Foreign films, TV shows should be watched in original language


Morgan Vehige

In the opening credits, the title of the European Spanish version reads La Casa de Papel, translated in English to the house of paper, slang for house of money. When the show is English dubbed and subtitled, the title of the show is Money Heist. This presents one of the many inaccuracies or differences when presenting films and TV shows in a language different from the original, proving that languages should best be left alone to keep original intention.

Morgan Vehige

Squid Game, Roma, Miraculous, Money Heist, Parasite. Few of the many big-name films and TV shows, each in their own native language.

However, with westernization and many cultural dynamic shifts towards Hollywood, these great films and TV shows have been dubbed in the English language. 

To have something dubbed is to supplement certain voices and languages over the original language that the film or TV show is spoken in. While primarily used in the United States to translate foreign languages into English, this happens globally and at an increasingly alarming rate. 

While it seemingly is a good thing by allowing more understanding of most of the source material due to the work of intelligent translators, the growth of dubbing devalues the original material and hinders the audience from seeing the world outside their bubble. 

By opening the door for dubbed translations, the door is also opened for more chances to alter and disfigure the original intention behind the film or TV show. While done in the best of intentions, it often doesn’t get the point that it wanted to across. 

The most recent example lies in the insanely popular show, Squid Game on Netflix. After reaching over 111 million households, the show has been translated into many languages from the original Korean. 

Despite the popularity, there’s been controversy over the translations in the show from those who speak both Korean and English in both the dubbed version and in the English subtitles. When done only a couple of times, it can be easily dismissed as a difference of languages and cultures. However, with the consistent errors that the show faces in the dubbed and subtitled versions, it can only warp the original interpretation on both the writers’ and actors’ parts. 

Another reason to add to the unease of the growth of dubbed films and TV shows lies in the shrinking of the viewer’s scope of the world. 

In allowing the original language of a piece of media to fall to the wayside, a viewer is less able to connect with the material. It diminishes cultural influences intended for the work and fuels the fire for the westernization of all media, a completely dangerous area that deprives the whole world of creativity and difference. 

By listening to the original language, it can also spark an opportunity to pick up on the language. Many foreign language classes use TV shows and movies in order to reinforce the grammatical structure, word flow and vocabulary in students. With the original language, such a spark can be huge for the instruction and knowledge of the new speaker. 

There are always exceptions, yes. For those who are blind, a dubbed version in their language may be one of the few options for them. For those deaf or hard of hearing, the subtitles to the language may be slightly wrong and the lip movement of other languages difficult to follow, but it’s what they have in order to enjoy the show.

Still though, for the majority, dubbing of foreign languages in modern media can be a slippery slope to tread. Translations may never be perfect, and original interpretations may be lost. 

So, the next time you sit back to watch a new show from a different country, I challenge you to sit back, turn the subtitles on, and soak in the original intention of the piece. Words on a screen are only a small price to pay for an increased worldview and a whole new watching experience.