Volume 14, No. 2 
April 2010

  D. Bannon


Front Page

Select one of the previous 50 issues.

Index 1997-2009

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
Twenty Years of Steady Workload
by Andrei Gerasimov

  The Profession
The Bottom Line

by Fire Ant & Worker Bee

  Translators Around the World
Where Can I Find a Chinese Sworn Translator in Rio de Janeiro?
by Danilo Nogueira and Kelli Semolini

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
Culture-Specific Items in Literary Translations
by Sepideh Firoozkoohi

  Medical Translation
How Many Varieties of Medical Practice Are There?
by Rafael A. Rivera, M.D., FACP

  Science & Technology
Translating a Patent: Translator's Templates
by Kriemhild (Karen) Zerling

  Translators and the Computer
Automatic Web Translators as Part of a Multilingual Question-Answering (QA) System: Translation of Questions
by Lola García-Santiago and María-Dolores Olvera-Lobo
The Efficacy of Round-trip Translation for MT Evaluation
by Milam Aiken and Mina Park

  Arts & Entertainment
Empirical Study of Subtitled Movies
by Maria Bernschütz, Ph.D.

  Literary Translation
La influencia de Voltaire en el primer Hamlet español
Laura Campillo Arnaiz

  Translators' Education
English Language Teaching Through the Translation Method (A Practical Approach to Teaching Mongolian CPAs)
by Dr. Naveen K. Mehta

  Translators' Tools
Pondering and Wondering
by Jost Zetzsche
Translators’ Emporium

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal

Arts & Entertainment


The Role of Trans-modal Translation
in Global Cinema

by D. Bannon


Subtitles deal with what is seen and heard. They exist in tandem with dialogue, inseparable from the sounds and images on the screen. The trans-modal and poly-modal nature of subtitling offers translators unique opportunities for cooperation with the source program and its audience. Subtitles bridge a film's multiple semiotic modes by inserting word images that become part of a collaborative whole. Something new is created—a subtitled film.


The history of the different civilizations is the history of their
translations. Each civilization, as each soul, is different, unique.
Translation is our way to face this otherness of the universe and history.

- Octavio Paz

ubtitles are unlike any other type of translation. They present words in a new medium. Dubbing translates audio to audio, as does interpreting. Literary translation moves text from one written form to another. Subtitles cross linguistic and media barriers. They replicate the style and intent of spoken dialogue as words on a screen. Viewers immersed in the sounds and images of a film rely on subtitles to bridge these sensory perceptions. The presumed social contract between individuals in discourse is distinctly cooperative in cross-media translation. There is a mutual, though tacit, agreement with the audience. The subtitler navigates the linguistic terrain; viewers rely on their navigator for the best possible translation. It is a remarkable endeavor with its own unique challenges and rewards, as Gilbert C. F. Fong observed:

Subtitles represent and re-present dialogue, which is speech, as writing; in this sense, subtitling is a cross-media transference of meaning and message: the process involves a double conversion, traversing from one language to another and from one medium to another.

Subtitles are by their nature multi-cultural and often interdisciplinary. A translator forever grapples with the source language: reaching, expanding, exploring referents and allusions. Each screenplay has numerous character voices as well as the unique tone of the writer. Translation is adaptive—identifying the appeal of the source material and communicating it to the audience. Language and how it is used by the work's author changes with each new project. Translator Christopher Middleton refers to this sense of newness and mystery in the source language as "the other."

It may be I translate as a compulsive pursuit of 'the other,' which at times can take other forms. I don't mean this in a metaphysical way; but I do think that growth comes through encounters with the alien, the foreign, the strange, and the unknown. And one of the simplest and most creative ways of considering the act of translation is to regard it as a minimal, perhaps vestigial, but still exemplary encounter with 'the other.'

The subtitler's role is interpretive. Viewers may not know the language at all—or only a little—and are hoping for a sense of the original: its humor and pathos, tragedy and charm, romance and thrills. The translator as writer is forced outside well-trod paths onto new ground. Subtitles allow audiences to share in the translator's discovery.

