Translating Catalan cinema: the functions of multilingualism and their representation in subtitling
Subtitling norms and guidelines have traditionally encouraged a strategy of invisibility, whereby subtitles are so unobtrusive that the viewer forgets they are reading them. This strategy has become entrenched in the subtitling industry, but is now being challenged as consumers become more screen-literate and relate to visual media in a more interactive way. The clearest example of this is in fansubbing, where a programme’s viewers create their own amateur subtitles, often using more creative strategies than professional subtitlers. Bilingual and multilingual films present a challenge to conventional subtitling norms as the requirement to translate two or more spoken languages into one written language demands more information than is usually provided in traditional pareddown “invisible” subtitles. However, rather than make any attempt to indicate the language variation, the presence of multiple languages is often disregarded by subtitlers. Multilingualism in films has a variety of functions, including realism, comedic effects, characterisation and plot development, so there are many cases in which the presence of multiple languages should be highlighted in translation as it can be intrinsic to a film’s plot or themes. In the context of Catalan cinema, Catalan and Castilian often coexist in dialogues in a way that reflects the socio-linguistic reality of the region, where many people are bilingual and use both languages in their daily lives. The use of each language can also denote nationalist or political beliefs as well as providing a stylistic tool for filmmakers. This thesis focuses on three case studies of Catalan films in which the functions of bilingualism and multilingualism range from political protest to disruption of realism. A combination of contextual and multimodal analysis sheds light on the ways in which multilingualism contributes to the Source Text by showing how it works in conjunction with the films’ other meaning-making modes, and how or to what extent this is represented in the Target Text, the English subtitled version. If multilingualism is an integral part of the Source Text, and its effects are not compensated for in the Target Text by other modes, then it should be maintained in subtitling. Moreover, and particularly in light of the innovations currently making their way into the industry, subtitling could be used creatively to add another layer to the film’s style or themes, as well as reflecting what is already there. This thesis advocates a more considered approach to translating multilingual films, with subtitles that are more appropriate to each individual film.