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Dealing with Difference in Audiovisual Translation

Subtitling Linguistic Variation in Films


Claire Ellender

Subtitling films in another language becomes especially complex when the original language deviates from its standard form. Films that feature non-standard pronunciation, dialects or other varieties of language, especially when juxtaposed with more standard uses, are said to display «linguistic variation». As language use is central to characters’ identities and to a film’s plot, it is essential to retain the source language (SL) specificity as fully as possible in the target language (TL) subtitles so the target audience can experience the film as authentically as possible. Given its considerable difficulty, subtitling in this manner is often advised against, avoided or, when attempted, subjected to considerable criticism.
This book focuses on a collection of British and French films selected for the range of approaches that they adopt in portraying linguistic variation. Each chapter explores the challenges posed by the subtitling of such linguistic difference in the given films and the corresponding solutions offered by their subtitlers. Drawing on these findings and referring to contemporary thinking in the field of translation studies, this book argues that with insight and skill, linguistic variation can be preserved in film subtitles.
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Chapter 2 Southern Fairies and Northern Monkeys: Conveying British Dialects in the French Subtitles of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels


← 54 | 55 → CHAPTER 2

The present chapter explores how Cockney and other dialects of British English are handled in the French subtitled version of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and subsequently establishes how these dialects may be conveyed more powerfully in translation.1 In order to do so, it proceeds in a number of stages. After introducing the film and briefly presenting the Cockney dialect, this chapter first focuses on two scenes in which the indigenous people’s speech is central to the film’s characterization and setting. It examines how various features of Cockney have been rendered, and therefore the extent to which this distinctive SL dialect has been recaptured, in French. Turning to two other SL dialects, one regional (Liverpudlian) and one social (‘private-school’ English), the chapter briefly presents these. It proceeds to examine two heteroglossic scenes (Bakhtin 1940 / 1981: 67; 1934–5 / 1981: 292), in which these dialects are each juxtaposed with Cockney, and considers the extent to which the distinction between these SL varieties, which is so apparent in the SL soundtrack, is preserved for viewers of Arnaques, Crimes ← 55 | 56 → et Botanique. After recapitulating the relative merits and shortcomings of the European Captioning Institute’s French subtitling of these four scenes, this chapter concludes by reasserting the importance of dialect in a film’s characterization and setting. It then provides some practical suggestions which may ensure that the dialects contained in the four scenes examined are conveyed even more forcefully to the film’s French-speaking audience...

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