Sextitles: Dubbing & Subtitling in Pornography

May 23, 2013 by admin

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Most of us are familiar with the day-to-day language services we provide. So, I thought that this month’s article should be dedicated to one translation area in particular: subtitling and dubbing. But, to spice things up a little I have decided to introduce you to subtitling and dubbing in the porn industry!

What is life without a bit of fun, huh? London’s moody today… Rain and cold temperatures are back. So let’s take a glance at the funny side of life! I know what you’re thinking, but yes, porn movies are dubbed and subtitled, just like ordinary films.

A fair question that is probably popping up in your minds is: why the hell are subtitles or dubbing necessary in this kind of movie? Indeed, one can easily think that body language already says enough.  And this is far less subtle than the body language I introduced you to last month!  In addition, scenarios in porn movies are generally not difficult to understand despite the endless producers’ insistence in telling a story.

As for the dialogues, well, sorry ladies but there is no poetry in those I am afraid. There may be a wide range of tessituras and onomatopoeias here and there but it is small consolation for the soft souls… And no, it is not for the sake of learning another language! The simple reason of this kind of translation lies in the fact that these kinds of movies are broadcast on adult-reserved national cable channels and as part of national programs, they must be translated.

As a transcriber and a translator, I’ve already had to work on videos with sexual content. Let me tell you this, working on these was way more time-consuming that I thought it would be, not to mention the loss of brain cells in the process… As a subtitle proofreader, I could definitely see that the job was most of the time assigned to non-professional translators. Why would a porn production company pay a lot of money for a suitable translation when the message to be translated is just but a teaser? And let’s be clear, the vocabulary used does not require a PhD in linguistics…

Digging for some more information on the internet, I finally found some translators’ blogs commenting on a similar translation experience. I was then not surprised to see that porn films were a subtitler’s nightmare! As Guy LaRoche, professional subtitler puts it: “Porn sucks, no pun intended”. Indeed, when considering a typical normal feature film (about 1H30) and with a few action sequences, the number of subtitles will range from 700 to 800. Some porn movies can reach the same amount of subtitles. Not so many onomatopoeias and “singing” exercises, huh?

Though subtitles are used in porn movies, the most current translation form used is dubbing. And when one thinks about that, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Viewers do not want to read, they want to see and hear. That is why dubbing is therefore chosen over subtitling most of the time. Dubbing consists in substituting the original actors’ voices by others in a target language.

Those of you who are already familiar with movie post-production probably picture silent, dark and high-tech recording studios with actors, headsets on, facing a wide screen and ready to speak into the mic. Well, when it comes to pornography, things might be slightly more homemade… Who would picture some old woman making clapping and sucking sounds with her mouth and hands in some cheap recording studios? Let me show you the trick:

A word of advice though, this may definitely spoil your fun… As you may  have been told the camera always lies.

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