Outside of cheesy '70 kung fu movies and some animation, I can think of no example where I’ve seen a foreign launguage film or television show voice-dubbed into English. Yet, in most of the world, English language film and television is routinely dubbed into the native language. Why the discrepancy? It can’t just be an issue of literacy because it’s de rigueur in educationally-developed countries in Europe and Asia. I have one theory: Most or much of what filmgoers and tv viewers in other countries see is produced in English, so there would be a lot of fatigue if they had to read every bit of dialogue. Conversely, very little entertainment in the U.S. is foreign language and those who consume it are likely to be more accepting of written dialogue than the general population. Any truth to this or is there something else at work here?
Here in Korea, Western movies in theaters are English with subtitles, but DVDs tend to give you the option of dubbing in one language and subtitles in another. Many if not most Koreans understand a little English, but not enough to enjoy a movie without subtitles.
There are countries in Europe that dub, and countries that subtitle. The subtitle countries include the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, while dubbing countries include France, Spain and Italy. Countries that subtitle generally have a very high standard of English.
Then in Poland and Lithuania you have dubbing “on the cheap” where they don’t use voice actors - one person just reads out all the dialogue.
I suspect the biggest factor on the U.S. side is that it is, indeed, rare that any foreign-language film (dubbed or subtitled) becomes widely seen in the U.S. There have been a few examples (e.g., Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Life Is Beautiful), but very few.
I’ve also read that the conventional wisdom among U.S. movie studio executives is that the general U.S. audience does not like subtitles, and would prefer to see a dubbed movie over a subtitled one. That conventional wisdom may well be mistaken (see the general-market success of the movies I mentioned above), but I think that perception still exists.
I don’t know who would make that claim. Like I said, I’ve never seen a single dubbed contemporary film or television show outside of animation, and those make logical sense to dub.
The thing I’ve never figured out is why so many countries show american produced TV shows and movies on TV and in the movie theaters. If I go to the theater here in Germany, the odds are very high that ALLof the movies being shown were produced in the US.
On TV, I’d have no problem at all filling an entire evening with american produced TV shows every night of the week. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a shit load of german made shows and shows or movies from other countries - it’s just that there’s a hell of a lot of american stuff on all the time, too. All the american stuff is dubbed in German, too. It’s kind of funny, because there apparently not that many people who do the voices, so a lot of the characters in different shows and movies sound the same.
Right now, the local movie theater is showing the follwing movies:
Chernobyl Diaries - USA
Ziemlich beste Freunde - France
The Amazing Spider-Man 3D - USA
A few best Men - Australia
Rock of Ages - USA
Kochen ist Chefsache - France
StreetDance 2 3D - UK
Snow White and the Huntsman - USA
LOL - Laughing Out Loud - USA
Safe - USA
Men in Black 3 in 3D - USA
Hanni & Nanni 2 - Germany
The Dictator - USA
American Reunion - USA
Marvel’s The Avengers 3D - USA
Und wenn wir alle zusammenziehen? - France (although I see it has some american actors.)
All of the movies not made in Germany are dubbed in German. The largest number of movies (by far) are from the USA.
Seriously, how many non-american films or movies have you seen? Most of the German made ones that I’ve seen don’t seem like they’d be interesting to americans. Then again, I don’t know why things like “American Reunion” are interesting to the Germans, either.
Actually, the only German made movie that I can think of that made it in the USA was The Boat and the odds are VERY damned good that if you saw it in the USA it would have been the english dubbed version.
There have been lots of German actors in the USA, but also lots of them that tried to make in the US but didn’t do so well.
Hollywood churns out a heckuva lot of stuff. (Some good, some bad). Only Bollywood does more, but much of their stuff is of limited appeal.
The English market - USA, Britain, Canada, Australia - is massive and has a lot of disposable income. Very few other single-language markets can match.
In terms of money invested, quality of production, special effects - nothing beats Hollywood.
For a small market, let’s say Italy or Greece - it’s a lot cheaper to dub a Hollywood product than to make your own. In the dub, you roll it in the studio and record over the soundtrack. Making a movie requires the whole cast and crew, lighting, script, sets, edit work, etc. In terms of profit, especially to fill a day of TV broacast, which is cheaper?
There’s so much choice in english that a lot of english-speaking people will not sit through a dubbed movie; while I assume for smaller language markets it’s standard.
(I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a dubbed movie. I did sit through Amelie in subtitles not long after it was out in DVD, but then I enjoy trying to understand French.)
My girlfriend and I went to see Das Boot (the subtitled version) when it was in the theaters in the 1980s, but I do seem to recall that we had to hunt to find the subtitled version.
So, for those of you in countries that are primarily dubbed, why dubbed instead of subtitled?
I’m in the U.S. and I saw the subtitled Das Boot. I could be wrong, but I can’t think of a single theater where it was offered in an English-dubbed version. In fact, I’d be surprised if it was even dubbed for the U.S. market.
I don’t know why “American Reunion” is interesting to Americans.
I’ve seen one - Birds of a Feather (the dubbed version of La Cage Aux Folles, and just to clarify, I am not talking about the Gene Hackman / Robin Williams / Hank Azaria remake, The Birdcage).
To be honest, I don’t either, and I am an American.
It certainly was!
This is a bizarre one not to know about, because–very unusually–the principal actors were all bilingual in German and English and rerecorded their own parts for the American release. So the dubbed version in this case is kind of acclaimed.
I’m an American and I watch a lot of dubbed movies. (To quality “a lot” I mean one or two a month.) Mostly I find them through NetFlix when I’m scouring my favorite genres for things I haven’t seen before. You certainly don’t find these titles in theaters or most rental places.
I avoid subtitles whenever possible. When I have to spend that much time reading, I miss a lot of the action and usually have to watch a subtitled movie twice to get the same level of comprehension that I’d get on the first go. This is especially true when the subtitles are not done well - white text on a white background is remarkably common. Ultimately, if I want to read, I’ll pick up a book. (And I read at least half an hour a day, so it’s not a general aversion to reading here.)
Well, there you have it. I stand corrected.
But, still an outlier.
With respect to the American market, I think the bottom line is that there’s quite a lot of made-in-English material and relatively little interest in foreign films at all, dubbed or subtitled. If something of foreign origin shows signs of wide appeal, it’s likely to be simply remade in English. (See this thread for a bunch of related discussion.)
That’s a good point and may partially explain the dearth of dubbed films in the U.S. But it’s still easy to find foreign language films in arthouse theaters in the U.S. and virtually none of them are dubbed. Plus, I’ve never seen a DVD of a foreign language film that even offers a dubbed version. I mean, we just gave a subtitled movie the Best Picture Oscar. (It might be more accurate to say “titled” instead of “subtitled”, but it still required reading all of the dialogue.)
Clearly, there’s a wide disparity in the dub vs. subtitle preference from country to country.
Man, I’m with you. Years ago many foreign films were dubbed. It was fine as long as you avoided watching the mouths.
Why they stopped is beyond me. We almost never watch a foreign film anymore, which is too bad. Because the titles are almost always awful., it is just not worth it…
Not only the stupid white-on-white background thing, but because too often they don’t stay on long enough to read, especially with fast dialog( i.e. Italian films ).
My wife is Japanese, and while her command of English is very good, it is still extremely difficult for her to be able to read fast enough. With vast numbers of people in this country for whom English is a second language, they probably have the same problem. So, why in hell does Hollywood no longer dub?
Oh yeah, the only foreign DVDs we watch are Japanese. Even then, she tries to read the titles for practice, but seldom can. Nor can I.
Really? I think you simply don’t watch enough foreign films-- they’re almost always dubbed. Right off the top of my head, Godzilla, Gamera, Dragon Wars, and other kaiju movies are always dubbed. Japanese horror movies, Uzumaki, Dragon Head, are dubbed. Shaolin Soccer, Big Man Japan, both comedies, were dubbed. Immortal, from France, was dubbed.
If you’re watching on DVD, keep in mind that the dubbed track might be off by default, and so you’ll get subtitles unless you manually go in and selected the English audio channel.