The History of Dubbing in France

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The History of Dubbing in France

According to Gentzler, 1993 "as the world shrinks together like an aging orange and all peoples in all culture move closer together it may be that our crucial sentence for our remaining years on earth may be very simple: TRANSLATE OR DIE." No one wish to die or to be left out and therefore translation has become the best option as a means of survival and existence. There are several methods of translation and the choice of the method depends on the suitability to the users. Among these translation methods, dubbing stands out as the most popular form of translation and yet the most criticized. Although dubbing is an effective form of translation especially in the entertainment field the method has received criticism due to its effect on language and culture. In France, the method is widely applied and therefore the same criticism applies.

The History of Dubbing in France

France is known world wide as the home of cinema industry and therefore the translation industry especially dubbing industry is a well-rooted industry. France is a country that has its own culture or more specifically the French culture is unique and this uniqueness lies in the French language. As stated by Archambault (1997) France has a unique culture, which comprise of art, language, and this gives the country a unique position in Europe and the world. Translation focuses on language and therefore dubbing has a large effect on the French language. On the other hand, language determines the people's culture or precisely the people's language is the basis of their culture.

Television and television program are very common with the French people and therefore dubbing plays an important role in television industry. As time goes by the world is becoming more interconnected and therefore sharing of television programs across boarders is becoming common. Entertainment has a common language however, differences occur in presentation and this is the role played by the different languages (Gentzler, 1993). Having a variety of languages creates barriers for communication and therefore creates entertainment barriers. "Communication problem is not only a French problem but it is a worldwide problem that is serious" (Carvajal, 2007). In the film and the television program, industry dubbing has proved to be an effective method of breaking this barrier. Without this communication barrier, the French can enjoy programs and films from different corners of the world presented in the French language.

These films and TV programs carries along with them different culture from different people and therefore the French are able to experience the different cultures. Through these experiences, the French became aware of the existence of other culture and their relationship with their own culture. The next obvious step after this experience is the desire to learn or adopt other people's culture. Through dubbing the French people are exposed to other different culture more easily unlike in situations where dubbing is not applied. As stated by Carvajal (2007) "dating to the 1930s, France has remained as one of several West European countries, including Italy, Germany and Spain that dub majority of American films with the voices of local actors." This phrase from a New York article gives America as an example of countries that exports their films and TV programs to France. Within these films and TV programs is the American culture that is exported alongside these productions. When these films and TV programs reaches France through dubbing they are translated into the French language before reaching the people. Although dubbing translates a language from one dialect to another, the culture within the film or TV program remains unaffected and therefore people consume it directly. This consumption dilutes the French culture that has been known as the most compact culture in Europe.

France is a land of scholars and this is evident from the fact that France is home to some of the worlds well known scholars. From this fact, the French people are people who have a passion for reading or they are people who believe in the reading culture. The reading culture develops through reading especially in young and school going children. As stated earlier the French people believe a lot in entertainment and this culture is evident in all stages of development. The school-aged children are therefore aware of the different form of entertainment available in their own language and therefore they want to have an experience of the same. This makes the young children to spend most of their time watching films and TV programs. Due to the changing lifestyles, it is difficult to deny these children the chances to watch these films and TV programs and therefore the best method is to control the effect of these products on these young children.

Unlike other forms of translation such as the use of subtitles, dubbing has been accused of having no educational benefits to the viewers. The critics of dubbing suggest that dubbing should be discouraged as a method of translation and instead producers should adopt other forms of translation that contributes to learning and education. In particular dubbing does not contribute to learning of the French language like the other alternatives. Unlike dubbing the other methods such as the use of subtitles, help the young children to master the pronunciation and spelling of different French words and therefore the system has minor contribution to the preservation of the French language.

Learning a language is a two-way aspect, it includes learning how to write and how to speak the language. The French language is not an exception and therefore a person can claim that he or she has fully learned the French language if he or she can speak and write in French. Although French is used in most schools in France as the main instruction language, most people are not perfect in speaking the language. In addition to that schools emphasizes on the writing aspect in expense of the speaking part of the language.

The world is fast integrating and therefore the purity of languages is of concern. The integration has not only affected the people's culture but it has an effect on their language and therefore there is need to restore the language to its former state of purity. From experiences and observation, the best method of maintaining and preserving a language is teaching the language. Formal learning is effective in providing students with the essential writing and reading skills. However, the method is not effective in enhancing experience especially the speaking experience (Munday, 2001). To add on to this issue translation has less to do with language and verbalization but dubbing solves the problem (Cronin, 2000). The best method to learn how to speak a language is through listening when other people speak the language. From this fact, dubbing proves to be an effective tool that people can apply in learning how to speak a language. This method is effective since it provides people with the opportunity to listen as other people speak their French language in French culture and style.

The French celebrities also form a major pillar in the French culture and the French people always want to be associated with them. Dubbing as an industry in France has contributed to the rise of major French actors such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and the French people prefer watching films or TV programs with their dubbed voices (Carvajal, 2007). Through dubbing the French view these productions as originally made in France and this contributes to the French culture. In addition to that through dubbing an artist translate a film or a TV production into a language that people understands and therefore the French people do not need to learn other different languages. This contributes to the growth of the French language since people focus only on one major language.

The main cause of decline in people's culture is interference from foreign cultures in addition to the fact that the language is the main tool in this process. Using dubbing the French people has less contact with foreign languages and therefore less interference with foreign culture. Dubbing also ensures that people are not exposed to foreign ways of life and styles of living and this contributes positively in preserving the French culture. In addition, dubbing is effective in transforming words and phrases that depicts foreign culture into familiar words and culture. According to the New York Times article by Carvajal (2007.), in the past French artists have been able to transform word from German TV production to suit the French preferences.


Dubbing is a widely used translation method and the method is common in French industry. In France, the dubbing industry is a major industry and it attracts large number of artists. Dubbing has a great influence on the French culture and language and this influence determines the preservation of the French culture. Dubbing contributes in learning of the French language and therefore it contributes to the growth of the language. Dubbing ensures purity in French language and therefore contributes positively to the language and French culture.


Archambault, E. 1997 The non-profit sector in France London: Manchester University Press.

Carvajal, D. 2007 French film-industry dubbers complain of pressure to water down scripts - Technology & Media - International Herald Tribune. New York Times, 21 Jan.

Cronin, M. 2000 Across the line: Travel, Language, and Translation Dublin: Cork University Press

Gentzler, E. 1993 Contemporary translation theories New York and London: Rutledge

Munday J. 2001 Introducing translation studies London: Rutledge

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