Respondents in Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain and France largely preferred dubbing when viewing content not in their native language, while roughly 7 in 10 adults in China and South Korea and a plurality of Indian and Japanese consumers said they liked to watch with subtitles more, according to a March Morning Consult survey of adults in 15 countries which analyzed consumer preferences for subtitles or dubbing.
Translation preference is usually linked to historical context in each region. Europeans are likely used to dubbing since theatrical releases are required to be dubbed in the region, the report says, while in Asia, subtitles are preferred since “traditionally, the West has done a very poor job of translating the audio to make it more relevant.”
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Launching in new countries with a full library of content, as services such as Disney+, HBO Max and Paramount+ have done recently, often means thousands of hours of programming must be appropriately localized. Companies simply do not have enough translators who can quickly do the job, the report remarked.
“For subtitling, specifically, there’s been an issue with the lack of qualified translators in all of the main languages that have been targeted. You have platforms launching in Europe right now, and they all, by and large, want the same territories, but there’s a limited pool of experienced subtitling translators in those territories,” said Simon Constable, Senior Vice President of Global Language Services at Visual Data Media Services.
According to the investigation, dubbing presents even more problems, as not only are translators needed, but the process also depends on studio and actor availability. Making substitutions and bringing in replacements when necessary is often not possible.
Furthermore, Constable said providers have fail-safe methods to check the quality of a translation. The ubiquity of social media, however, can elevate even the tiniest of mistakes into public relations crises. “The barrier to entry for feedback is so low because social media is there and it can be out in an instant. It means you’ve continually got to tighten up your game,” he said.
Surveys were conducted in March 3-8, 2022, among a representative sample of 999-2.211 adults in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with an unweighted margin of error of +/- 2-3 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.