Eli5 Why do non English original language films have vastly diferent translations between dub and sub?



Eli5 Why do non English original language films have vastly diferent translations between dub and sub?

In: Technology

A dub is (usually) an actor who speaks both languages translating the original language into the dub language, or reading a script written by someone who speaks both. Because a human is translating them, the nuances and finer points of the source language are more effectively translated to the dub language, since a human can understand expressions, phrases and other language devices that may be unique to that language.

Subtitles, in contrast, are usually generated by a computer that is essentially looking up the words in an electronic dictionary and displaying the translated word in the desired language, which prevents those nuances from being effectively conveyed.

There are several reasons. For reasons, most of my knowledge of this comes from anime, so all the examples are coming from that.

One factor is that the voice actors are trying to match the flaps of the lips, so if a literal translated version is too few syllables, they’ll retweak it to fit.

Another factor is audience. If you’re watching something like a Hayao Miyazaki movie, the dub is usually targeted to kids while the sub will mostly be seen by older teens and adults, so the dub may change certain cultural references that a kid might not know about. Pokémon was notorious for this.

Subtitling and dubbing have their own separate set of rules. Dubbing is more strict on the duration of the sounds and matching it with the lip movement, whereas subtitles have a limit of characters.

Source: I’m a translator by education. I don’t work in TV or cinema though, so I’m not that well versed on this subject.

On top of what others have said, one reason is just references might fly over an english audiences head. There are phrases in one language that dont translate to another. I’ve heard stuff like “To Catch a Cloud” in anime before, and that was given a translator’s note to explain what it meant. So sometimes you just need to make a change so that it makes sense to people who dont have certain phrases as an idiom. I’d give an example of an english Idiom that wouldnt make sense if you didnt know its meaning but I’m completely blanking at the moment. You know what I mean though. This can also apply to celebrities that are known overseas but not here.

The other example is just censorship. Sometimes a country might not be in great standing with another, so I’ve heard of Korea censoring shows (even anime) to remove japanese references. There’s even episodes that are banned just because of heavy japanese references, like the episode of the Pokemon anime where Ash fights a dude dressed as a Samurai. Different Countries will also have different laws on whats “okay” for their audience. One example would be censoring cleavage or sexy outfits for western markets. An interesting one is that disfigurement (missing limbs) can raise an age rating really easy in Japan.

Source: Im just a weeb. Most of this I’ve learned over time but [heres a source](https://youtu.be/MnmxxOErVXY?t=622) on that Pokemon episode being banned bit which gives a bit more detail why

Translation of any kind of work have two different and competing goals. First, the accurate translation of the work so it can be understood in a different language. Second, the translation of the meaning, tone, symbolism, and general ‘feeling’ of the work. The best translation can do both, but most focus on one or the other depending upon their purpose. A translation for a dramatic, creative , expressive, or poetic work or a song will generally place importance on fitting the rhythm and ‘meaning’ of the work, rather then the exact word for word translation. A scientific or technical work will do the exact opposite, no matter how many footnotes are required to make the work understandable.

A dub must fit with the pace of the scene, and try to pretend the other language doesn’t exist. A sub can put as much text on the screen as fast as it can to explain whatever it needs to.

For a dub, they’re trying to make the translated sentences have a similar length and rhythm and cadence to the original sentences. So they have to take some liberties.

For subtitles, they aren’t bound by that. They can stick closer to the original meaning.

Sometimes subs are done when movie is shown at some international festival. They are often done in haste, just to get the idea of screenplay. When movie is released in target country and dubbing is ordered, nobody bothers to go back and revisit the subs.