[CFP] Special issue of Perspectives (2023)

Pivot audiovisual translation: A burning issue for research and training

Guest-edited by Hanna Pięta, Susana Valdez, Rita Menezes and Stavroula Sokoli

This special issue focuses on pivot audiovisual translation (AVT), understood as the process or product of translating an audiovisual content through an intermediate language or text. Pivot translation is not uncommon in AVT history. It is likely to go right back to the translation of silent film, considering how international the market for this industry was. Moreover, right from the outset subtitling was a truly collaborative process, with various subtitlers working from literal translations provided by other translators. Another case in point is the film translation practice in various republics of the former Soviet Union, where translations of subtitles where performed on the basis of re-edited post-production scripts with Russian dubbing (Gambier 2003).

Today pivot AVT is a widespread practice. Examples can often be found in both long-standing modes (such as subtitling, dubbing or voice-over) and more recent ones (including fansubbing, fandubbing, fanvoicing, surtitling, subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing, audiodescription, sign language interpreting). It is clearly not restricted to films and television series and can also be found in a myriad of other genres, such as fly-on-the-wall docudramas, corporate videos, commercials, trailers, video clips, videogames, news, political speeches, interviews, webtoons and many others. For example, streamed media and DVDs not originally in English are generally first translated into an English template file which is used to produce subtitles in other languages (Georgakopoulou 2019). In videogame localization, Japanese products are first translated into English for the North American region, which constitutes a major market for these products; other translated versions are based on these English pivots and subsequently released on further markets (O´Hagan & Mangiron 2013, 130; see also Wenqing, forthcoming). Other possible scenarios include situations where, for accessibility reasons, dialogue scripts in English — with mise en scéne and stage directions — are used to produce audio description scripts in, say, Portuguese.

There is no indication of a reduced relevance of pivot AVT in the foreseeable future. Quite the reverse: it seems to be constantly on the increase because it streamlines processes, avoids duplication of work, minimizes costs, improves timelines and facilitates the quality control of translated texts while enlarging the pool of potential translators (Georgakopoulou 2019). The use of pivot approaches is also likely to intensify due two important developments that are already on the horizon. One of such developments are streaming giants’ plans to increase their non-English programming (Rodríguez 2017). Another influencing factor is the currently drafted European Union (EU) directive, which requires that, in order to be able to operate in the EU, one third of content on all SVoD platforms will need to be of local (EU) origin (Roxborough 2018). This will only be achieved with a hike in original, home-grown productions and local acquisitions of content, which is likely to be produced in a myriad of languages (DíazCintas and Remael 2020, 54). This myriad of languages will then need to be translated into a panoply of other languages to attract audiences around the world, and pivot approaches may well be a part of solution (Pięta et al., forthcoming). While some — especially more senior translators (Torres-Simón et al. 2021) — view pivot translation as a threat to translation quality, or translators’ jobs and ethics, for others it is a fact of life, as they have always worked in such workflows (Díaz-Cintas and Remael 2020, 43).

Although it has evolved as a practice, pivot AVT is lagging behind in academia and training. This is partly because scholarly approaches to translation have long been anchored in models that prioritize translating from the original (Delabastita 2008 239), and into the translator’s “mother tongue”. 

With regard to research, systematic studies focused on pivot AVT are recent and rare. Most are product-oriented, limited to one mode and genre (e.g., professional subtitling of television series), and/or focused on issues of quality (e.g., Artegiani and Kapsaskis 2014; Dupleiss 2020; Oziemblewska and Szarkowska, forthcoming; Vermeulen 2014). Much has been said and written about the negative consequences of this practice, particularly about mistakes that are replicated. Unlike research on pivot (indirect) literary translations, there is a dearth of well established hypotheses or comprehensive typologies of various instances of indirectness. 

In terms of education, Torres-Simón et al. (2021) show that pivot AVT is largely overlooked in university programmes, curricula, mainstream sets of translation competences and textbooks offering training advice. This institutional oversight is problematic considering that pivot AVT brings with it specific challenges and requires specific skills (Gambier 2003; Oziemblewska and Szarkowska forthcoming, Shlesinger 2010). 

AVT research and training want to keep pace with the fast-evolving market, and this makes pivot AVT a burning issue for these two areas. To address this issue, we call for contributions engaging with key questions that include, but are not limited to:

− how were pivot AVT produced and received in the past; how are they produced and received today?
− what were/are the reasons and causes of translating audiovisual content from translation or with further translation in mind?
− what are the attitudes, beliefs and expectations of audiovisual translators who create or work from pivot texts? In which modes or settings are they more/less tolerant towards this practice? How about other stakeholders?
− how exactly are pivot AVT different from direct AVT, for example in terms of their linguistic make-up or translators’ and viewers’ expectations?
− are there patterns related to indirectness that are common to various AVT modes (e.g. deaf relay interpreting; videogame localization; fansubbing)?
− which models of analysis can help us classify different instances of indirectness within AVT?
− what specific competences and technologies are needed to efficiently translate audiovisual content from translation or with a further translation in mind?
− when, where and how exactly can we train translators to produce pivot AVT of the highest quality possible?

Although there is room for ongoing research, contributions that report on completed research will be given priority. In the first instance, we invite 300-word abstracts (references not included in the word count). These should be submitted by 22 December via email to all the guesteditors. After editorial vetting, the authors of selected contributions will be invited to submit full articles (maximum 8000 words, all included). These full-length submissions will be subject to double-blind peer review.

For more details, please visit: http://www.indirectrans.com/ewExternalFiles/Pivot%20AVT_Special%20issue_CFP.pdf