Media and translation. An interdisciplinary approach

Dror Abend-David (2014)

Bloomsbury, 392 pages, $120,00

Reviewed by: Elena Di Giovanni

This multi-faceted collection of essays aims at interdisciplinarity from the start. Although this is not a totally new objective within the young but well-established field of multimedia (Gambier, 2001), or audiovisual translation (Orero, 2004) studies, with a dedicated volume published in 2012 (MonTi) and several others having interdisciplinarity as a key characteristic (Serban and Matamala, 2012; Diaz Cintas and Neves, 2015), this new volume has the undeniable merit of advocating a systematic interaction between communication and translation studies, which are in many ways adjacent fields of investigation but which are seldom truly and effectively merged in research. The editor’s call for greater interaction between these fields appears in the preface and seems to be appropriately supported by the three final parts of the book and the six essays they contain.

Moreover, the richness of this volume is already apparent from its title, which recovers ‘media translation’ as a definition of its field, as opposed to the currently more popular, but occasionally constraining, ‘audiovisual translation’. By referring to translation with a wider reference to media, Dror Abend-David includes in this collection contributions that reflect on the use of language and translation in social media, advertising and global news, areas which are usually neglected by scholars in audiovisual translation studies. Yet, it is undeniable that all of them heavily, if not totally, rely on audiovisual texts and their translations.

Perhaps as a homage to traditional audiovisual translation studies, the editor opens the collection of essays with two sections devoted to “Film translation and adaptation” and “Subtitling and dubbing”, the latter being the most widely known and researched modes of audiovisual text transfer, especially for films. In the first section, however, the notion of adaptation is only evoked in the title, and is neither discussed in the three contributions nor mentioned in the brief editor’s introduction to the section. The concept of adaptation has been widely debated in translation theory and practice, all the more so with reference to audiovisual translation, where the term can be used to refer to different stages of the transfer process, depending on the context and/or the country. The first two essays in the "Film Translation and adaptation" section explore multilingual films and the challenges they pose for translation practitioners and scholars alike, thus providing a double perspective on an interesting, complex and growing phenomenon. In the first article, Christine Heiss sets out by defining the historical context for her analysis. She then reviews the notions of ethnolect and regiolect, which she considers as full-fledged language varieties making films multilingual. The author finally highlights the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity in film, to be preserved even through the filter of dubbing. The second essay in this section, by Patrick Zabalbescoa and Elena Voellmer, equally deals with multilingualism in film and its translation, considering different languages as well as varieties within one language. They start by discussing the notion of translation proper as defined in early Translation Studies, to re-define it with reference to their own case and, more specifically, to their analysis of the German, Spanish and Italian dubbed versions of Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. The third essay, on the other hand, reflects on code switching and language variety in original films (two South African productions) and their translations. Author Zoë Pettit then interestingly frames audiovisual translation within the audiovisual sign system as a whole, commenting on the effectiveness of translation solutions from her corpus in relation to the images they refer to.

Section two in the book, nominally on subtitling and dubbing, actually focuses only on the second translation technique, with contributions by two scholars from some of the most prominent dubbing countries in the world, i.e. Spain and Italy. In her article on false orality in fictional and dubbed dialogue, Rocío Baños provides an original contribution to research on dubbing, moving on from previous theorizations on the linguistic and semantic characteristics of dubbed dialogue and suggesting that dubbing translators would greatly benefit from a better understanding of the conventions of scriptwriting. The second article, by Emilio Audissino, offers an overview of dubbing as ‘interference' at different levels of the relationship with its original, providing a series of examples spanning perhaps too many decades in the space of a few pages and thereby weakening his argument.

Section three in the book, named "Media and computer translation", comprises one article only, focusing on live subtitling with speech recognition. This contribution might have easily been included in the previous section, giving it more substance and coherence and making the book’s structure less fragmented. The article itself, by Aline Remael, Luuk Van Waes and Mariëlle Leijten, is interesting in that it provides a detailed overview of the process of respeaking and its applications in different countries. After describing the process, the article focuses on respeaking errors and their classification, then closing on the exploration of the issue of visual attention by respeakers, which adds great value to the contribution.

