Learning via Subtitling:
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Language Learning Material based on Film Subtitling
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Κυριακή, 11 Απρίλιος 2021
Home PagearrowMethods and Approaches arrowThe Use of Translation in the FL Classroom


Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB)
The Transilvania University of Brasov (UTBv)
University of the Algarve (UALG)
Roehampton University
University of Pecs

The Use of Translation in the FL Classroom Print E-mail

The prevalence of the Communicative Approach since the 1980s (cf. Howatt, 1984) led, among other things, to the exclusion of the native language in the classroom. Translation, which was overused in teaching and overvalued in testing foreign languages, came under rightful criticism as a tool for learning foreign languages. For example, Richards & Rogers (1986) maintained that translation as a method may promote focusing in the source text, thus discouraging thinking directly in the language being learned. However, its use has been reconsidered due to the emphasis given to its value as a communicative activity of mediation (cf. Hatim and Mason, 1997). Moreover, the inclusion of translation activities in the FL curriculum is bound to be beneficial, since, according to Hurtado (1999), it assists in the development of reading comprehension and written expression, the promotion of linguistic knowledge and the development of cultural competence.

The text to be translated in the kind of activity proposed here has certain characteristics that differentiate it from the “traditional” written text, which is normally used in translation exercises. The features that distinguish the audiovisual text can be summarized as follows (Sokoli, in print.):

  • Reception through two channels: acoustic and visual
  • Significant presence of the nonverbal element
  • Synchronization between verbal and nonverbal elements
  • Appearance on screen – Reproducible material
  • Predetermined succession of moving images – Recorded material

The combination of the acoustic and the visual channel together with the verbal and the nonverbal elements results in the four basic components of the audiovisual text: the acoustic-verbal (dialogue), the acoustic-nonverbal (score, sounds), the visual-nonverbal (image) and the visual-verbal component (subtitles). The spatiotemporal relationships between these four components can be portrayed in Figure 1, where the arrows represent the existing relationships in an audiovisual text and the dashed arrows represent the relationships established by the subtitler:

Figure 1: Relationships between the basic components of the subtitled AV text (ibid)

The requirement for synchrony between these components imposes certain time and space constraints, which render a literal, word-for-word translation impossible. Thus, the student/subtitler is liberated from the “requirement for faithfulness” and forced to focus on the core of the utterances heard. Moreover, in the case of audiovisual translation, the context (e.g. facial expressions and movements, intonation) can hardly be overlooked, thus obliging the learner to take it into consideration when translating.


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