Subtitling or dubbing?

Casablanca movie poster

Casablanca movie poster

It is a commonplace to say that dubbing foreign language films and series on television in Spain is one of the brakes on foreign language learning among the population in general.

Not for the first time the People’s Party in Spain has proposed an initiative to increase the number of original version broadcasts. It is included in their manifesto for the 20 December General Elections in Spain. Measure 50 in the section Impulsar el talento reads:

Impulsaremos que un mínimo de la emisión de contenidos dirigidos a la población infantil y juvenil se produzca en versión original en la televisión, para aumentar la exposición de los alumnos a idiomas extranjeros.

You will excuse us, however, if we do not get too excited about this commitment just yet. There are, after all, many vested interests in the status quo.

Thanks to @currixan for alerting us to this initiative, which featured in today’s Telegraph online under the headline Spain mulls end of dubbed actors on TV to boost nation’s English language skills. They write,

Dubbing has a long tradition in Spanish entertainment, playing a role in effective censorship of foreign films during Francisco Franco’s dictatorial regime, between 1939 and 1975. During that time, even films that were passed by state censors often suffered changes to their script and message through the dubbing.

They go on to mention two celebrated cases of censorship through dubbing:

For example, Spanish cinemagoers in the 1950s were served up an off-key incestuous relationship in John Ford’s Mogambo, in which Grace Kelly’s character is not depicted as a married woman dallying with Clark Gable, but rather the pair are portrayed as brother and sister.

Even Casablanca was tinkered with by Franco’s dubbing censors, expunging all references of Rick’s past as a republican fighting fascism in Spain.

Do any of our readers know other cases of censorship through dubbing? We’d love to hear from you in the Comments.

Richard Samson

I’m a teacher living in Osona, Spain. I'm into tennis, dogs, and chickens. I’m also interested in translation and Moodle (well, digital tools for teaching, in general).
Richard Samson

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Richard Samson

About Richard Samson

I’m a teacher living in Osona, Spain. I'm into tennis, dogs, and chickens. I’m also interested in translation and Moodle (well, digital tools for teaching, in general).
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