Deeny Kaplan, Executive Vice President of The Kitchen

The Kitchen: English for the global audience (A Series of Perspectives for the Localization Professional)
30 de noviembre de 2022

“Today, I find myself watching more and more English-subtitled series and international films on television and truly enjoying them, wanting to still hear the original performance, whether or not the on-screen persona is speaking Korean, Danish or Hindi,” explained Deeny Kaplan, Executive Vice President of The Kitchen. “If I’m reading the subtitles, I get to hear the actual performances, while given the ability to understand what is being said. If I’m listening to the dubbed voices, my first inclination, as a professional in the industry, is to judge the match of the voice to the look and performance of each character. Of course, as a native US English speaker, my language of choice, dubbed or subtitled, would be English, so it makes sense to assume that a native of Sweden, Argentina or Japan would choose to watch or listen in their respective language.”

“Our interest is in always providing the very best quality of dubbing and subtitling, to and from every language,” she explained. “We encourage everyone on our team to watch foreign language programming as a way to learn and fine-tune their own skills. We even have a monthly “movie of the month club” where we all watch the monthly selection and discuss it, much like a book club would operate. The discussion offers our team the ability to hear their colleagues’ opinions on the dubbing, subtitling, direction, translation and performances of other companies. This has become a great learning tool.”

“The US audience is becoming more and more accepting of foreign language originals,” Deeny Kaplan added. “What’s not clear is whether or not American audiences prefer watching, or hearing, the dubbed or subtitled version.”

Netflix has reported that 97% of the US audience have watched a non-English title in 2021. Netflix also reports that 50% of its subscribers watch foreign language programming today.

What that tells us is that most titles on television or in theatres, streaming services and the like, are now localized into multiple languages. And most streaming services are ordering both dubbed and subtitled versions of the same titles from the onset.

What that doesn’t tell us however, is that often the localized versioning is required immediately on the release of a title….which is nearly an impossibility, given what is involved with the language localization process.

“As a localization studio, we know that there are often numerous corporate layers to follow for approvals of everything: from casting, to translation and adaption, to direction and mixing,” Kaplan adds. “Therefore, expediting releases in multiple languages, can be tricky, albeit a true necessity for more and more clients.”

“We have known that international distribution of American-born feature films, will typically bring in extraordinary revenues, often greater than their domestic distribution numbers,” Kaplan explained. “The difference today is that these global distribution services are now expected in every language and we know that localization services should be planned for-- ahead of the film or series’ original release.”

We also know that most foreign language films and series are first translated into English, offering US-based dubbing studios the ability to create a template that assures a consistency in the translation process itself, through segmentation and timing, as well as character allotments, giving an even greater continuity when the series or film is localized in different studios globally.

With regard to localizing into another language from English, any translation supervisor will tell you that it is easier to find translators who can work from English into a target language, than it would be to find a Hindi to Spanish translator. English is the most common language in the world, with more than 1.13 billion speakers, so it is only natural to use it as a starting point.

Doing so however, means that it is vital to select a native language English speaker when first creating that English language template. Additionally, the translator selected as the native English speaker should be generational appropriate. What does that mean? Very simply, if you were looking to dub “Casablanca”, released in 1942, for example, you should be looking to translate and adapt the dialogue, using an older translator, one who is more familiar with the verbiage of the time. Using a millennial for example, could cause lack of true meanings of the words and phrases of the time period.

So how do we choose-dubbing or subtitling, or perhaps the answer is that we choose both? It does depend on the audience.

The under 40 audience, for the most part, like to multi-task. Phone in hand, having to stare at the television screen, so as not to miss a translated line, isn’t conducive to that age group. This is an educated group that will thumb their nose at subtitles.

Die hard fans, usually an older population, will prefer to be glued to the screen, reading the subtitles, or listening to the dubbed versions.

As a language localization studio, we need to be prepared for both.

“It’s all about educating our clients,” Kaplan added. “Often, we will have producers who will contact us in the pre-production phase of their project, understanding that they need to put the language localization process into play as early as possible. Doing so has become an important part of their overall schedule, and quite as important in creating foreign language revenues for the project.

Doing so allows us to help this group to prepare a budget, investigate realistic or required time frames for completion, schedule services weekly, if the series calls for it, and most importantly, gives us the ability to offer to create the English language template that will be used globally to create the version in multiple languages”.

“No longer is the localization of any project a last-minute thought. Producers and studios are fully aware of the strength in the global versioning of their new program offerings. With the abundance of new platforms and streaming services, in every language, there no doubt will be continuous growth in the need for global language services, a definite plus for every language studio,” Kaplan concluded.