Subtitlers’ beliefs about pivot templates: What do they tell us about language hierarchies and translation quality in streaming service platforms?

Susana Valdez*, Hanna Pięta, Ester Torres-Simón, Rita Menezes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Streaming service platforms are said to increase worldwide access to peripheral languages, often via the use of pivot templates. To shed light on how pivot subtitling practices impact language hierarchies and translation quality, we report on the results of an online questionnaire completed by European subtitlers. The questionnaire elicited data on the respondents’ experiences and expectations when translating from pivot templates for streaming services and other media environments (such as cable TV, cinema, and websites). The questionnaire was completed by 370 subtitlers and the elicited data were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. The results suggest that streaming platforms reinforce traditional language hierarchies by strengthening the position of English as a hyper-central language (Heilbron 2010). ‘Peripheral–peripheral’ subtitling practices (e.g., Korean–Danish) occur mainly through pivot templates in English, and so do ‘central–central’ subtitling practices (e.g., German–French). This means that even when the original content is in a language other than English, English is still the most common source language for subtitlers because of the use of pivot templates. Furthermore, according to our respondents, pivot templates are more common in streaming platforms than in other media environments. The use of pivot templates is also reported to negatively impact subtitlers’ working conditions and give rise to particular ethical, linguistic, and technological challenges for which there are currently few guidelines and training opportunities.

Translated title of the contributionCreencias de los subtituladores sobre plantillas pívot.: ¿Qué nos dice de las jerarquías lingüísticas y la calidad de la traducción en las plataformas de streaming?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-454
Number of pages29
JournalTarget. International Journal on Translation Studies
Volume35
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • language hierarchies
  • pivot templates
  • streaming
  • subtitling
  • translation quality

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