Why do people like subtitles over dubs?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by MikeEckman, Jul 17, 2002.

  1. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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    Im not trying to start a war here, I just want to hear other people's opinions on why they prefer to read subtitles on foreign language films as opposed to hearing and English dub.

    Now, just hear me out here. I realize that with a dub, you lose alot of the infection and subtleties that the original language would have had, and I realize that the voice talent usually isnt up to the standards of the original actors in the movie.

    However, if you dont understand the original language anyways, then you'll still lose the inflection and subtleties of the original language.

    Not to mention, having to keep focusing your eyes (and attention) to the bottom of the screen to read the dialogue, you miss even more of the on screen action.

    So in my opinion, you lose alot more of the original impact of the movie by reading subtitles than hearing an english dub of a foreign film.

    I realize that learning the native language of the film is the only true way to get the full impact of the movie. But I am curious to know, because after reading the thread on Amelie and the lack of an english dub, alot of people said they hate dubs, and I just want to know why.
     
  2. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    Watching films with subtitles is a skill one learns by simply doing so. The faster you can comprehend the clumps of subtitles will help in getting the visuals while getting the dialog.

    I prefer subtitles over dubs because dubbed voices are rarely voiced correctly and they usually lack the emotional content/inflection from the native dialog, plus you miss out on the vocal performance of the actors on the screen.

    One of the few decent dubs is on "das boot" where the original actors dubbed their lines in English, and it sounded "better" but I still prefer the German dialog in that film. But if you use different voice actors/actresses, their voices just never sound authentic enough to convey the original vocal performance in the native language being spoken on screen.

    I do understand Mandarin Chinese (speaking it is a different matter, though), and I do see subtitles that sometimes uses a different translation than I would use if I was doing the subtitling, but most of the intent of the dialog is retained in the subtitling. That's just the nature of the translating beast.

    But no one is forcing anyone to always read subtitles over listening to a dubbed soundtrack, but if it's important to you to watch and listen to the total acting performance, going with the native soundtrack and using subtitles is a better choice once you get used to it.
     
  3. Eric Bass

    Eric Bass Second Unit

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    It'd surprise you how common it is for either the words to be changed or the actor/acress's tone of voice to be so different as to actually change the impact of a whole scene.
     
  4. Benson R

    Benson R Supporting Actor

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    I would like to bring up a trickier issue with dubs. I think most people hear will reply that the only proper way to watch a movie is with the original language. Now a lot of the dubbed and subtitled movies that people on this forum watch is from asian cinema. Now I know next to nothing about asian cinema compared to many people on this forum but I have read that sometimes in Asian movies the dialog is not recorded on set and is looped so that is recorded in several languages sometimes not in the one spoken on set. I have also heard that in at least a couple Jackie Chan movies the first time his voice was used in a release of the film was for the US english dub. I would like to know peoples opinions about whether you should listen to the original language when the actors have already been dubbed and also with an english dub is it more legitimate when the original actors are recording it. This is a murkier issue that is not covered by simply stating always take subs over dubs.
     
  5. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Pat also hits it on the nail when he points out it's something one develops overr time: the ability to read subtitles effortlessly. After a while, it becomes sort of "automatic"--something you don't even think about.
     
  6. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    I don't understand Italian, yet I wouldn't think of watching a dubbed version of something like LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. As others have stated, after you see a few films that are well subtitled you don't even realize you are reading them.

    With movies like GAMERA and GODZILLA, I usually don't mind the dubbed versions, though. Sometimes they are very entertaining!
     
  7. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Second Unit

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    Another strike against dubs is that the dialog is modified to fit the lip movements as closely as possible. This can result in too many filler words or too few words to convey the message within the dialog. With subtitles this is not an issue.
     
  8. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    i've also experienced the same thing as patrick. i understand cantonese way better than i speak it. it cracks me up when i hear something spoken, but then see the translation and it's off base. i know it's an idiomatic phrase, but it's still interesting to see.
    for me, i enjoy hearing the foreign language. i like to hear the different inflections and intonations. it "adds" a sense of uniqueness. i know that i'm watching something outside the "hollywood machine".
     
