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Old 24th December 2009, 12:06 AM   #1
GabrielDeManila
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Question Do Spanish Dubbed films sound natural to native speakers?

Hello all. Apart from studying books and listening to podcasts and music to help me learn Spanish, I also watch Spanish films and English-language films but with the Spanish dubbing turned on.

While reading the other thread about reading Spanish books, LAH brought up an interesting point that the dialog in the books, dialog may get translated correctly into Spanish but Spanish speakers would not naturally say things the same way.

So now I'm wondering. How well are the movies dubbed into Spanish? Do they just translate the words literally and unnaturally? Or do they change the words and idiomatic expressions to make the characters sound more like how native speakers would say them?
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Old 25th December 2009, 02:22 AM   #2
wcgornto
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What's really confusing is watching a movie dubbed in Spanish along with Spanish subtitles when the written words don't match the spoken words.
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Old 25th December 2009, 05:29 PM   #3
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So now I'm wondering. How well are the movies dubbed into Spanish? Do they just translate the words literally and unnaturally? Or do they change the words and idiomatic expressions to make the characters sound more like how native speakers would say them?
Yes, sometimes, and it drives me crazy. When they translate a really funny smart-assed joke of a response into just "Sí" the movie is ruined for me. The only dubbed movies I watch are Disney/Pixar type things where the script is simple, written with a global audience in mind and where they actually put a whole lot of effort into the translation.

Another thing that gets on my nerves and means I go way out of my way to avoid dubbed TV or movies, is when the item in question is dubbed into Spanish Spanish rather than Latin American Spanish. Why? Because for some reason young men are always given very effeminate voices. If the character is supposed to be tough or cool, but speaks like a sissy nerd, the movie is over.

And am I the only one who thinks that when dubbing from English to Spanish, all US & Canadian characters should be dubbed into a Latin American accent, and all others, specifically British characters, should be dubbed into Spanish Spanish? Does that not make perfect sense to anyone else?

But generally, I do believe all movies should be seen in the language they were supposed to be seen in -- if it happens to be at all possible for you to do so. (Doing it for learning is other story, and actually not only a great way to learn, but a means of learning with minimal effort while having a good time)

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Old 25th December 2009, 10:24 PM   #4
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Some films dubbed in to spanish i have seen have had the worst audio i have ever heard, even my spanish girlfriend has had problems listening to them.. !!!
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Old 25th December 2009, 11:53 PM   #5
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Because for some reason young men are always given very effeminate voices. If the character is supposed to be tough or cool, but speaks like a sissy nerd, the movie is over.
I am going to have to introduce you to my friend PJ who is a very large man with a deep, masculine voice and would not take kindly to being described as effeminate. Hear his voice as the dubbed voice as the mayor of New York in the series "Castle".
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Old 26th December 2009, 12:43 AM   #6
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I am going to have to introduce you to my friend PJ who is a very large man with a deep, masculine voice and would not take kindly to being described as effeminate. Hear his voice as the dubbed voice as the mayor of New York in the series "Castle".
If you'd be so very kind as to tell him to tell his agent to get off of his/her behind and get him more work I'd be very grateful. And if he has any brothers...

On the opposite end of things, older men are always cast with deep masculine voices. Unless voices from young to old fluctuate much more greatly in Spain, what happens to all the young voice actors? Do they all quit by 30 while people from other fields take up voice work later on in life??
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Old 28th December 2009, 03:56 PM   #7
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Ah, dubbing. My other favourite subject Thanks for bringing that up, Gabriel. Close to my heart and one in which I have a bit more information due to my professional background.

Where do I start...Mistranslations do happen, although I dare say less is lost in translation than in the case of books due to the visual aid of images. So maybe a bit easier for lerners, but I still recomend to stick to the original version where posible. At the end of the day, babies learn watching the mouth move and listening to the sounds at the same time.

Also, bear in mind you are not watching a translation, but an 'adaptation'. When it comes to dubbing, other factors are considered apart from being true to the original, such as lipsync, local jokes/culture, etc. And these factors vary depending on the territory. Say, in France, lipsync is the most important thing, cause that's what viewers consider 'real'. If you dub prioritising only straight tanslation and ignore the lipsync issue (that sounds such as m and b fall when the actors' lips are closed), it will look 'fake' to viewers and they won't 'buy it'. And believe me, that affects audience results -and therefore income for those involved, big time. A good dub is not that closer to the original, but that more adecuate to the territory where it's going to be distributed. In Spain, and even more in Italy, it's all about sounding Spanish (or Italian), the idioms, the entonation... If they lose subtleties such as different accens of different characters, they don't care. I saw a few minutes of Pirates of the Caribbean III the other day and I was shocked by the way they had dubbed the sorceress, she spoke just like everyone else, no special accent or nothing. So much for that actress award winning performance! And believe me, Disney looks after its dubs, more than any other major out there. So I'm sure they decided it was better for the movie that way. And they were probably right, painful as it was to hear...

