Translating "Rogue One"

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor in Rogue One

Oftentimes, when I think of a dubbed film, visions of a Bruce Lee movie come to mind…the actor’s mouth moves, but the voice does not correspond with the movement. However, almost five decades later, technology and globalization have pushed the dubbing industry to new heights. NPR’s short clip, Dubbing Rogue One, by Latino USA details just how difficult and intricate a task film dubbing is today and how it hinges on the translation.

When it comes to the translation phase of the dubbing project, the difficulty lies in finding the right words not just to convey the proper meaning of the English words, but also to match the actor’s lip movements to make it appear as if the actor is actually speaking in the foreign language. This task is further complicated with high-profile films such as Rogue One when their confidentiality levels are so high that the linguist is not allowed to see the film for fear of leaks getting out. This hinders the linguist from gleaning visual context. Unable to see a scene and unsure what it’s about can lead the linguist to incorrectly translate a line since a word can have many different meanings depending on the context. To add to these hurdles, the linguist must also keep in mind the linguistic differences within the Spanish language.  

Another important issue is the fact that while Spanish is spoken in many different countries, this doesn’t mean that the Spanish is the same all around. In other words, a word may mean one thing in one Spanish-speaking country while in another, that same word may mean something completely different. Therefore, oftentimes different words and different slang are used to convey the same meaning. In these instances, the linguist must find the most neutral word that will not only convey the proper meaning, but also match the actor’s lip movements. 

Imagine if this much care was omitted during the translation/dubbing of Rogue One. Imagine if this much care had been given to the Bruce Lee films. 

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