Trans-modal Translation

Subtitles deal with the spoken word. They exist in tandem with dialogue, inseparable from the sounds and images of the film. Chuang Ying-ting writes:

In the case of subtitle translation, semiotic modes, such as the spoken mode, the written mode, the mode of music, the mode of sound effects and the mode of moving images, become affordable with the aid of technology, and they operate in the subtitling process individually and collectively. As a result, to interpret the text of a film, or to be more specific, to decode the meanings of the text of a film, the subtitler has to deal with the meaning potentials generated from the multi-modality of the text.

The trans-modal and poly-modal nature of subtitling offers the translator a unique opportunity for cooperation with the images and sounds of a film—as well as with the audience—by taking full advantage of the written words on the screen as part of the collaborative whole. Gunther Kress makes this same point: "In short, modes produce meaning in themselves and through their intersection or interaction with each other." The subtitles become part of the film itself.

In Kim Kyeong-yong's Someday (2006), Kim Hee-jae's screenplay employs a charming bit of alliterative double entendre. A boy gets in a fight and earns himself a nosebleed. The heroine makes some coffee. By happy coincidence, the Korean pronunciation of coffee (Copi, like dopey) and the word for nosebleed (kopi) sound the same. The heroine hands him a mug.

Here's some copi for your kopi.

Coffee for a nosebleed? Even as a joke it makes no sense. But she can't resist her little wordplay. The phrase says much about the character—goofy, not at all self-conscious. "A little something for your nosebleed" communicates the meaning but has no alliteration or double entendre. It fails to show her playful side.

Some yummy for your tummy.

This shares her alliterative phrasing but lacks entendre. "Java for your lava" is too obscure. "Coffee for your owie" and "Espresso for your messo" are close. They're hokey enough—alliterative and at least the coffee-injury connection is there. The heroine is making a joke about coffee for the fighting nosebleeder. Spoken, the words sound the same. Read, they must look the same.

Special of the Day. Macho Mocha.

The spoken repetition (copi/kopi) is represented in the written subtitles with words that trick the eye. They look similar. This translation utilizes the new semiotic mode while retaining a sense of the playful, alliterative, corny dialogue.

Criterion's 2008 release of Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (1932) illustrates how subtitles may integrate within the film to improve the whole. Translator John Gudelj and the Criterion spotting/timecoding staff provided subtitles that effortlessly blend with the dialogue. This artistry makes their unique choices even harder to spot. For years translating every word as spoken has been de rigueur. This is desirable for clarity. But with repetitive dialogue, equally repetitive subtitles fail to trust the audience, detracting from rather than enhancing the film.

Subtitles represent and re-present dialogue, which is speech, as writing.
Early in the story, protagonist Allan Gray stops in a country house. "Guten Abend," says the young housekeeper, to which Gray immediately responds, "Guten Abend." The housekeeper's dialogue is subtitled, "Good evening." The subtitles do not repeat the banality when Gray speaks the same line of dialogue. It would be pointless. The audience has heard this common phrase and read the translation when first spoken. Nothing else is necessary. This subtitling choice is used again when the young heroine Gisele sees her sister Leone from the window. "There, outside," she cries. "Leone, Leone!" The initial translation was necessary to communicate to viewers that the dialogue was actually a name, but when Gisele runs outside calling Leone's name over and over, there are no subtitles. The lush imagery of Gisele running through the forest would be marred by subtitles that hammer the obvious. When Gisele and Gray are fog-bound in their little boat, they yell, "Hallo!" and are guided by answering cries from the opposite bank. The dialogue and context are absolutely clear without subtitles. This technique was used to poignant effect when Leone rests in bed. "I am damned," she says. "Mein Gott, mein Gott... mein Gott." American audiences are familiar with the German phrase. Gudelj wisely translated the first lines, "My God, my God..." As the camera pans away from Leone, she pathetically whimpers the same line of dialogue a third time. Here the subtitles are absent, allowing viewers to take in the full emotional impact of Dreyer's images. This collaboration between visual, aural and written modes requires a full understanding of the source and target, as explained by Chuang Ying-ting:

It is worth noting that, if one takes subtitling as a multi-modal practice, the source text is the film and the target text is the subtitled film. To be more specific, the subtitler has to consider the source or target text as a whole, rather than taking verbal modes as the major object to deal with and other visual and audio modes as merely the context. If the source or target text acts as a whole, the context should be the social and cultural environment in which the text is embedded, rather than other audio and visual modes. . . . Hence, the equivalence relationship between the source text and the target text in subtitle translation is very complex, because it does not deal with one-to-one modal translation, i.e., from dialogues into subtitles, but with multi-modal translation, i.e., from all the involved modes in the source text into all the involved modes in the target text.

