Audiovisual Translation: with and beyond technology

Josélia Neves
College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hamad bin Khalifa University


Communication, in the globalized 21st century, is required to be rapid, flexible, multifarious, and for easy consumption. Messages are expected to flow and transform gracefully, shaping themselves to the specificities of diverse media and to the needs of people with different linguistic, cultural and personal profiles. In such a fast-paced fragmented environment, translation comes as a tool for the promotion of mutual understanding and for the mediation of complex messages that require extra scaffolding for communication to take place. If it may be true that the essence of communication has remained untouched through the ages, the means used to communicate have changed and adjusted to the needs of times. Taking a simplistic approach, one may say that the XXth century took analogue to digital, and brought mass-media to the fore, and that the XXIst century may be taking the digital to new dimensions in which analogue and digital become interchangeable or complementary, requiring quite diverse translation/mediation strategies be used. While the “audio” and the “visual” will have marked communication strategies in the previous century, the “multi””-modal/media/sensory” is becoming central in the present one. It is this context that audiovisual translation is moving in new directions, to live beyond sound and image, and the sphere of screens, the media or, even, the digital.
It is a given that audiovisual translation has become central to mass communication – television, cinema, the web, among others – taking on the traditional form of subtitling and dubbing, to mediate languages and cultures; or moving towards more specialized solutions, as are audio description (AD) for people with vision impairment or subtitling for hearing impaired audiences (SDH). But much is happening beyond technology and the masses: audiovisual translation is driving innovative digital and analogue user experiences, in which self-tailoring allows for greater adequacy and freedom of choice. In so doing, it is contributing towards a growing trend in “self-media” and in “total-experience”, in which messages/products are adjusted – through digital and analogue solutions – to the preferences and requirements of different individuals.
In this presentation I will address traditional and “innovative” forms of audiovisual translation, – in the media, cultural venues and education –, to highlight how interlingual, intralingual and intersemiotic translation (Jakobson 1959) might be used as mediation tools to create flexible and yet truly meaningful experiences for different users. Translation, in its broadest sense, is thus used to provide people with linguistic and non-linguistic “thinking prompts” that will make messages easier to grasp and retain, thus improving knowledge acquisition. Examples will be given of ways in which audiovisual translation has been used as a starting point to promote creativity and personal engagement, and to show how it can be a valuable asset when making complex messages accessible to audiences/users with very specific profiles, as are children and people with disabilities, while remaining equally appealing for all other users. A special emphasis will be placed on how translation is making culture and heritage accessible to all.

KEYWORDS: Audiovisual translation, innovation, multisensory/multimodal, accessibility, digital/analogue.