LINGUIST List 26.3027

Wed Jun 24 2015

Review: Applied Ling; Discourse; Translation: Pérez-González (2014)

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 02-Feb-2015
From: Ulrike Stange <>
Subject: Audiovisual Translation
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Luis Pérez-González
TITLE: Audiovisual Translation
SUBTITLE: Theories, Methods and Issues
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2014

REVIEWER: Ulrike Stange, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


This textbook on audiovisual translation (AVT) is designed both for (advanced undergraduate or postgraduate) students and researchers concerned with audiovisual or screen translation. It is composed of three parts and contains a total of eight chapters plus an introduction. After laying out the disciplinary and industrial foundations (Part I), it addresses relevant theoretical and methodological perspectives (Part II) and concludes with an overview of new directions (Part III). A glossary containing film- and translation-related terminology crucial to understanding the texts and a companion website are important bonuses. The latter features introduction videos for all the chapters, additional material, links, core references and suggestions for research projects (the last two are also found in the book itself).

Part I: Disciplinary and Industrial Foundations

In Chapter 1, the author introduces the reader to the expanding scope of AVT, “the fastest growing strand of translation studies” (12), and highlights the need that arose for robust theoretical foundations as well as solid methodology to establish AVT as a research field in its own right. The AVT practices discussed include subtitling, revoicing in a variety of forms (viz. lip-synchronized dubbing, voice-over, narration, free commentary and simultaneous interpreting) and assistive forms of AVT (e.g. subtitling for an audience with impaired vision or hearing). The particularities of all of these AVT modalities are described in turn and techno-historical information is woven in where appropriate. The chapter closes with a discussion of the obstacles that AVT, not that long ago described as a “virgin area of research” (Delabastita 1989: 202), encounters in its establishment as an academic discipline.

Chapter 2 is essentially a summary of the history of film and the film industry. This chapter is very informative and provides important background knowledge. A number of AVT modalities discussed in the previous section are now placed in their respective historical contexts, and the author draws attention to and explains the effects that culture-specific preferences and/or political agendas have on AVT practices and the distribution of films.

Chapter 3 focuses on AVT as a site of interventionist practice. That is, amateur translators become involved in providing translations and/or (complete) subtitles of political speeches, for instance, and spread these via social networks, youtube, blogs, etc. These “consumers-turned-producers” (61) are also found to promote the non-commercial distribution of media content. Thus, in cases where professional translations are not profitable enough, ordinary citizens may be found to take the translation job into their own hands. Importantly, in challenging the monopoly of professional translators as to which meaning is to be conveyed to the audience, the involvement of amateur translators also affects the media industries and “giv[es] viewers more control over their user experience” (63). The introduction of key concepts serves as a useful basis for the study of interventionist AVT, which focuses mainly on political subtitling and fansubbing (a form of aesthetic subtitling; fans become involved in subtitling films or TV series, esp. anime ones).

Part II: Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives

In Chapter 4 the author provides an overview of the main audiovisual translation models (which have either been imported from translation studies or developed within AVT) and, highlighting the differences between theories and models, postulates the absence of a “fully fledged theory” for AVT (97). The models presented include process, comparative and causal models of translation. While process models focus on the different phases in the translation process (which can be studied from a psycholinguistic, cognitive, neuro-linguistic or pragmatic perspective), comparative models are concerned with the differences between source and target texts (concentrating on the shifts that occur in the target text or using monolingual corpus data to identify language-specific features). Lastly, causal models of translation centre their interest on the factors that influence the production of targets text and the effects these texts have on a given readership. These factors can be investigated in terms of culture-specific systems, norms, discourse strategies and ideologies.

Chapter 5 presents an excellent and exhaustive overview on current research methods in audiovisual translation. Both conceptual and empirical research methods find consideration, with a special emphasis on the latter. The author explains each research method in turn and illustrates them with well-chosen examples, highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. As to empirical methods, he outlines and discusses eye-tracking, questionnaires and interviews, archival and corpus-based methods (also explaining the properties of parallel, comparable and reference corpora). The final section of this chapter explores the advantages of triangulation (viz. combining two or more methods) and stresses the importance of reception-oriented studies (which are finally on the rise).

