Saturday, January 28, 2006

Watch Your Language

There’s a cracking little documentary on the telly tonight – about The Singing Postman. Marvellous! Unfortunately, it’s been dubbed into Spanish. Well, not really dubbed, what they’ve done is to overlay a Spanish version on top of the original, which has been turned down slightly. Perhaps it gives the professor or the interviewee more authority. Perhaps it’s ‘good television’.
Now, this doesn’t matter if the quiet language there underneath is Inuit, but it’s a bloody nuisance when it’s English, because you can understand the underlay, you can understand (espero) the overlay… but you can’t understand a bloody word when they are both going - more or less - simultaneously.
The Spanish rule on dubbing is easy enough. You name it – they dub it. In films, they turn the original soundtrack off completely and let the dubbers do their worst. The exception to this – in most but not all cases – is when the singalong arrives. Here, the song is left in the original, with subtitles added. These can be quite useful if you never understood the words of the song in the first place (ejem. The Singing Postman).
On Spanish satellite telly (which I hope you have at home), there’s a facility for watching the show in its original language, which makes sense in a place like Europe. They will, since being European is no threat, also show films made by the French. Who are masters of the ‘Seventh Art’. Of course, the original version, as supplied by a button on your remote control, will be in français, but you can always watch it in Spanish…
With this idea - original language at the touch of a button, there would seem to be little reason why much original material, whether comedy shows or BBC documentaries, suffer having the original language wiped. It happens. I watched a BBC film about Sam Cooke the other day – in Spanish, followed by another music documentary – this time about Queen – in English.
Dubbing was an invention of the bad old Franco years. Only Spanish to be spoken, gracias. It is a good way to lightly censor films, helps our less literate members of society with the longer words and… keeps about ten people in the style to which they have become accustomed.

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