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Who would have guessed that it is the movie industry that seems to revert the race-to-the-bottom trend in foreign-language localization? The same industry that is notorious for nonsensical translations of movie titles? Well, “reverting” is maybe an exaggeration, but read the Rebecca Keegan article ‘Frozen’: Finding a diva in 41 languages, which appeared in today’s print edition of the Los Angeles Times. (The printed article adds a few more aspects of this localization effort, such as title, movie posters, etc.)

Not all movies get the treatment described in the article. If translators were to limit themselves to foreign-language subtitling in this city, they’d starve. And with German as my target language, I have to deal with the additional problem that movies are dubbed for Germany, not subtitled, and that this process takes place in Germany. It seems that “Not Afraid of Subtitles,” the motto with which the Los Angeles family-owned movie theater chain Laemmle is getting viewers for its non-English movie fare, would not fly in Germany.

Localization of technical products or websites is not exactly the same as what Disney’s Rick Dempsey gives as the reasons for localizing the animated film Frozen. But with ever larger portions of the movie business coming from non-English speaking countries, it makes sense to cater to those audiences. And to protect the Disney name and reputation, it has to be done well. You’d think that this is a logic all our clients would understand.


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