Visual Cues

It is an irony of subtitles that at their best they go unnoticed; they honor the original, yet do not intrude on the experience of the film itself, as noted by film scholar Leo Braudy, "The defense of subtitles ideally stands for a belief in the primary need to preserve the integrity of the actor's projected personality, even at the expense of distracting somewhat from the purity of the visual image." Subtitles must never interfere. They should not read like a translation.

In Episode 33 of the popular historical drama, The Great Queen Seondeok, two main characters are entered in a contest to discover the hidden meanings behind the name of their nation, Silla. The name itself is well-established but the meanings are unknown to the audience and the protagonists. Solving the riddle on-screen requires explanations in dialogue. The original audience followed the investigation by listening as the characters spelled out their discoveries. A somewhat literal translation of the dialogue as spoken:


What's on the royal dagger?


Calligraphy. Thin brush calligraphy. 'Duk... up... il... shin. Mang... la... sa... bang.'


Dukupilshin, Manglasabang?


-'Mark each day with noble endeavors...


- ...bring the four corners unto yourself.'


That's it.


- Take the 'shin' out of the first phrase...


- ...and the 'la' out of the second.


That's the third meaning of Silla.


Dukupilshin, Mangrasabang. Together they spell Silla.

These subtitles are clear, but they hinder the flow and pacing of the scene. They read like a translation—a tedious one at that. Subtitles must take these auditory clues and present them in a new medium, replicating the thrill of the chase in an entirely different mode. In the following translation, what would fail in dialogue works in written form.


What's on the royal dagger?


Calligraphy. Thin brush calligraphy. Solidarity... in ... Life. Longevity... for All.


Solidarity in Life and Longevity for All?


- Strength in unity...


- ...ensures survival.


That's it.


- Solidarity In Life... S-I-L.


- Longevity for All... L-A.


This is the third meaning of Silla.


'Solidarity in Life and Longevity for All.' The first letters spell S-I-L-L-A.

Subtitles for word games should contain all the key terms of the riddles. They don't have to be expert puzzles, but they should follow the rules as established in the screenplay. Viewers hear the actors' explanations, see the items used to divulge clues, and read those clues in the subtitles, combining a new written mode with the existing modes in the film. Gilbert C.F. Fong notes that subtitlers should make use of every semiotic mode available:

. . . in a subtitled film the written text does not operate by itself, but is accompanied and compensated for by other signs. And if the words do not fully convey the effect of the dialogue: for instance, its emotive value, they can be compensated by the tone, pitch and volume of the actor's voice, and by the actions, gestures and body movements, i.e., the body language. That is why some subtitlers tend to focus on information transfer and dispense with the dramatic quality of the dialogue, obviously thinking that it will be picked up by the audience during the course of the film. Needless to say, such an approach will usually result in the loss of colour and specificity. Subtitles are symbolic signs, and as such they should be fully utilized to contribute to the signification value. As they are already there at our disposal, it would be a waste to not put them to good use, to facilitate the communication process and to make the film-viewing experience more interesting and entertaining.

"Subtitles are the indispensable channel of access to a film," concluded Fong, a point particularly true for riddles and word games. Episode 32 of Queen Seondeok features a magic square that reads the same horizontally and vertically. The camera zooms on the square. It is filled with Chinese characters that are as perplexing to the original Korean audience as they are to US viewers. The hero reads the square and explains its meaning. The magic square terms—cryptic in both languages—are phrased with a tonal emphasis that warrants single quotation marks:

'Bright-sun-shine.'.. When the bright sun shines...

