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Audiovisual dubbing translation from Chinese to English: Problems and solutions

Der-Hwa Victoria Rau1, Gerald A. Rau2, Michael J. Rau1
1Institute of Linguistics, National Chung Cheng University, Chiayi County, Taiwan. 2National Chung Cheng University, Chiayi County, Taiwan. 3National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan


This paper presents a case study of a team translating and dubbing audiovisual materials for a government agency to be used in initial 3-day training for incoming domestic migrant workers, presenting workplace safety and introduction to relevant laws. Using a participatory action research method, all three authors were directly involved in translating and dubbing the materials, comprising seven scripts, to identify problems as they arose and implement solutions on the spot, then reflect on the process to identify transferrable concepts that could benefit others facing a similar task. Three research questions were addressed: 1) What difficulties were encountered using Google Translate for initial machine translation, and how could Google Translate be used most effectively to render a first draft of the translation script for dubbing? 2) What problems were encountered during editing, and what modifications were necessary to meet the competing needs for accuracy, naturalness, and voice-sync rules for dubbing? 3) During dubbing, what modifications of the translations needed to be made when the English text was too long, did not fit the timing of visuals in the video, or was difficult to read? We found that while Google translate could produce relatively good translations of connected passages of text, it did not do as well with the segmented text of the dubbing script. Accuracy of translation had to be balanced against naturalness of the translation. The different length of equivalent utterances in Chinese and English sometimes required summarization or reduction of specificity to achieve voice synchrony, before or after the edited text was compared to the video. Additional problems were noted in the various genres within the script and translation of technical terms. Finally, changes in the dubbing stage involved primarily reduction and modification. Changes of word order were less frequent. All modifications in translation are illustrated with examples.


audiovisual translation, dubbing, participatory action research, modification strategies, problems and solutions

International Joint Conference of APLX, ETRA40, and TESPA 2023