Multilingual Films in Translation

A Sociolinguistic and Intercultural Study of Diasporic Films

by Micòl Beseghi (Author)
©2017 Monographs VIII, 250 Pages


A contribution to the ever-growing field of audiovisual translation studies, this volume investigates the processes involved in the translation of multilingual films, a media genre where language, culture and identity are closely interwoven. To explore the relationships that get established between audiovisual translation, linguistic diversity and identity, the book analyses a corpus of immigrant films portraying the South Asian diaspora, with the aim of determining how diasporic identity is then reconstructed for the Italian audience through dubbing and subtitling. A sociolinguistic analysis model is proposed that covers all linguistic levels, including the use of ethnolects and some fundamental discourse strategies, such as code-switching and code-mixing, thus illustrating how linguistic choices and language variation are socio-culturally symbolic.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Tables
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Translating multilingual films: Challenges and issues
  • Audiovisual translation: Towards a new scenery
  • Dubbing and subtitling
  • The screening tradition in Italy
  • Multilingual films: A definition
  • Fictional representations of multilingualism
  • The multilingual turn
  • Are multilingual films a genre?
  • The functions of multilingualism
  • Multilingualism and translation: Conceptual and terminological issues
  • Multilingual films in translation: Modes and strategies
  • Dubbing multilingual films
  • Subtitling multilingual films
  • The problem of intralingual variation
  • Chapter 2: Analysing multilingual films: A multidisciplinary approach
  • Approaching multilingual films from an interdisciplinary perspective
  • The polysemiotic nature of films
  • Language and character portrayal in film
  • Film language: Reality or fiction?
  • Language and identity
  • Chapter 3: South Asian diasporic films: A multicultural and multilingual genre
  • South Asian diaspora
  • South Asian diasporic films: Main traits and definition
  • South Asian diasporic films in Britain
  • South Asian diasporic films in North America
  • Neither here nor there: Home, identity, culture and language
  • Selection of South Asian diasporic films
  • The Namesake
  • Ae Fond Kiss
  • Bend It like Beckham
  • East Is East
  • Chapter 4: Multilingualism in South Asian diasporic films
  • Multilingualism in the film corpus
  • Code-switching
  • Code-switching in Namesake
  • Code-switching in Kiss
  • Code-switching in Beckham
  • Code-switching in East
  • Code-mixing
  • South Asian English
  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Phonology
  • Lexicon
  • Language and character portrayal
  • Character portrayal through other semiotic signs
  • Chapter 5: Translating South Asian diasporic films
  • Multilingualism in translation: Analysis of the Italian versions
  • Code-switching in translation
  • Code-mixing in translation
  • Translating South Asian English
  • Morphosyntax
  • Phonology
  • Lexicon
  • Translating ethnolects, translating identities
  • Conclusion
  • Filmography
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

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Table 1: Multilingualism in the film corpus

Table 2: Main characters’ language use in the film corpus

Table 3: Polysemiotic character portrayal of first- and second-generation immigrants in the film corpus

Table 4: DVD language options in the film corpus

Table 5: Multilingualism in the dubbed film corpus

Table 6: Multilingualism in the subtitled film corpus

Table 7: Code-switching in the translated film corpus

Table 8: Translation of baba in Il destino nel nome

Table 9: Translation of ma in Il destino nel nome

Table 10: Code-mixing in the translated film corpus

Table 11: Transposition of SAE ethnolect in the translated film corpus

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Multilingual Films in Translation investigates the main sociolinguistic and intercultural issues involved in the process of translating multilingual films characterized by linguistic diversity, variation and hybridity. It is thus a contribution to the ever-growing field of audiovisual translation (AVT) studies and, more specifically, to the new field of multilingual audiovisual translation (MATV). Recent years have witnessed an increasing number of publications and conferences that focus on audiovisual translation, as well as the development of many different specialist courses in AVT at universities worldwide (Díaz Cintas and Anderman, 2009). On the topic of multilingualism in AVT, a growing number of studies have been published and conferences have been organized, such as the Marie Curie Euroconferences MuTra (<http://www.euroconferences.info>, 2005–2007) and The Translation and Reception of Multilingual Films (University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, 2012). Furthermore, the proliferation of new forms of entertainment such as DVD and pay-per-view TV has created a huge demand for the professional service of dubbing and subtitling, which are both indispensable tools to overcome language barriers for viewers with little or no knowledge of the foreign language(s).

Multilingual films have recently become more popular, as a result of directors and scriptwriters who wish to represent the linguistic diversity typical of contemporary society (Bruti and Di Giovanni, 2012). Focusing on multilingual films that narrate stories of migration and diaspora, this work investigates the forms which the relationship between translation, migration and identity takes in the context of AVT. In order to explore how multilingual cinema travels cross-culturally through audiovisual translation, it focuses on the dubbing and subtitling into Italian of South Asian diasporic films, a multilingual film genre which is strongly characterized by linguistic diversity and cultural hybridity. Through the analysis of the original dialogues of a selection of multilingual diasporic films – The Namesake (Mira Nair, 2006), Ae Fond Kiss (Ken Loach, 2004), Bend It like Beckham ← 1 | 2 → (Gurinder Chadha, 2002), East Is East (Damien O’Donnell, 1999) – and their Italian dubbed and subtitled versions, translation strategies will be investigated for the aspects concerning the different levels of multilingualism and the sociolinguistic phenomena that mark the characters’ ways of speaking and shape their identity in sociocultural contexts. The descriptive analysis, which is explicitly both intercultural and sociolinguistic, concentrates on the source texts and on the target texts – the Italian subtitled and dubbed versions – in order to observe the main issues in terms of linguistic diversity and transcultural transmission. Indeed, South Asian diasporic films seem particularly appropriate for the study of multilingualism, also in consideration of the close contact between linguistic and cultural issues in diasporic situations.

