Video Fix: The art of dubbing

February 21, 2018 6:25 pm

Growing up watching Italian TV stations meant that any time you watched a cartoon, TV series or a movie, the voices you hear are not real voices, and most of the time, the words you hear, don’t match the actor’s mouths.

Video Fix Dubbing

This is the reality in countries where dubbing, or re-voicing is the norm, and Italy is one of the world leaders in this field.

With new releases at the cinema, most non-English speaking countries opt for sub-titling, but Italy decides to go in a different route and actually re-voices the whole movie in Italian. For this reason, the voices that you associate with your favourite character or actor are in reality nothing like the original and it might even sound weird when you listen to the real actor’s voice. In fact, most of the times Italian voice-actors and personalities who give life to the English characters keep doing so for every movie, making these Italian voices as recognisable and remarkable as the English originals. Many of these artists became very famous for their work, particularly for the people that they dubbed, and created a career in acting without ever showing their faces.

However, the art of dubbing can be very tricky as it often deals with translatability issues particularly when it comes to slang, figures of speech and slogans. In the case of TV series or movie sagas, one also has to deal with the issue of continuity where the writers and translators have no idea what’s going to happen in future events. For this reason, they have no idea if what they have just translated for dubbing will have an impact on future episodes. This can easily be seen in the examples given in the second video presented here below in Italian.

It is also interesting to see the different voice choices for the same character in different languages, as this oftentimes affects the tone and mood of the character, as can be seen in this compilation of Homer Simpson voices across the world.

The choice of voice for a character or actor makes a lot of difference on the impression that the people have of the actor. In fact, in an interview on the Jimmy Fallon show, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ actor, Jason Segel describes how he was greeted with surprise in Italy, with people remarking that he ‘doesn’t sound so dumb in real life’, as it appears that the voice chosen for his character’s dubbing, made the character sound ‘more dumb’ than the original character.


  • ‘Dubbing (filmmaking)’, Wikipedia, available here [accessed 20/02/2018]
  • ‘Film Dubbing’, Life in Italy, available here [accessed 20/02/2018]
  • ‘How Italian Cinema came to be Dominated by the Dubbers’,Encounters with the Arts, Cultures, People and Places, available here [accessed 21/02/2018]

Written by Veronica Lynn Mizzi : Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). Graduate in the Maltese Language and Communication, and Master’s graduate in Translation and Terminology Studies from the University of Malta. Former journalist


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