Part III: New Directions

Chapter 6 is concerned with AVT and multimodality (viz. the “combination of speaking, writing, visualization and music” (185)). It offers an introduction to multimodal theory and presents a clear description of the various core and sub-modes involved (language, sound, music and image) in AVT. It also shows how these modes, which have a meaning-making function, can be combined in audiovisual texts to affect the viewer’s experience.

In Chapter 7, the focus is again on interventionist AVT, in particular on AVT as a form of self-mediation (that is, amateur translators becoming involved in AVT and in distributing media content). This chapter describes three different forms of self-mediation (participation, remediation, bricolage) and identifies the role that affectivity and subjectivity play in these interventionist practices. It also sketches the impact that self-mediation has on commercial practices and speaks in favour of a cross-fertilization between amateur and professional translators.

The last chapter is a general chapter primarily aimed at students, providing orientation both for theory-driven projects as well as practical dissertations. It explains the concept of the case study and its subtypes (single-case, embedded, multiple-case, multiple embedded), using examples to illustrate the differences. This section also discusses research questions and hypotheses in relation to AVT research and explores AVT-specific methodological considerations.


This textbook offers an excellent overview on and introduction to audiovisual translation for novices and professionals alike. It successfully ties together relevant knowledge pertaining to film and translation studies and definitely helps further establish audiovisual translation as a research field in its own right.

The companion website offers valuable and instructive additional material (for students and instructors), which makes it an important contribution to the book. The introduction videos help set the scene for the chapters but are not essential to understanding the texts.
The boxes in the printed text contain featured examples and are, without exception, extremely well chosen and beneficial for the comprehension of more complicated phenomena discussed in individual sections.

The research projects (aimed at a student audience) suggested at the end of each chapter offer stimulating input, but more often than not it will be necessary to consult other resources to be able to tackle the projects. However, relevant reading is provided either in the text itself or in the references list at the end of the respective chapters. For the designated audience (advanced undergraduate students or higher), this procedure is unproblematic.

Chapter 5 (on research methods) is especially useful for scholars interested in AVT who are about to embark on empirical research. The different methods are well described and the examples should enable novices to make informed decisions as to what approach is suitable for their research questions.

In terms of coherence, the final chapter is problematic both in terms of content and style. It explains in a simplified manner how to conduct your own research, while the remainder of the book presents the other topics in a very sophisticated way, requiring close reading on the part of the intended audience. In fact, non-native speakers of English (and maybe even native speakers) may encounter difficulties in understanding the text and the topics it raises in their entirety because of the author’s use of scientific register and a rather dense writing style.

The fact that the author is mainly concerned with amateur translation in his research is reflected in the book, as the main focus is on interventionist practice (e.g. fansubbing and activist subtitling) as opposed to professional practice. The majority of examples is also drawn from interventionist forms of AVT. For professionals concerned with AVT, this is not exactly satisfactory. Multimodality and humour in translation are, for instance, a major challenge in professional AVT and would have deserved a detailed discussion. The same goes for the issues involved in lip-synchronized dubbing or professional subtitling. A greater concern with relevant models and theories or a presentation of studies aimed at professional translators would have been desirable. However, given the broad scope of the book it is understandable that some aspects were prioritised at the expense of others. Professional translators need to be aware, though, that this book may not exactly be what they wish for. Yet, it does provide an excellent overview on interventionist practices and gives amateur translators’ contributions to AVT the attention they merit.

Despite the drawbacks (which are minor in comparison to the book’s merits), this textbook represents essential reading for anyone interested in or concerned with AVT. It is thoroughly researched, successfully brings different disciplines together and represents an excellent starting point for further explorations in the field of AVT.


Ulrike Stange holds a PhD in English Linguistics and is a research assistant at the Department of English and Linguistics at Mainz University in Germany. Her research interests include emotive interjections (PhD thesis to be published soon), translation studies and dialectal variation in British English.

Page Updated: 24-Jun-2015