Chapter 1 presents a general overview of the existing literature in film studies and audiovisual translation studies on the topic of multilingualism. After a brief outline of audiovisual translation practices in the Italian context, with particular emphasis on dubbing and subtitling, the chapter discusses the complex nature of multilingualism and its multiple functions in films. Following Delabastita (2002, 2009), a film is considered here multilingual if it incorporates not only official languages, but also dialects, sociolects and ethnolects. The last sections of the chapter focus on the main issues and challenges involved in the translation of multilingual films. In order to study this phenomenon, the concept of third language (L3) proposed by Corrius and Zabalbeascoa (2011) is introduced. Following this model, the term L1 is used to refer to the main language spoken in the original film, L2 to refer to the main language used in the translated film, and L3 is used to refer to any form of linguistic diversity in the source and target texts.

Chapter 2 proposes an intercultural and sociolinguistic framework for the descriptive study of multilingual films and their translation. It shows the importance of a multidisciplinary approach and the need to reconsider translation theories that are based on binary oppositions (e.g. source language versus target language) or that do not take into account the complexity of audiovisual texts. The chapter discusses the polysemiotic nature of audiovisual texts, namely how different semiotic modes give meaning to a film. Furthermore, the study is based on the broad assumption that ← 2 | 3 → films display representations of identities, since they build fictional worlds where characters use various resources – including language – to define their identity (Kozloff, 2000). After considering the complex relationship between language and character portrayal in film, the nature of film language in terms of realism and fictionality is discussed.

Chapter 3 focuses on South Asian diasporic cinema – a multilingual film genre which is analysed in order to explore the topic of multilingualism and translation. The chapter illustrates the origin and development of South Asian diasporic films, their main traits and themes, their distinctive use of language(s) and their representation of migrant identities (Desai, 2004). Since issues of language, culture and identity are central to this film genre, the theoretical framework for the study of these films is grounded on the social constructionists’ discursive approach (Edwards, 1997; Gergen, 1994; Harré and Van Langenhove, 1999) and the poststructuralist view (Bhabha, 1990; Brah, 1996; Hall, 1990), where the relationship between language and identity is mutually constitutive, and identity is characterized by multiplicity, fragmentation and hybridity, especially as a consequence of the increased transnational migration. Finally, the chapter presents the sample of South Asian diasporic films chosen for the study.

By means of a sociolinguistic analysis that involves all linguistic levels, Chapter 4 sets out to discover how linguistic identities manifest themselves in South Asian diasporic films. The investigation thus concentrates on the use of multilingualism and language variation through which different generations of immigrant people negotiate, construct and renew their sociocultural values and identities. The chapter illustrates some socioculturally symbolic discourse strategies, such as code-switching and code-mixing, typical of multilingual communities who use them as an act of self-expression. It then focuses on the use of ethnolects, seen as a form of multilingual expression. In particular, the variety of English spoken by South Asian first-generation immigrants (South Asian English), which is characterized by distinctive morphological, syntactic, phonological and lexical features is considered. Although this sociolinguistic analysis aims to show how diasporic films use language variation and multilingualism as a means to express the characters’ hybrid identities and sociocultural values, ← 3 | 4 → language is not the only means of characterization. The chapter ends with a discussion of the polysemiotic construction of characters.

Chapter 5 focuses on the dubbed and subtitled versions of the films, the significance of which is discussed from the point of view of the mechanisms underpinning language diversity in a diasporic context and its cross-cultural transposition by means of audiovisual translation. More specifically, the aim of the final chapter is to identify and discuss the compromises that are evident in the translated versions of the films in transferring multilingualism for an Italian audience. The translation solutions identified in the corpus are explained and exemplified, speculating on the translators’ motivations behind their choices and considering their effects, especially on character portrayal. By looking into the preponderance of different kinds of linguistic diversity and variation, the data for each of the films examined provide insight into recurrent patterns in the translation and manipulation of multilingual films. However, the aim of the analysis is not to recommend or prescribe translation procedures. Rather, by adopting a descriptive perspective, the targets texts are examined as ‘facts’ (Toury, 1995: 29), that is, texts belonging to the target culture, in order to identify the problems and the various solutions adopted by the translators when dealing with multilingualism.

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Translating multilingual films: Challenges and issues


VIII, 250
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (November)
audiovisual translation dubbing subtitling multilingual films South Asian diaspora
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2017. VIII, 250 pp., 11 tables

Biographical notes

Micòl Beseghi (Author)

Micòl Beseghi holds a PhD in Comparative Languages and Cultures from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and teaches English language and translation at the University of Parma. Her main research interests concern the fields of audiovisual translation, the didactics of translation, corpus linguistics and learner autonomy in foreign-language education. She has published articles on audiovisual translation, focusing on the study of linguistic variation in films, the transposition of orality in subtitling, the use of subtitles as a pedagogic tool in translation classes and the phenomenon of fansubbing.


Title: Multilingual Films in Translation
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