Over the past decade, several European universities have added programs in audiovisual translation to their translation curricula. These include London’s Roehampton University, which launched an MA in Audiovisual Translation in 2005, joining the University of Surrey, Université de Lille in France, Hogeschool Antwerpen in Belgium, University of Copenhagen and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, among others, in offering specialized subtitling courses. In Canada, the University of Ottawa is offering its first subtitling course as of Winter 2008. Until now, however, subtitling courses have had to cope with a lack of pedagogical material: the closest thing to a textbook was Jan Ivarsson and Mary Carroll’s useful but slim volume Subtitling (Simrishamn, TransEdit, 1998), along with Fotios Karamitroglou’s article “A Proposed Set of Subtitling Standards in Europe” (Translation Journal, 2, 2, 1998) and a few other references.
The situation changed with the publication in late 2007 of Jorge Díaz Cintas and Aline Remael’s Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling. Published by St. Jerome in the Translation Practices Explained series, it is an introductory textbook aimed at teachers for use in classroom situations and at translators interested in self-learning. Díaz Cintas, a principal lecturer at Roehampton University, has extensive practical and academic experience in audiovisual translation and has been president of the European Association for Studies in Screen Translation (ESIST) since 2002. Aline Remael, a lecturer at the Hogeschool Antwerpen and University of Antwerp, has published articles on subtitling, dubbing and multimedia translation and is editor-in-chief of the journal Linguistica Antverpiensia NS.
Like other volumes in the Translation Practices Explained series, Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling combines a focus on the latest professional practices with a solid theoretical foundation. It covers, as might be expected, the basic principles of subtitling, such as spatial and temporal constraints, punctuation and other conventions, segmentation and line breaks, and text reduction; teachers will no doubt appreciate the authors’ willingness to offer recommendations on issues where there is a lack of consensus. In addition, the book provides a chapter on the professional environment that details the technical process of subtitling—distinguishing between the task of spotting or timing (preparing a time-code list) and that of translating or adapting into subtitle format—and the working conditions a subtitler is likely to encounter. Furthermore, in a chapter entitled “Translation Issues,” Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling goes beyond a purely practical focus to tackle some of the challenges and controversies facing subtitlers today. The chapter covers the translation of marked speech (register, dialect, swearing, etc.), culture-bound terms, songs, and humour, giving numerous examples. It also looks at questions of power and voice: for example, in a discussion of La bataille d’Alger (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965), a docudrama about the Algerian war, it points out that when the soundtrack simultaneously contains messages broadcast on loudspeakers by the French army to the local population and dialogue among Algerian women worrying about their sons, the subtitles give priority to the loudspeakers. It is in this chapter that the authors’ extensive experience, both practical and academic, comes through most clearly.
Last but not least, Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling comes with a DVD containing discussion points, examples and exercises corresponding to each chapter of the book. As a bonus, it includes a special educational version of WinCAPS, an industry-leading subtitling software program produced by SysMedia. The program is representative of the commercial products available in North America and Europe, so students and self-learners will have the opportunity to become familiar with this type of subtitling program before heading out into the workplace. Moreover, in a classroom environment, students will benefit from the ability to preview their subtitles and actually see what their work looks like, as well as from features like reading speed calculation, time-code fixing and checking tools.
Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling is an ambitious, extremely comprehensive project that will surely find a place in numerous classrooms and on the bookshelves of language professionals. Although the language of most of the material is English, the authors are careful to offer examples in a range of other languages, as well as clips on the accompanying DVD in Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish. Oddly, however, many of the examples in the textbook are not sourced (although a filmography is included after the bibliography), making it difficult for teachers to expand on or verify the examples. Perhaps the only drawback of this project is the flipside of one of its strengths: it refers to current practice in great detail, but how long will such descriptions remain accurate? The field of audiovisual translation is changing rapidly as a result of technological developments: only five years ago, many subtitlers were still working with VHS tape and a television set placed next to their computer. DVDs have brought sweeping changes to subtitlers’ working methods as well as to film production and distribution in general. What will the subtitling world look like five years from now? Lastly, from a Canadian perspective, what we need is a French translation of this textbook!