Re animation, it is true that dubs sound much better and more real. For a start, the original voice doesn't come from the animated character either, that is also a dub, although a better one because dialogue is recorded first and the characters are animated to look like they are saying that (lips, facial expressions, etc.). Also the dialogues tend to be more simple and universal, less adult jokes that can only be understood by Americans or other nationality. And yes, Disney/Pixar sure look after the dubs and invest time and money ensuring the movies don't lose quality in the adaptation process.

When it comes to subtitling, again other factors have to be taken into account. No lipsync problems here, but a bigger issue comes up: it takes longer to read than to hear... And it is difficult to fit in the screen all that is being said at the same time that it's being said, in a way that it can be read comfortably. It's a completely different 'art'/technique to dubbing, and subtitles are deffinitely not meant to be on screen at the same time as the dubbing is on -they're just not designed for that purpose, not a teaching tool at all

I grew up in Spain and used to watch dubbed movies and series all the time and didn't even notice it, only when it strayed from the accepted 'norm', such as Hannah Barbera's cartoons which were broadcasted with their Latin American 'neutral' Spanish dub. Once you stop watching dubbed stuff, there's no way back, though, every single dub sounds horribly fake, save, perhaps in the case of well-dubbed animation.

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Old 28th December 2009, 04:56 PM   #8
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No. I agree with LAH, once you speak English, you cannot stand dubbing.
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Old 30th December 2009, 06:20 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by GabrielDeManila View Post
...So now I'm wondering. How well are the movies dubbed into Spanish? Do they just translate the words literally and unnaturally? Or do they change the words and idiomatic expressions to make the characters sound more like how native speakers would say them?
I think the quality varies quite a bit. I tend to avoid the spanish dubs of english-language films for other reasons. One, there´s no learning of cultural context. When you´re watching an original spanish-language film or TV show you´re adding to your store of spanish cultural references and historical and geographical knowledge in a way that you´re really not if you are watching the latest US doctor show in spanish. Of course one could point out that what is depicted in spanish language TV series and movies is not strictly speaking a mirror of Spanish or Latin-American society--one look at our own TV and movies should tell us that--but you do end up picking up a lot of useful and interesting stuff.

The other reason to avoid the dubs, independent of whether they are done in awkward or "bad" or anglicized spanish, is, dubs are typically done in somewhat bloodless standardized speech, recorded in sound studios without background noise, and do not reflect the variety of accents or colloquialisms that you will end up hearing on the streets, nor the sloppiness with which ordinary people tend to talk. Voice actors are like TV announcers--they strive to speak very clearly and intelligibly at all times. You´re unlikely to hear andalusian or extremeño accents in dubs, for example.

Undubbed films are a better window into how people actually speak, and as such they can be more challenging. But it´s a challenge you need to face, if you want to understand people in the field.

Last edited by xan; 30th December 2009 at 06:22 AM.
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Old 30th December 2009, 10:28 AM   #10
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Very good points, Xan, I fully agree.
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Old 30th December 2009, 01:25 PM   #11
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Sorry. I'm only able to reply now because I'm away and replying on my iPhone is a bit hard.

Thanks to everybody's replies. It's ver insightful. I understand that cultural stuff would definitely be missing. I want to get used to listening to Spanish through watching movies but my favorite type of movies are fantasy, horror, historical and sci-fi. Basically geeky movies. So I loved El Orfanato, labirinto del fauno, cronocrimenes, la habitación de fermat, eskalofrío, abre los ojos, rec and espina del diablo. But I'm finding it very hard to get a hand on similar movies in Australia.

So the next best thing for me is to watch the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Carribean, etc, in Spanish. I just want to know if the Spanish spoken in the dubbing are unnatural to native spanish ears or not. I don't care much that they are not doing various accents at this stage though. I want to hear voices that I could imitate anyway.

I'm glad to hear that the Disney cartoons were dubbed properly. I love the Disney cartoons. I've already rewatched Beauty and the Beast, aladdin and Hercules in Spanish. Also shrek but that's not from Disney.

Thanks again to all who replied.
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Old 30th December 2009, 04:17 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Londoner_at_heart View Post
When it comes to subtitling, again other factors have to be taken into account. No lipsync problems here, but a bigger issue comes up: it takes longer to read than to hear... And it is difficult to fit in the screen all that is being said at the same time that it's being said, in a way that it can be read comfortably. It's a completely different 'art'/technique to dubbing, and subtitles are deffinitely not meant to be on screen at the same time as the dubbing is on -they're just not designed for that purpose, not a teaching tool at all

It drives me CRAZY when the subtitles don't match the spoken dubbing! I'm a Spanish teacher in the US and show a couple of Disney or Pixar movies a year to my students. They always want the subtitles on b/c for them it's easier to read than to listen to spoken Spanish. I've never understood why the two don't match. I can see your logic, that it won't fit onto the screen, it's difficult to read that fast, but when watching the movie in English with English subtitles on, the two always match...so why can't the Spanish?
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Old 30th December 2009, 05:05 PM   #13
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In Spain, and even more in Italy, it's all about sounding Spanish (or Italian), the idioms, the entonation... If they lose subtleties such as different accens of different characters, they don't care.
I don't know if it's unique to Italy, but I have been very struck by the italian production technique of putting actors together who do not have a common language, having them speak during filming in their "home" language, and then later adding the voice track in a studio.

