There are several reasons for multilingualism in film, mainly linked to the realistic depiction of situations which involve travelling, migration, studying abroad, work or personal relations in an international environment, or families whose members are of different national or ethnic origin. Multilingual interactions represented in film including code switching and code mixing, but multilingualism can also come in the form of intertextuality, for example songs or learned quotations. Not only can there be more than one national language in an audiovisual programme; there will, most of the time, also be intralinguistic variations (archaic language, dialects, sociolects, idiolects, as opposed to standard language) which convey important information about the characters. Sometimes, invented languages are present in films.
The spectrum of degrees of multilingualism is very wide, ranging from a few occasional words or sentences in a language other than the main language of the film to productions where two or more languages coexist from the beginning to the end and the presence of all of them is substantial.
Multilingualism does not always appear where one might expect it. This is what Bleichenbacher (2008) calls “the replacement strategy”. The viewers have to suspend disbelief and accept that people of diverse origin all express themselves fluently in the same language.
Audiences themselves are not always monolingual. In particular, spectators of a film in English could be non-native speakers from around the world. And there are several kinds of interesting viewing situations: the “other” language in a film could be the mother tongue of some of the spectators. It must also be added that the receivers’ mastery of each of the languages involved as well as their proximity or distance with respect to the cultures which are depicted will inevitably have a considerable influence on their processing of the dialogues and of the visuals, and will affect the way in which they perceive the narrative and the characters.
Sometimes referred to as an afterthought, cumbersome, a necessary evil, an addition to the finished work, translation can sometimes truly be part of the film, of the original version – as the director wanted it. An aid to understanding, for sure, but also a voice incarnated in a graphic presence on screen, in the case of subtitles. An artistic choice made by the director and his or her team.
Multilingualism makes communication and mediation issues more visible. When it appears in films, it creates a mise en abyme which stimulates the viewers to reflect on their experience of being in a world in which we need interpreters and translators. It also stretches the limits of translation by making us see that it cannot be the “full transposition of one (monolingual) source code into another (monolingual) target code for the benefit of a monolingual target public” (Meylaerts 2006: 5).
The conference welcome contributions on all the audiovisual genres and language combinations, on:
- reasons for, and implications of, multilingualism
- the aesthetics of multilingual films and theatre performance
- the ethics of representation and of multilingual transfer
- translation strategies
- translators and interpreters in films and on stage
- reception and audio-visual cognitive processing by the audience
- accessibility to multilingual films and theatrical productions
- technologies for multilingual translation
A selection of papers will be published after the conference.
Martine Danan (Defense Language Institute, Monterey - US)
Dirk Delabastita (University of Namur - Belgium)
Francine Kaufmann (Bar Ilan University - Israel)
Reine Meylaerts (KULeuven - Belgium)
Candace Séguinot (York University, Toronto - Canada)
Sherry Simon (Concordia University, Montreal - Canada)
Christian Viviani (University of Caen - France)
Jean-Marc Lavaur (University of Montpellier 3 - France)
Anna Matamala (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona - Spain)
Pilar Orero (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona - Spain)
Adriana Serban (University of Montpellier 3 - France)
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