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To dub or not to dub? Film translation around the world

With the film industry becoming ever more global, the question of whether to dub or subtitle films for a foreign audience is becoming increasingly common.

Though many people have firm views on which method is best, there’s no set international translation standard. So which do you prefer and which method gives viewers the best possible experience of the film in question?


In some countries like France, Spain, Italy and Germany, voice-over dubbing is the norm. In fact it can be almost impossible to find a film in its original form at all.

As a result, there are some voice-over artists who have become celebrities in their own countries, making a career out of playing the German Leonardo Di Caprio or the Spanish Bruce Willis.

Though many people prefer dubbing as it requires little or no effort on the part of the viewer, others believe it distracts from the film, removing the emotion and nuance used by the original actors.


The main and obvious advantage of subtitling is the lower cost, however there are also other pros and cons to take in to consideration.

Though the idea of reading an entire film may seem like a lot of work, in reality, once the film gets started it’s easy to forget you’re reading altogether.

Subtitling allows viewers to hear the original voices of the actors, it can add a lot of emotion and atmosphere to the movie, allowing viewers to pick up on subtle changes of tone and meaning in the original script.

Watching movies in their original form can also help to improve language skills, and most countries that show subtitled films have higher levels of English compared to those that dub.

Just compare countries like Portugal, Holland and Sweden, who mostly subtitle their films, with countries like Germany, France and Spain, who use audio translations for the majority of their cinema releases, to see how movie translations can affect the linguistic abilities of a population.

With all this aside, and in all likelihood, those countries who have started dubbing their films will continue to do so, making stars out of the voice actors chosen to give a voice to Hollywood actors.

However, subtitling is also going from strength to strength, giving many audio-visual translation agencies a lot of work for the foreseeable future.