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Dealing with Difference in Audiovisual Translation

Subtitling Linguistic Variation in Films

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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 3 Transporting the Aquarium: Overcoming the Challenges of Subtitling Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank into French

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← 82 | 83 → CHAPTER 3

Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank is set in a council estate in the county of Essex, England, and provides a gritty portrayal of the social deprivation and personal problems which its characters face. After introducing the film and outlining the challenges to which its subtitling gives rise, the present chapter focuses firstly on four representative examples of character interaction in Fish Tank, and secondly on three key songs from the film’s musical soundtrack.1 Considering the particular difficulties presented by the subtitling of these extracts into French and examining the strategies employed in order to deal with these, this chapter sets out to establish the extent to which Emmanuelle Boillot and Nicola Haughton’s translation preserves the linguistic and cultural specificity of this quintessentially British film in its corresponding written French subtitles.

Fifteen-year-old Mia lives on a socially deprived council estate. Excluded from school, she spends her days fighting with other girls on the estate, arguing with her mother, Joanne, and younger sister, Tyler, drinking and practising hip-hop dancing. When Joanne brings home her new Irish boyfriend, Connor, Mia’s life changes. Following a sexual encounter between Connor and Mia, Connor’s relationship with Joanne ends and he leaves. Mia tracks down Connor, discovers that he is married with a daughter and, by way of revenge, kidnaps the little girl. After returning her, Mia makes peace with her mother and sister and leaves to begin a new life in Wales with her boyfriend, a local traveller. Arnold’s...

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