I think this first came to my attention watching the Italian epic "Il Gattopardo" (the Leopard), which features Burt Lancaster in a leading role with a mostly italian cast. I remember thinking later, "wow, I didn´t know Burt Lancaster could speak Italian like that..." Of course he couldn't, and didn't...it was all studio work. Also the famous Sergio Leone "spaghetti westerns", shot in Almería, where Clint Eastwood and another anglophone or two are put together with spanish and italian speakers. It begs the question, what is the "original" sound version of such a film? In the italian version Clint Eastwood´s voice is dubbed; in the english version the "villains'" voices are dubbed ("villain" should always be quoted when speaking of a Leone western, of course, since even the white-hats are villains).
The last time I watched one of those films (the english version) it was noticeable that some characters (presumably the ones speaking italian and spanish on the set) had not-very-good voice-to-mouth synchronization, whereas others (those who spoke english on the set) had flawless synchronization. Presumably, in the italian version, it would be Clint Eastwood whose mouth did not move in time to his speech...

At the least, this practice suggests a different film culture and different attitudes about dubbing. But it certainly goes together somehow with the very idea of a "spaghetti western", by its nature a cultural mongrel or hybrid.
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Old 30th December 2009, 06:40 PM   #14
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I've never understood why the two don't match. I can see your logic, that it won't fit onto the screen, it's difficult to read that fast, but when watching the movie in English with English subtitles on, the two always match...so why can't the Spanish?
I'm afraid that's not true. Although it's true that English sentences tend to be shorter than Spanish ones, and that helps. Compare 'my dad's dog' con 'el perro de mi padre', 'can't wait' con 'me muero de ganas', for instance. Also, if tje original version is English, it's normally very easy to get hold of the script and use it as a starting point for the subtitles. However, in the case of the dubbed language for another territory, dub and subtitles are created separately, at different times in the distribution of the programme, and very often done by different companies (try watching a Japanese movie dubbed into English with English subtitles on). For example in the case of subtitles for TV, broadcasters normally prefer to do them themselves according to their own criteria and technical specifications. Again, subtitles are closely related to aspect ratio, where the station logo goes, colour and font, etc. when it comes to the DVD release, the last window, several languages normally go together and it's normally more effective to create all the subtitles from the original rather than the dubbed audio (would be way too expensive and it would still need to be modified to fit in the screen). Bear in mind that, again, they are not meant as a learning tool, just for people who prefer subtitles to dubbing. If you were to show your students material designed for teaching, I'm sure the subtitles would match the dialogues and you would even get a transcript. I'm sure there's videos like that available if tht's what you're after. If you prefer to use actual movies and TV shows, you have to understand that their primary purpose is just to entertain and make a business of it.
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Old 30th December 2009, 06:51 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by xan View Post
I think this first came to my attention watching the Italian epic "Il Gattopardo" (the Leopard), which features Burt Lancaster in a leading role with a mostly italian cast. I remember thinking later, "wow, I didn´t know Burt Lancaster could speak Italian like that..." Of course he couldn't, and didn't...it was all studio work.
This happens when the movie is a coproduction, normally. So tje Italisn producers would get their famous Italian actor in, the Spanish theirs, the German theirs and so on. And all of them speak their own language on set and then get dubbed into the other languages. It drives me nuts (and anyone who can't stand dubbing), but in those territories where everything's dubbed, the audience will happily accept it so they won't stop doing it.

In the case of Sergio Leone's movies, it's just a case of reducing production costs. Almería and the local actors were much cheaper than Hollywood and its demanding, sindicated actors
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Old 30th December 2009, 10:21 PM   #16
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Speaking of Spanish movies, does anybody know any good ones or any good spanish tv shows? We had to watch sobre todo mi madre in spanish class and besides understanding very little found the movie very confusing and boring. So far i have only been able to watch south park in spanish and football matches with spanish commentators. Any help or reccomendations would be great.
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Old 30th December 2009, 10:22 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Londoner_at_heart View Post
A good dub is not that closer to the original, but that more adecuate to the territory where it's going to be distributed.
I guess we caught you thinking in spanish here, Londoner_at_heart.
"appropriate" is the word you need. "adequate" is not often a good translation
for "adecuado". You probably knew that.

I only point this out because you requested it--your written english is generally excellent.
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Old 30th December 2009, 10:49 PM   #18
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Thanks a lot, Xan! Speaking and writing in Spanish all the time is bound to influence my English eventually... Sigh
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Old 13th January 2010, 12:01 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by wcgornto View Post
What's really confusing is watching a movie dubbed in Spanish along with Spanish subtitles when the written words don't match the spoken words.
Yeah, the subtitles are based on the written script, while the voice-overs are depend on the speed and nature of the spoken dialog itself. They often do not match up.
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