'Sun-shine-bright.'.. The sun will brighten the sky...

'Shine-bright-light.'.. and light will shine on all people.

This is a relatively simple word game. The subtitles create a structure that fits the magic square requirement and includes words used in the dialogue. The audience can clearly see the riddle on-screen and in translation. Viewers discover the solution with the protagonists, honoring the intent and meaning of the scene. There are no cheats. Subtitles should be as playful and puzzling as the original.


Translation does everything possible to replicate the tone of the original author. The actor's delivery, the source language, the screenplay—all must find their way into subtitles. Rainer Schulte, editor of Translation Review, refers to "the inherent tonal quality underlying words as sound spaces." Schulte acknowledges the stylistic role of repetitive text. He then adds:

Equally important are the repetitions of sounds. However, the repetitions of the sounds and sound combinations are not as easily perceptible to the reader. . . . Are the emotional reactions of certain vowels in the source language the same as in the receptor language?

Sound repetitions often exist in comedies as alliterative gags. In Episode 6 of the romantic comedy My Wife is a Superwoman, devoted husband Dal-su is moonlighting as a driver. After chauffeuring a lovely woman around town, he comes home late and is confronted by his wife.


I went out for some air.


Not out for an affair?

The subtitles replicate the original dialogue's play on words. In the source language, the common expression for going out for air is similar to "getting a little wind," an easy translation that needs little explanation. The term "wind" is also a colloquialism for a player or one having an affair. The original dialogue uses the same terms (wind/wind); the subtitles capture this alliterative wordplay visually with air/affair.

Subtitles and written poetry are very similar. Poems are meant to be read aloud. Subtitles replicate spoken dialogue. Both deal with rhythm, cadence and inflection. Both are subject to space and time constraints. In Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957) medieval knight Antonius Block finds peace in a meal shared with a young couple and their child:

I shall remember this hour of peace: the strawberries, the bowl of milk, your faces in the dusk. . . . I shall remember our words, and shall bear this memory between my hands as carefully as a bowl of fresh milk. And this will be a sign, and a great content.

Bergman's film is concerned with the silence of God. Much of the dialogue is laden with religious imagery. This scene deals with a couple named Joseph and Mary. They have a young child. It is a moment of personal redemption for the knight, who has witnessed the horrors of the plague and faces his own mortality. A translation must have the same depth of feeling as the original. Compare Criterion's subtitles:

I shall remember this moment: the silence, the twilight, the bowl of strawberries, the bowl of milk. Your faces in the evening light. . . . I shall try to remember our talk. I shall carry this memory carefully in my hands as if it were a bowl brimful of fresh milk. It will be a sign to me, and a great sufficiency.

The first translation is serviceable. It communicates the intent and fits nicely in subtitles. But it lacks poetry. It fails to capture the mood and resonance of the dialogue. The second translation also fits in the space and time available, but does so with phrasing appropriate to the context. It leaves the viewer moved by the simplicity of the knight's personal revelation. The subtitler in the second example identified the tone of the entire film: the squire remains sardonic, Death enigmatic, the knight introspective. In each character there is an undercurrent of poetry. Every line has a subtle lyricism, just as in the original. Literary translator Octavio Paz comments on rhythm and tonality in translation:

Poetry is the marriage of the sensual or physical half of language with its ideal or mental half. Poetry is 'impossible' to translate because you have to reproduce the materiality of the signs, its physical properties. Here is where translation as an art begins: since you cannot use the same language of the original, you must find equivalents. The text is lost but this effect can be reproduced through other signs; with different means, but playing a similar role, you can produce similar results. I say similar, not identical. Translation is an art of analogy, the art of finding correspondences. An art of shadows and echoes. . . . The literal is not a translation. Even in prose. Only mathematics and logic can be translated in a literal sense. Real prose—fiction, history—has rhythms and many physical properties like poetry. When we translate it, we accomplish the same as we do with poems: transformations, metaphors...

