Movies and YouTube videos from foreign countries are having a cross-cultural, blending sort of impact worldwide. No matter where a viewer is from, foreign movies feel less “other” than they used to when they are translated and dubbed into one’s own language. This creates familiarity, making it easier to identify with cultural expressions that might otherwise have felt too weird.

When Patrick Zabalbeascoa, a language researcher from Barcelona, Spain, researched dubbed Disney films in the year 2000, he discovered they had the inadvertent effect of Americanizing other cultures. Disney would choose a foreign book from which to make a film, and have it translated into English and rewritten into a script, modifying some of the action to match American values, so the American audience could understand the movie’s message.

If the American public liked the production, Disney would translate and dub it into different languages for export. Viewers from similar cultures to the original one would recognize the story and accept the new values.

This process happens so often now, between Disney films and interviews on YouTube and TED Talks, that watching dubbed productions seems like part of everyday life. Although many of the cheaper productions on YouTube and similar sites use translation software, rather than live translators, the effect is still there. It makes the exotic mundane. This has both positive and negative effects.

The term for this kind of homogenization (blending of cultures) is “globalization.” Its negative effect is to make countries and cultures seem the same, thereby taking excitement out of the world. But its positive effect is to increase understanding and acceptance of other cultures, potentially reducing misunderstands and conflicts. Both the producer and translator toe a fine line between the two when they introduce one culture’s stories to another.

Audio-visual translation is equally used in business to sell products and services overseas. Because of the above principle, a product demo can be highly effective when dubbed in a foreign language, especially if that culture is already buying the product and just needs a demonstration of how it works.

When dubbing, it’s important to use human translators, if at all possible. Software translations can be humorously inaccurate, but that lowers a video’s value in the eyes of viewers. The translators at Dialog One, however, know their specialty language well, including cultural idioms that can lend class to a video. Be sure to contact us whenever you need one.