The Translation and the Subtitles

The translation work is an important moment in the process of language learning. The translation is not only intended to provide a ‘practical’ support, the subtitles, for an audience that does not know the original language of the play. It plays a much deeper role. On one hand, the work of translation will develop the language skills of the students and enrich their vocabulary, and on the other, it will help them to understand better the play itself and its characters, thus enabling a more effective representation. The translation will immerse students directly and actively into the aspects of language as a tool of communication and dialogue beyond grammatical rules and structures.

The translation work is certainly complex and requires a careful organization by the teacher and the assistant, and a deep commitment by the students who will grapple with a technical theater vocabulary and idiomatic expressions not covered in their standard knowledge of the language. In translating the play into English, the students will avoid a word-by-word translation that risks losing the richness of nuances and meanings of the original text. This way, the students will develop a more dynamic and informal translation skills. A simple paraphrase of the original text, in fact, can cause an impoverishment of the linguistic and cultural richness of the translated play. The act of translation is first an act of interpretation: every linguistic and stylistic solution depends on how we interpret the text, and, in turn, the interpretation will lead to a correct choice by the students. The translation will entail some changes and simplification with regard to the target language, while trying to maintain the original meaning of the play. For this reason, the translation requires the cooperation of all students and the comparison of different proposals and alternatives in order to achieve the ideal result.

The translation will begin immediately after the conclusion of the reading and will proceed in parallel with the memorization phases. Although the teacher will assign the development of the translation and subtitle preparation to those students who will act in minor roles, the translation work will involve the whole class. The students who have been assigned the main roles will collaborate with the other students in translating their longer monologues, which is the best way to understand and memorize the assigned part. The translation process will make use of interactive tools such as Googledocs, which will allow a simultaneous synchronous and asynchronous translation by the students. This technology facilitates evaluation and correction of the translation and, above all, teamwork and collaboration, which is fundamental to a well-done translation.

The students are encouraged to reflect on the different possibilities of translation, to confront various solutions, to discuss issues that may arise during their work and to develop a sophisticated theatrical vocabulary even in their native tongue. When available, majors who have greater familiarity with the original language will be responsible both for coordinating the entire work and for the correction of the translation. However, it is desirable that the teacher or the assistant supervise the final revision of the translated text by providing suggestions and corrections. The assistant will meet periodically with the students in charge of translation to discuss any relevant issues on linguistic-stylistic or literary topics.

The translation should be completed at least two weeks before the final performance because the students will be involved in other activities like the arrangement of lights, the blocking, the design of the costumes, etc. After having completed the translation, some students will prepare a PowerPoint with subtitles to be projected during the final performance, high up on the wall behind the actors. The subtitles will help both an audience unfamiliar with the original language and the students-actors in lieu of the prompter. The un-translated stage directions will not present within the subtitles. It will be necessary to be concise in order to avoid long and distracting lines. The slides will not contain more than two lines for each cue, while trying to conserve the original spirit of the play. Therefore, in preparing the subtitles, a basic rule will be ‘less is more’ (see the subtitles for Six Characters in Search of an Author in “From Theory to Practice” section) .

The slides will be very simple and easily readable by the audience; the best choice is that of a black background with white characters. One of the students not acting for that evening will be responsible for projecting subtitles, which necessitates paying attention to the synchronization with the actions on stage. It is advisable, for fewer technical glitches, to use the same laptop during both the preparation of subtitles and the final projection. The stage manager will make sure that the theater is equipped with an LCD projector. It must be installed at least seven feet from the theater floor so the seated audience will not block the projection of the subtitles.

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