Not every film is a Bergman, nor is every line of dialogue a poem. But the processes of writing words and film grammar are not entirely dissimilar. If a subtitler must use all semiotic modes available, it is important to note which methodologies are used in their construction. Sergei Eisenstein, famous for his creation and use of montage in film, commented on this important point:

Now why should the cinema follow the forms of theater and painting rather than the methodology of language, which allows wholly new concepts of ideas to arise from the combination of two concrete denotations of two concrete objects? Language is much closer to film than painting is. For example, in painting the form arises from abstract elements of line and color, while in cinema the material concreteness of the image within the frame presents—as an element—the greatest difficulty in manipulation. So why not rather lean towards the system of language which is forced to use the same mechanics in inventing words and word-complexes?

Normal Non-fluency and Discourse Particles

People and the fictional characters they produce have unique styles of speech. Brief or long-winded; eloquent or hesitant; literal or rhetorical. Some people revel in the form and sound of words. Others see language as a vehicle of necessary utility. Linguistic styles are not uniform within any given gender, race or background. Certainly there are similarities, but also vast differences, even among those reared in the same household, who went to the same school and had the same types of friends. With subtitles the translator's job is to identify the quirks of dialogue that indicate each character's unique speech pattern.

Most people have certain phrases they prefer, whether knowingly or not. For example, in a stressful situation, one might preface a remark with "actually..." or "now I think on it..." or any number of variations. Such stall words give the speaker time to organize thoughts. Similar phrases often arise in screenplays. Although the actors are reading lines and don't need to stall, screenwriters know this is an effective way to give a sense of natural speech to the dialogue.

These speech patterns are frequently referred to as normal non-fluency, that is, mistakes characteristic of ordinary conversation. Mick Short, an authority on stylistics, asserts that normal non-fluency is typified by fillers (er, um), pauses, mispronunciations, repetitions, grammatical structures that are abandoned, conversational turns that are lost, and competition between speakers to steer the conversation to a topic of their choosing.

Normal non-fluency does not occur in drama dialogue, precisely because that dialogue is written (even though it is written to be spoken). Moreover, if features normally associated with normal non-fluency do occur, they are perceived by readers and the audience as having a meaningful function precisely because we know that the dramatist must have included them on purpose.

This meaningful function is evident Kim Ki-young's The Housemaid (1960). However, Blue Kino's 2009 release of the film illustrates how removing a screenplay's intentional normal non-fluency from subtitles robs audiences of the vitality of the original dialogue.

South Korean melodramas during the 1950s and 1960s were targeted at a predominately middle-aged, married female audience, according to film scholar Soyoung Kim: "The melodramatic genre was considered an outlet for women to release their han (pent-up grief) over their experiences relating to repressive neo-Confucian patriarchy." The intense emotive quality of The Housemaid was designed specifically to appeal to these viewers. Its subtitles should do the same.

The husband and wife begin the film speaking proper grammar in the original Korean screenplay. As the story progresses the husband's decline and seduction is indicated by looser, stilted phrasing and expressions that echo those used by the uneducated maid. In juxtaposition, the wife's dialogue grows painfully correct. All of this is conspicuously absent from the Blue Kino translation. The subtitles seem to buckle under the weight of being for a classic film. Grammar is proper throughout, leaving audiences with a mistaken sense of erudition on the part of the children and the maid. Most telling, the husband's avuncular warmth—at times purposefully hackneyed—is entirely lost. In one scene, the wife mutters, "Having a young woman around the house is like offering a piece of raw meat to a tiger." The husband then turns to the audience and offers joking advice. Continuing the Blue Kino translation:

How correctly you put it. Ladies and gentleman, as men get older, they spend more time thinking about young women. That's how they get drawn into women, which could lead to their destruction. This is true for all men.

The original dialogue was intended as a slightly corny catharsis. It is one in a series of juxtapositions: from melodrama to black comedy, intense emotion to a goofy explanation. Consider this new translation that includes the wife's invidious dialogue and the boys' club humor of the husband:


Having a pretty young thing in the house is no better than serving up raw meat to a beast.


Meat? Beast? That's a fact.

Ladies and gentlemen, as men age they find themselves thinking about younger women. That makes us easy prey and, well, everyone gets hurt.

[pointing] You're no different...

