When Watching A Film With A Foreign Language.....

… Do you prefer


Dubbing the English In?

Or that smooth thing which happened in Hunt for Red October? Sean Connery began speaking in Russian, but then “melded” into English, making the viewer think that Sean was still speaking Russian, but he could be “understood” in English?

I used to prefer subtitles, but now that I’m older I can’t read them as well as I used to, even with glasses. And it depends what color and font they are; some are downright illegible. So reluctantly, I’ll have to go with dubbing . . . even though it can be annoying as hell.

Subs, subs, always subs. Only time I didn’t prefer them was in Night Watch, and that’s only because there was too much nifty stuff going on visually to be distracted by the subtitles. This goes whether it’s a foreign film or an American film with action/characters in foreign countries. I’m a big boy, I can read quite well, and I don’t mind being reminded that foreigners speak foreign languages.

(Somewhat tangential: The Discovery channel commercials for Bear Gryll’s show with the Russian hunter that have the over-the-top Russian-accented dubbing? The Russian under that dubbing is apparently legitimate–they’re shown over here unchanged but for eliminating the dubbing.)

When watching an actual foreign (ie non-English language) film I prefer subtitles too dubbing. However I don’t mind the translation convention if it’s only the setting that’s foreign. I admit it can get confusing if you also throw real English speaking characters into the mix.

Subtitles, almost always subtitles.

I’m the same. Dubbing is just awkward in foreign films, but if they had the ability to shoot it in English in the first place, I prefer that. Mainly because watching a subbed movie requires your full attention, but I can do something else while watching a movie in English.


If it’s a movie made in a foreign country, subtitles, all the way. (With the exception of Godzilla or other kaiju flicks - dubbing’s fine, there, although I’ll usually set subtitles if watching a DVD where it’s an option.) If it’s made in an English speaking country, it’s OK if it’s in English, even if it’s set in a non-English speaking country - I’m perfectly capable of intuiting that what we’re seeing isn’t in English for the characters. (In fact, it could be argued that this is the preferable way to do it. I’m not going to argue the point one way or the other, except that it’s not ‘wrong’.)

However, if the majority of the characters are English speakers speaking English for the majority of the movie, the local language should be used by the actors, and subtitled when it’s being used by the characters, just like if it was set in an English speaking country, and the non-English speakers were the visitors.

If the majority of the characters are speaking the local language, and there are a handful of English speakers…then we have a problem that there’s no optimal solution for. Probably the best way to do it would be to treat it like it’s a foreign film, and use the local language, subtitled, for the majority of the film.

Subtitles. The text usually appears before the actual line is spoken, so more often than not I’m prepared for what to listen for a few seconds later, and I can see if I got the original language right.

Then again, I’m pretty friggin’ weird.

“Melding” is brutal.

I prefer to hear the language used when shooting the film, and do prefer subtitles to dubbing or any other convention.

Tangential example: Recently saw Bertolucci’s Il Conformista, which was shot in Italian with some French (used when the protagonist takes his wife on a Parisian honeymoon). The characters the protagonist encounters in Paris are native Italians. The characters all slip in and out of the languages depending on the conversation they’re having. It’s a totally superficial element but it’s a joy to experience compounded by the tonal shifts between Paris and Rome. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

If I recall correctly Godard did this with Le Mepris, as well, crossing up languages amongst a cast of Italians, French, and Americans (including Jack Palance) and an ornery German, Fritz Lang.

But - that’s one movie where they actually did something interesting with the subtitles - i loved the transitions and animation.

I prefer subtitles, as I like hearing the original actors’ tones. Plus I’ve had to endure some bad TV dubs from English, so I don’t particularly want the converse either - Northern Exposure was originally dubbed into Afrikaans here, as were Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. Oh, yeah, Quincy and Paper Chase, too.

If it was originally in a foreign language, I prefer subs over dubs.

If it was made by english speakers, I prefer english. I don’t care if they don’t bother with the “melding” bit.

I definitely prefer subtitles, but I agree that sometimes, they just cannot be read. It’s simple to create subtitles that can be read regardless of the background colour so I wonder why there are so many failures.

I didn’t vote for any of the options because for me it depends on the film and the language. If it is a language with which I have familiarity (which limits it quite a bit I will admit) I almost prefer dubbing because I am invariably distracted if the subtitles do not exactly match what was spoken, and really with synonyms and nuances particular to individuals (some words may mean the same but aren’t what I would have chosen to use for example) subtitles rarely match up perfectly to the dialogue. I find that distracting and it ruins my suspension of disbelief.

But if it is in a language where I speak few just a few words and have no real grasp of sentence structure etc. I prefer subtitles because the lip-syncing doesn’t match or because the accent is “wrong” for the character, again very distracting to me.

And finally the starting foreign and then melding into English works beautifully for me where I have seen it used. I like it very much in scenes that are visually important or interesting, because I can actually enjoy the “scenery” rather than reading the screen, but I have not seen it that often, or maybe I am just not paying enough attention and don’t remember when I have seen it. It does have the benefit of making you forget you are supposedly listening to a foreign language.

In short, I think they all have their place and uses, and I am really indecisive about my opinions. :wink:

I was indifferent on the question of sub vs. dub until I had a chance to compare dubbing and subbing on the same show. The subtitles were far superior. Some of the difference had to do with translation; apparently, quite a lot of words and phrases were lost/changed/eliminated in the dubbed version. The other big part of it, I think, was keeping the original speech and nuance of the native-tongue voice actors.

Ja, but you could always tune into Radio 2000 for the English - I remember listening to the pilot of Moonlighting on the radio because my Dad had started watching before giving me a lift somewhere and didn’t want to miss out on what was happening while he was out…


Post a frickin’ warning before you link to Tvtropes! I just lost several hours of work here.

Last I checked, I read around 150 pages per hour. I attribute that to watching subtitled tv shows when I was young.

In Germany, I guess that more than 99 % of foreign movies or TV shows are dubbed (and I think that they mostly do a good job). So I’m used to dubbing and prefer it if I don’t speak the original language of the movie, because the subtitles can be distracting from the visual content. But if the original language is English, which I can follow in most cases, I prefer subtitels. You can appraise the acting much better if you listen to the original dialog.

When watching a DVD of a movie in English which I find a bit hard to follow due to difficult accents, I often watch the original version with English subtitles.

alphaboi867, I am happy to know this has a name other than “melding”! :slight_smile:

Sometimes, I can’t come up with the right word, so I just try to get “close”, but I think “melding” is best used in Star Trek.



The first season of Northern Exposure wasn’t simulcast IIRC, and the other stuff was before simulcasting (Ooh, Space 1999 too). I did watch some other stuff in simulcast, though. I seem to remember Remington Steele?