Have you ever wondered what it is like to translate movies? You all probably know that there are different ways of spreading a film’s message to people who don’t speak its original language. Maybe you even have your favourite method of translation and you wouldn’t even try to watch movies translated differently. In this article you will find out about one exceptional and pretty rare translation practice.


What are the methods of translating movies?

There are at least three of them: subtitling, dubbing and voice-over translation! In dubbing, the original voices of characters are completely replaced with the ones of other actors, so you will not even hear the native tongue of the movie. Subtitling means, without any surprise, pulling up a written translation on a screen without muting the original soundtrack. But what exactly does a voice-over translator do?

In voice-over translation, also known in Polish as szeptanka (whispering), an original soundtrack is overlaid with a translated text read by a voice artist (in Polish lektor). The original recording, however, is still audible, for example when the track in the original language is longer than its translation. Even though translation read by only one person is the most frequent one in Poland, there is also a ‘multiple-voice’ method, where a text is read by many voice artists and their roles are divided. 

This technique is regularly used in (among others) Russia, although lately it has been replaced by dubbing. What is interesting, polyphony does not mean that we have a different voice actor for each character’s original voice. Voice-over translators can produce voices of men, women, girls, and boys, all by themselves.

Voice-over translation was a method frequently used in former USSR republics and in Poland! There are several reasons for the phenomenon of this technique. Its superiority over subtitles was ensured by the fact that television screens used after World War II were simply too small to display subtitles in a readable format. Voice-over translating won the fight against dubbing because of lower production costs and shorter realization time. That is why Polish viewers can now, among viewers from other countries, enjoy movies translated in the szeptanka way! 

Statistics from various sources show, however, that fewer and fewer people choose films with voice-over translation nowadays if there is an option to choose subtitles or dubbing. Does it mean that voice-over translation will soon be forgotten? Or maybe the ‘whispering’ is about to gain ground again?



                                                              Text:                                           Translation:                                    Proofreading: