. Forms of Language Expression: Voice Utterances
  • II. Functions of Information Communication
  • III. Research Approaches to Theoretical Studies
  • Summary
  • Chapter 4. Understanding the Language: Linguistic Qualities
  • I. Sub & Dub Translation Linguistics
  • II. The Basic Nature of Film and TV Drama Language
  • III. The Linguistic Features of English Film and TV Drama Language
  • Summary
  • Chapter 5. Understanding the Mind: From Typing to Talking
  • I. The Psycholinguistic Mechanism of Re-encoding
  • II. Words, Utterance, and Texts: From SL Understanding to TL Production
  • III. From Typing to Talking: A Shift of Thinking Patterns
  • Summary
  • Chapter 6. Training Approaches: A Guide Into the Art
  • I. Concept and Principles: Art in Sub & Dub Translation
  • II. Theory and Foundation: Text Features
  • III. Training Approaches: Rhetoric Reconstruction
  • Summary
  • Chapter 7. Sense of Dialogue: Reconstruction of Lifestyle
  • I. The Two-Step Reception Process
  • II. Talk to Your Neighbor: Cultural Adaptation
  • Summary
  • Chapter 8. Cultural Issues in Sub & Dub Translation
  • I. Cultural Context Conformity
  • II. Cultural Psychological Adjustment
  • III. Cultural Theme Reconstruction
  • Summary

| xi →



Figure 3.1. Relations of Inclusion Between Movie & TV, Drama and Literature

Figure 5.1. Re-encoding: A Psycholinguistic Model of Translation


Table 4.1. Case Study: Anchors Aweigh

Table 4.2. Case Study: Anchors Aweigh

Table 4.3. Case Study: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Table 4.4. Case Study: Patton

Table 4.5. Pattern Translation 1

Table 4.6. Pattern Translation 2

Table 4.7. Case Study: Anchors Aweigh

Table 4.8. Case Study: Madame Curie

Table 4.9. Case Study: Friends

Table 4.10. Case Study: Growing Pains

Table 4.11. Case Study: Seinfeld ← xi | xii →

Table 4.12. Case Study: Friends

Table 4.13. Case Study: Growing Pains

Table 5.1. Case Study: Titanic

Table 5.2. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 5.3. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 5.4. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 5.5. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 5.6. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 6.1. Case Study: Desperate Housewives

Table 6.2. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 6.3. Case Study: Desperate Housewives

Table 7.1. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 7.2. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 7.3. Case Study: Desperate Housewives

Table 7.4. Case Study: Desperate Housewives

Table 7.5. Case Study: MIB III

Table 8.1. Case Study: Desperate Housewives

Table 8.2. Case Study: Desperate Housewives

Table 8.3. Case Study: Desperate Housewives

Table 8.4. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 8.5. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 8.6. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

Table 8.7. Case Study: Million Dollar Baby

| xiii →


Theoretically speaking, the author believes the job of a movie/TV drama translator is to serve the average audience, so the best he can do is to ensure that his TRANSLATION would function as effectively as its source text does in the original context. This is sometimes very challenging due to factors of two spheres: one has much to do with language differences and the other is aroused by the specialty of the text type. Logically, the whole book is written according to three key beliefs: average audience, language differences and specialty of the text type.

By average audience, we refer to the average Chinese audience—one of a huge population rather than a small number of English learners. Thus, the author would abandon such an idea and practice that any word-for-word translation of the subtitles would be helpful to the audience to understand the general meaning of the dialogues as the popular fansubs do. Instead, the book strongly believes that a good translation helps the audience to grasp the whole meaning of the dialogue so that they can enjoy the story naturally and completely. For that purpose, all elements that make up the dialogues as a text of meaning should be taken into consideration including the style and rhythm. This may sound very similar to Nida’s Functional Equivalence theory. Again for this purpose, the book employs the term “sub & dub translation” regarding ← xiii | xiv → the two seemingly different types of translation as one, that is the translation of movies and TV dramas, with the same target text and the same audience, following the same principle and methodology.

By language differences, we refer to the differences in Chinese and English. Plenty of studies show the similarities and differences between the two languages and these help to serve as the basic understanding for studying the linguistic features of the dialogues in both the target text and the source text. One point the author wants to focus here is the thinking pattern. Studies show that the way English natives think is quite different from the way Chinese do. This constitutes a great challenge for movie translators in that a word-for-word translation may be correct in meaning but sounds ridiculous to the target audience simply because they don’t speak that way in the same context. To make his translation more acceptable, a good translator needs to be good at shifting from one thinking pattern to another, that is, first, forgetting yourself as a translator but acting up as the character to think the same way, so that you get the exact meaning and feeling when interpreting the original, and second, changing the role from one as is communicating in the original context to one as is talking to the target audience. This is one of the reasons that movie translation is more recreational than translation of common texts because very often duplication of the original sentence patterns simply do not work and what movie translators need to do is just rewrite the dialogue so that the whole text may be nothing but a reconstruction, reconstruction of rhetoric and hence a major theory of the book.


XXVI, 156
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XXVI, 156 pp., 2 b/w ill., 34 tables

Biographical notes

Zhengqi Ma (Author) Zheng Xie (Author)

Ma Zhengqi earned his PhD in communications studies at the Communication University of China, where he is currently Professor of Translation Studies. He is a founding figure for the discipline of film translation in China, with four books in the field. Xie Zheng is a PhD student at the Communication University of China. He currently works as a journalist for an English-language television news broadcaster in London.


Title: Dubbing and Subtitling
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