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Understanding subtitling, translation and adaptation

Subtitling

The Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR) is a hub of research training activities, enabling the next generation of linguists and scholars in modern languages, literatures, and cultures to maximise their research skills.

One of the institute’s most popular training initiatives is the Migrating Texts workshop, which celebrated its fifth birthday in May 2018. Migrating Texts brings together postgraduates and early career researchers with expertise in cultural studies, translation studies, digital humanities, and media and communication studies, as well as members of the creative and cultural industries.

The event attracts around 80 international speakers and participants annually. Together they consider the transformative social impact that migratory movements of texts have on the cultural institutions and commercial bodies involved in the process. The migration of texts is generally understood as an inter-lingual, inter-semiotic, and inter-medial transformative practice, and it is seen here through the lens of subtitling, translation and adaptation.

What does it mean today to be a member of an audience? How do we, 21st-century viewers, readers and audiences, make sense of translated texts? Do existing theories of audience engagement explain ‘fan’ subtitling, translating, and adaptation practices? This year’s edition of Migrating Texts investigated these questions. Hands-on sessions throughout the day ensured that participants had many opportunities to learn practical research methods to inform their own projects.

Participants explored subtitling research in current film, television, and media audience studies. First, they looked at the technical aspects surrounding the study of audiences in subtitling, such as user response surveys involving questionnaires and screen tests as well as experiments with eye-tracking technology that collect gaze data. How does the appearance of subtitles change the viewing process? What do we mean when we talk about viewing, reading, and subtitling speed? Can audience design help us improve subtitling quality and assessment? They also investigated the spontaneous and/or crowdsourced contribution of viewers in non-commercial subtitling, highlighting the controversial nature of this user-generated practice.

Further areas of investigation include the audiences for translated texts and cross-cultural adaptations. How does reading translated texts shape ideas about one country held by those in another? What is the importance of pre-existing stereotypes in the circulation of translated texts? How do audiences respond to translated performances? Is theatre adaptation a form of creation and a form of reception? In addressing these questions, participants discussed emerging methods for studying audiences.

Originally conceived and coordinated by three London-based PhD researchers under the supervision of Dr Katia Pizzi, senior lecturer in Italian studies, the series will continue to examine how education, professional training, and technological change affect the production and movement of texts. A key aim is to promote dialogue between doctoral students and early career researchers working in different fields.

A further goal is to engage emerging ‘mixed’ academic profiles with established scholars and professionals working in the creative and cultural industries. And the latest edition of Migrating Texts highlighted the possibilities open to early career researchers wishing to use their language skills to increase the social impact and level of public engagement with their research and teaching.

The Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR) is part of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. It facilitates research in modern languages (primarily French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese), and publishes the Journal of Romance Studies. Its outstanding Germanic Studies Collection, devoted principally to German language and literature from their beginnings to the present day, comprises substantial books, journals, microfiches, theses and archives collections.

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