[pointing another direction] Oh, shaking your head? Uh-HUH!

The Blue Kino translation is not inaccurate. It's merely tepid. It captures the gist of the original but ignores the affected normal non-fluency and discourse particles of the dialogue and fails to match the various semiotic modes at play. The last subtitle line ("This is true for all men.") is almost nonsensical while watching the character's actions. He is grinning, winking, pointing at audience members. His eyes glitter, his voice is jocular, his demeanor conspiratorial. This combination makes the source Korean film perfectly clear. ("You're no different... Oh, shaking your head? Uh-HUH.") The character's chatty tone should be included as accurately as possible within the time and space available.

The Blue Kino translation is also far too brief. Even at the industry standard of no more than 1 character per 2 frames, rows that fit within 80 percent of the width of the picture, no more than 2 lines per screen and no more than 40 characters per line, the subtitles leave gaping holes between the spoken dialogue and the written word. The scene has plenty of time for the alliterative (meat/beast) and metaphoric (beast/prey) expressions of the husband's original speech. They belong in the subtitles.

Jenny Mattsson's important study on the discourse particles (DPs) well, you know, I mean, and like in subtitling summarizes how small changes in dialogue can have a big effect. She balances the inclusion of DPs against space and time constraints and excessive repetition of the terms, adding:

. . . the polysemiotic whole of which the subtitles are part may include signals compensating for the loss of DP translations. Despite the fact that not all DPs can or should be subtitled, DPs in feature films are often included for a reason, and can be of importance for the characterisations of speakers, and for the overall interactional aspects of a film.

Or as Francois Truffaut said of Jacques Becker's Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954), "He keeps only what is essential in the dialogue, even the essential part of the superfluous."

Subtitle Relativism

Subtitlers are part of global cinema. They dare to cross linguistic, cultural and media barriers in ways different from any other form of translation. Good subtitles don't just transfer words from one language to another. They are as funny, scary, witty and compelling as the original. Success is measured by how little viewers notice them. That is the goal—to be completely transparent. In the best translations viewers remember the subtitles as though the characters had actually spoken them in English. Subtitlers accept the challenge to bridge cultural differences, to find common expressions and shared experiences that unite rather than divide. As Leo Braudy wrote:

. . . movies at their best assert that art should transform individual life by making us into a new community through its power. Whatever their stories, whatever their methods, movies show us how to be human in ways that the other arts cannot.

Benjamin Lee Whorf's controversial hypothesis of linguistic determinism posits that language shapes thought. He asserted that different languages perceive and define reality in different ways. The Korean use of counter words to indicate the item being counted is an example of this. Whorf observed that the Hopi Indians have separate terms for water held in a container or in an open space; they also employ verb endings to indicate if a topic is an absolute fact, a memory, an expectation, a law, or a commonly-known truth. Eskimos have numerous words for snow, relevant to type. Whorf hypothesized that different languages necessitate different ways of thinking.

We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscope flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems of our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way—an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language. The agreement is, of course, an implicit and unstated one, BUT ITS TERMS ARE ABSOLUTELY OBLIGATORY; we cannot talk at all except by subscribing to the organization and classification of data which the agreement decrees. This fact is very significant for modern science, for it means that no individual is free to describe nature with absolute impartiality but is constrained to certain modes of interpretation even while he thinks himself most free.

"Strong" Whorfian linguists support this language-thought connection as deterministic; "weak" Whorfian scholars insist it is predispositive. A translator expands his world view, dipping into both languages for terms that identify elusive concepts, as explained by linguist Kenji Hakuta: "One can stretch this weak Whorfian view a bit further and suggest that the bilingual is a happy thinker. Any given problem can be handled through two linguistic systems, and the languages can be alternated in search of the one that would more efficiently guide thinking." This puts subtitlers in a unique position. Again from Whorf:

The person most nearly free in such respects would be a linguist familiar with very many widely different linguistic systems. As yet no linguist is in any such position. We are thus introduced to a new principle of relativity, which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated.

