Bush, Schröder, interpreter

I accidentally watched ten minutes of George W. Bush and Gerhard Schröder at lunch in Mainz on TV (ARD). Schröder made a short speech, and it was interpreted. He apologized in quite a few words to the interpreter for having added stuff, which I suppose is good and bad. She had a copy of the speech before additions and presumably he saw her adding notes – but this is standard. (Hence ‘Es gilt das gesprochene Wort’: ‘Check against delivery’, written at the top of these speech drafts handed out to interpreters or press).

It is good to hear speeches held and interpreted, and for trainee interpreters a good chance to record them on videotape as practice material. The TV presentation seemed a bit of a mess. Bush didn’t react while Schröder was speaking German, obviously. When the interpreter began, he began his series of facial expressions. Then the English was faded out and we went back to the winter sports. Now, they had already said it was time to go back to sports, but did someone in that studio say, ‘It’s English, no-one will understand it, let’s leave’? I would have thought that Bush’s reactions to the speech were the most interesting thing, whether genuine or rehearsed.

7 thoughts on “Bush, Schröder, interpreter

  1. “It’s English, no one will understand it, let’s leave” — I often wonder about the assumptions made in day-to-day matters regarding multilingual language abilities in Europe. Yes, it seems to me that news broadcasts in Europe would benefit by retaining as much of the original as time allows, particularly for widely spoken languages like English and French. But then I’ve never understood the European preference for dubbed movies — I want to hear the original actors’ voices even in languages that I don’t know a word of; if I do actually have a bit of the language it drives me nuts to hear a grade-B actor’s voice in the local language instead.

    Here I listen to a lot of National Public Radio, I suppose roughly the US equivalent of the BBC, and when they interview non-English speakers they try to include the beginning and end of the clip in the original, with the English sandwiched in the middle, to get across some of the flavor and provide an air of authenticity, I guess.

  2. Hello Prentiss – fancy meeting you here – small world (wide web).

    I can’t stand the dubbing of films either. I watched a couple of films in Poland, and it was the same actor doing the voices of everybody. This was a male, gravelly voice, doing the lines of women and small children.

    It’s something of a relief and a surprise to find that foreign films are never dubbed in the otherwise linguistically ignorant United Kingdom.

  3. It’s in Poland too, is it? I was just about to say that in the Netherlands they apparently don’t dub, at least not for English. I presume they have subtitles. I am envious of this. Still, DVDs are a help. And you’re right, Jez, it isn’t done in Britain, is it?

    I haven’t seen any German films where one voice does the lot, but I presume it costs too much for a lot of countries. Sometimes there are good voices – Alf has a wonderful voice in German that’s almost better than the original. And sometimes the voice ruins a film.

  4. I still find dubbing weird, but it occurs to me that so relatively few foreign-language films are shown in Britain and the USA that it would not be worth the expense of dubbing. When you have lots of English films coming in – and what I want is usually to see English films in the original – there would at least be money for dubbing. Presumably that is for the very large number of people who are not comfortable with listening to films in English. And maybe they don’t want to read subtitles, or maybe lots of English-language films are popular entertainment and are watched fairly uncritically.

  5. DVDs are a help – but don’t make the same mistake I made living in France and buying the cheaper DVD products – there was always a slightly cheaper release alongside the official full release in fancy packaging. The cheaper versions did let me watch the films in the original English audio, but there was no way of switching off the French subtitles, which I found annoying and unnecessary on the DVD medium.

    And you’re probably right about dubbing not being an issue in the UK because of the relatively few foreign films on general release here. Interestingly in Paris, films are shown at the cinema in both original and dubbed versions. Most people preferred to see the original version with subtitles.

    Never had that choice when I lived in Spain though. It was dubbed or nothing.

  6. I wonder whether costs is really the determining factor. What does it cost to dub a movie, especially with non-star voice talent? A lot less than it does to release and promote it, is my guess. And while we don’t get to see as many foreign films here as in many parts of the world, we do see some, and they do make money.

    As long as we’re discussing the linguistic trivia of the movie biz, here’s an odd asymmetry. English-language movies released in the US generally have English subtitles as one of the language options (often Spanish subtitles are available as well, and sometimes French or other languages too). That’s a big help to people with hearing disabilities and people with not-quite-native English. So naturally I looked for the same feature as I immersed myself in Brazilian movies last year, but alas, Brazilian releases have subtitles in English and Spanish but not Portuguese.

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