Dubbing in print — will it ever stop?
We’ve all decried the prevalence of dubbing in the foreign-language-phobic US (and maybe the rest of the world too, but what do I know). Is reading a few subtitles really too much to ask of those who can’t understand the foreign language being spoken?
But what about “dubbing” in print? I’m talking about articles whose subject matter clearly involves another language, but in which not a single term from that original language is offered for reference. Thanks to Konrad Lawson at Frog in a Well, today we’ve got a classic example of “print dubbing” in several articles on China’s recent revision of anti-torture laws.
First, let’s consider the three mainstream sources: neither the NYT nor the BBC article offers a single reference to any of the original documents, not even the Xinhua article they almost certainly referenced. So I guess it’s no surprise that original Chinese terms — that might have been useful for further research — are nowhere to be found.
But I’m a bit surprised that Xinhua doesn’t include any Chinese terms either, not even so much as the characters for Pinyin’d names.
Contrast this with the original terminology offered in Konrad Lawson’s article:
- Names for both new guidelines that all articles referenced: 《关于办理死刑案件审查判断证据若干问题的规定》… and the《关于办理刑事案件排除非法证据若干问题的规定》
- Chinese Public Security Bureau: 公安部
- A slew of other terms including torture (刑讯), persuasion (说服), and, my personal favorite, “treason elimination department” (鋤奸部）
I would wish for the inclusion of Chinese characters for individuals’ names, in an ideal world, but I guess you can’t be too picky.
Maybe I am being too picky, but here’s an editorial policy I’d love to see:
- References to source materials, if available online
- Names in original script, where available
- Key terms from original language
To me, such a No Printed Dubbing policy would be consistent with No Video Dubbing: it leaves intact the original language for those who have an interest in listening to it or reading it.
To anticipate a couple of possible concerns…
- Aesthetics: “It makes a mess for the 95% of readers with no interest in the original language.” Response: In this age of linking and mouseover text, not to mention old-fashioned asterisking and so forth, I think some creative type could find a way to preserve the monolingual flow while providing the additional info.
- Difficulty: “It’s more work!” Response: well, some. But it’s almost certain the writer is already dealing with the target language — this is a matter of preserving that information, not forcing the writer to do more research to find information they didn’t already have.
That out of the way, it’s worth noting that lots of blogs do something close to No Printed Dubbing already. Besides the Frog in a Well example above, I mentioned justrecently a while back, and Adam Cathcart’s Sinologistical Violincellist always has loads of examples. So why not move the trend into mainstream media?
Maybe there are good reasons. Let me know if this is just a pipe dream.