The subtitling apparatus is not a Whorfian calibration—indeed, nothing may ever be—but it is a challenging and intriguing approximation. Subtitle translation is adaptation. A translator must understand the original's intent, the meaning behind the words. Time and space constraints often require clever solutions and no small amount of wit on the subtitler's part to ensure the viewers enjoy what's on the screen. This is especially difficult with languages that have vastly different grammatical structures and colloquial traditions. Dialogue should flow as smoothly and naturally as it does in the original. Films perform a synthesizing role, as Sergei Eisenstein observed:

It will be a wonderful new art merging in a unified whole, presenting a synthesis of painting and drama, music and sculpture, architecture and dancing, landscape and man, visual image and uttered word. Recognition of this synthesis as an organic unity non-existent before is certainly the most important achievement in the history of aesthetics. This new art is the cinema.

Subtitles become part of this organic unity, adding to existing semiotic modes and creating a new experience for filmgoers. They bridge lexical gaps within and between divergent modes, affecting the film's perceived reality as a whole. Subtitles make it possible to peer dimly, imperfectly, into other patterns of thought.


Braudy, Leo. The World in a Frame: What We See in Films. University of Chicago (1976): 190, 233, 259.

Eisenstein, Sergei. Notes of a Film Director (Zamyetki Kinoryezhissyora). Dover (1970): 5, 85, 205. Translated by X. Danko.

Film Form: Essays in Film Theory. (Harcourt, 1949): 60.

Fong, Gilbert C. F., et al. Dubbing and Subtitling in a World Context. A collection of selected papers presented at the International Conference on Dubbing and Subtitling in a World Context, organized by the Department of Translation of The Chinese University of Hong Kong in October 2001. Gilbert C.F. Fong's paper was entitled, "Let the Words Do the Talking: The Nature and Art of Subtitling;' Chuang Ying-ting's paper, "Subtitling as a Multi-modal Translation." The Chinese University Press (2010): 82-83, 91, 93-94, 104.

The Great Queen Seondeok (Seondeok yowang). MBC (2009). Directed by Pak Hong-kyun & Kim Geun-hong. Screenplay by Kim Yeong-hyun & Pak Sang-yeon. Translation copyright © MBC America. Series translated by D. Bannon. Reprinted with permission.

Hakuta, Kenji. Mirror of Language: The Debate on Bilingualism. Basic Books (1986): 77.

Honig, Edwin. The Poet's Other Voice: Conversations on Literary Translation. University of Massachusetts (1985): 7, 39, 73, 78, 155-59, 177-80, 201-3.

The Housemaid (hanyo: 1960). Directed by Kim Ki-young. Blue Kino (2009). The Housemaid Reference Book. Translation Supervision: Professor Kim Eun Gi and June Oh with thanks to the Korea Literature Translation Institute and the generous support of Martin Scorsese and the World Cinema Foundation. (2009): 38. New translation © 2010 D. Bannon.

Kress, Gunther, Carey Jewitt, Jon Ogborn and Charalampos Tsatsarelis. Multimodal teaching and learning: the rhetorics of the science classroom. Continuum (2001): 14.

Mattsson, Jenny. The Subtitling of Discourse Particles: A corpus-based study of well, you know, I mean, and like, and their Swedish translations in ten American films. University of Gothenburg (2009): 267.

Kim, Soyoung. "Questions of Woman's Film: The Maid, Madame Freedom and Women." Published in McHugh, Kathleen, et al. South Korean Golden Age Melodrama: Gender, Genre and National Cinema. Wayne State University Press (2005): 190.

My Wife is a Superwoman (aka Queen of Housewives; Naejo ui yowang). MBC (2009). Directed by Go Dong-sun. Screenplay by Park Ji-eun. Translation copyright © MBC America. Series translated by D. Bannon. Reprinted with permission.

Schulte, Rainer. "How Should a Translator Walk through a Text?" Translation Review, 75: 1-2.

The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet; 1957). Criterion Collection (2009). Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Short, Mick. Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose. Addison Wesley (1996): 176-177.

Someday. OCN (2006). Directed by Kim Kyeong-yong. Screenplay by Kim Hee-jae. Excerpt translation © 2010 D. Bannon.

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