  9. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  10. Gunnar Syren

    Gunnar Syren Stunt Coordinator

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  11. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    One reason I prefer subtitles, that hasn't been mentioned yet, is that I really enjoy learning bits and pieces of foreign languages. I can speak a little Japanese and Spanish, and can pick out a few words in German, Mandarin Chinese, French, and a couple of others. Watching subtitled movies is a great way to learn a few new words and practice understanding the ones I already know.

    Also, watching a lot of anime, there are a lot of Japanese cultural references and idioms that just can't be directly translated. Sometimes the subs use the original words and include a side note or a description in the liner notes. That's much harder to do effectively in a dub.

    One question though. . .if anyone's seen Mon Colle Knights in the original Japanese. . .I've heard it's awful, but I find the dubbed Saturday morning version to be just about the funniest thing on TV!
     
  12. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    My personal favorite subtitles: Cyrano De Bergerac (the version with Gerard Depardieu). The subs were written by Anthony Burgess, and the entire film is in rhyming verse!
     
  13. Benson R

    Benson R Supporting Actor

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  14. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  15. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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    So, the general consensus is that reading subtitles is just something you get better at with time. I so rarely do it, that when I'm forced to do it, I spend the whole scene reading the words, and not paying attention to whats going on in the picture, and to me, I find that way more intrusive than just listening to a bad voice dub.

    How do you guys feel about the English dub on Princess Mononoke. Considering its a cartoon, and the lips wouldnt have matched anyways, I think its a great experience. Of course, Ive never listened to it in its original language, but thats a movie that had someone not told me, I woudlnt have known that it wasnt originally english.

    Well, I picked up Amelie yesterday, but havent watched it yet. I'll try my hand at reading subtitles, and I'll come back and say what I thought about it.

    This is an interesting conversation, keep the ideas flowing!
     
  16. Phu Vo

    Phu Vo Stunt Coordinator

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    The emotional hold of movies tends to be lost in dubs. Unless of course, the dub is done for comic effect, then you will be laughing your ass off. While for me, I prefer subs. Subs make up for my lack of understanding the original language by allowing me to use my imagination to in place of the emotions that actors are conveying on screen. Whereas with a dub, it is all layed out. The worse thing about dubs, is they are usually poorly done. Even when well done, are quite distracting. Then there is the purist side of me; ORIGINAL LANGUAGE ONLY!

    But then again, there are those Kung Fu flicks from the 70's and 80's. The dubs are what makes those movies great. 5 Deadly Venoms anyone?
     
  17. rutger_s

    rutger_s Supporting Actor

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    Something I notice about some dubs is that they never get the filter right if its needed for a sequence.

    Example...

    Angel Eyes, R3 DVD, has an optional Mandarin soundtrack. In the original English soundtrack, at the beginning of the film, Jennifer Lopez's voice has an echo effect added to it. The Mandarin dub does not have this echo effect which reduces the emotion of the sequence.
     
  18. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  19. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    If you want some idea of how much is lost when you don't get the original actor's voice inflections and emotions, try this:

    Put on a Hollywood movie you've seen many times with it's original English soundtrack, but select instead the Spanish or French soundtrack. Listen to the voice inflections and emotions in the foreign language track and see if you don't agree that a good deal of the dramatic effect of the movie is different or lost.
     
  20. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Producer

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    For me, it comes down to whether I know what the actor's voice originally sounds like. I knew up in Hong Kong watching Chow Yun-fat on TV, and if someone dubs his voice for any of his movies....sorry, my interest is gone. Not that I am a big fan, just the purist side of me showing up. Chow is one of the few Hong Kong actors who always dubs his own dialog in his Hong Kong movies and I respect him for that. The movie audience in Hong Kong don't care enough to demand actors to say their own lines on screen.
     

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