Section four of the book shifts the focus to the fascinating relationship between literary and media translation, with the first of the two contributions being provided by a film studies scholar with a professional interest in audiovisual translation. Michael Baine’s reflections on audiovisual translation in relation to literary translation are especially interesting, in that they provide a perspective from outside the discipline and cleverly juxtapose concepts and ideas from audiovisual, literary and film studies. The second contribution, by Erga Heller, defines and elaborates on the concept of transmedia genre, whereby a story is nowadays enjoyed by audiences through a variety of media, from books to film, from television series to comics, and much more. She goes on to suggest a collective, or rather a multiple-media channels translation approach for transmedia genres, with a focus on the translation itself rather than on the medium it is transferred through.

Section five contains two rather different contributions, the first from a well-established scholar in audiovisual translation, whose studies have always been of an interdisciplinary nature with a focus on humour and its perception. Delia Chiaro’s article brilliantly moves from an exploration of verbal humour in intercultural terms to its translation for the screen, to then consider its reception by the viewers. She thus closes the circle from source to target texts and receivers, in a way that is rarely seen in audiovisual translation studies. The second contribution in this section, by Alison Patterson and Dan Chyutin, is broader and more specific at the same time: it focuses on one text only, but it reflects on the value and impact of a text on war on the receivers of the translated version.

Section six is probably one of the most interesting of the collection, with a focus on global news and politics from the perspective of translation, an approach which is hardly ever adopted within audiovisual translation studies and is more often associated with sociolinguistics. Once again, this section moves from a broader to a more specific contribution. The first essay by Li Pan tackles the thorny issue of mediation, first of all by defining it in relation to the stance of journalists and news providers, and secondly by locating it within analytical models drawn from critical discourse analysis and translation studies. The author then moves on to defining her own model for critical analysis and applies it to the observation of texts presented in the British and Chinese press. The second essay in this section focuses on international news networks and their role in shaping viewers’ cross-cultural perspective. The three Israeli authors, Tal Samuel-Azran, Amit Lavie-Dinur and Yuval Karniel, define translation as an implicit act of transfer occurring when viewing international news reports in English. An experiment is reported, conducted with Israeli students and aiming to explore Al Jazeera’s perceived credibility with the investigated audience. The result is certainly significant and worthy of thorough consideration.

A section on advertising and its translation appropriately closes the volume: advertising is certainly one of the most prolific, complex, innovative domains when it comes to the interaction of verbal and non-verbal languages, modes and channels of communication, thus powerfully opening up to more interdisciplinary, integrated, innovative studies in audiovisual translation.  In her essay on trailers, promos and teasers, author Chiara Bucaria explores the "semiotically complex apparatus of ancillary texts surrounding television shows" (p. 295), then focusing on the Italianization of these paraxtexts for two extremely popular TV series. In the second essay, which closes both this section and the whole volume, Ying Cui and Yanli Zhao reflect on the issue of presupposition, as defined and widely explored in pragmatics. They subsequently refer it to a brief linguistic-cultural analysis of three Chinese adverts.

On the whole, although it would have benefited from being divided into fewer sections, this collection of essays provides a fascinating, broad and varied contribution to the field of audiovisual translation studies, pushing its boundaries towards new research avenues, in the name of true and systematic interdisciplinarity.


R. Agost, E. Di Giovanni, P. Orero (2012) Multidisciplinarity in Audiovisual Translation, special issue of MonTI, 4.

J. Diaz Cintas, J. Neves (2015) Audiovisual Translation. Taking Stock. Cambrige: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Y. Gambier, H. Gottlieb (2001) (Multi)Media Translation. Concepts, Practices and Research. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

A. Matamala, A. Serban (2012) Audiovisual Translation in Close-Up: Practical and Theoretical Approaches, Frankfurt, Peter Lang.

P. Orero (2004) Topics in Audiovisual Translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

©inTRAlinea & Elena Di Giovanni (2016).
[Review] "Media and translation. An interdisciplinary approach", inTRAlinea Vol. 18
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