Lost in Translation : Voice-over Translated TV as a Source for Incidental Language Acquisition

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen

Abstract: Voice-over translation (or “audio subtitles”) is the only audio-visual translation (AVT) used for feature-length films on Polish television. Since the reader (lektor) only partially overrides original dialogues and some parts of the actors’ speech are clearly audible, it can be considered as marginal L2 exposure. The aim of this study is to investigate the attitudes of Polish speakers of English towards voice-over translated television and to determine if TV shows and films with a lektor can be a source of incidental language acquisition. The study consists of two parts, a survey and an experiment. The survey investigated the attitudes of Polish speakers of English to different types of AVT, especially their opinions about the influence of voice-over translated TV shows on their English proficiency. The data reveals that Polish speakers of English have rather negative opinions about this AVT and numerous instances of unfaithful translation are easily spotted by them, which creates an image of unprofessional and inaccurate AVT. They seem not to consider films with a lektor as L2 exposure and tend to think that introducing subtitles to television would improve the L2 competence in Poland. However, the informants admitted being able to spot unfaithful translation, meaning that they pay attention to the foreign language in the background. The experiment was conducted to examine the possibility of incidental language acquisition from voice-over translated TV shows. 26 high school students, Polish learners of English watched 4 clips with voice-over translation with instances of unfaithful translation. The study has empirically proven that Polish learners of English are able to spot the differences between the original dialogue and its translation. Thus, watching voice-over television programming can be considered L2 exposure.

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