Translation of Television Series: Our Daily Bread

Roig, Rosa
Quaderns Divulgatius, 12 1999

The broadcasting of a programme dubbed into Catalan represents the culmination of a complex process where different professionals carry out different tasks namely, translation of the script, synchronisation, dividing the text into takes, linguistic correction, production and directing of the dubbing. The function of the synchroniser (often the translator) consists in preparing the text in order to facilitate the lip movements of the dubbing actor. Preparing takes consists in dividing the text into units of work whereby no actor has more than five lines at a time, and in adding the time codes. The production department prepares the dubbing budget, chooses the director and actors and sets the calendar. With translation into Catalan, there is a step between the synchronisation/preparation of takes and production which is the linguist's checking of the text.
The process of translation of series scripts begins when a translator receives a video tape in the original version, accompanied or not with a script that reflects more or less faithfully what is said on the screen. Programming requirements bring the time factor into opposition with the need to unify criteria. At times, a series broadcast every week changes to daily broadcasts. This means that the dubbing study has to speed up its production rhythm, with new translators being sought, these receiving isolated episodes and no information about the evolution of the series. With adequate working conditions, the first step would be a viewing of the first episodes and deciding with other translators and the linguist on the treatment of characters, the general tone of the series and that in particular instances, the use of slang and cultural references.
In confronting the classical scripts for series in slum settings, Internet tends to be a useful tool to consult for recent terminology. Again, there are series which tend to have local references scattered throughout their dialogues, mainly originating in popular culture, for example, to films that have not been shown here or some television references, in which case, finding the terms is difficult. For literary references, however -- if they are identified -- encyclopaedias may be used, as well as an infinite number of literary dictionaries and collections of literary quotes. To sum up, in order to find solutions, first identify the problem.