A recent segment about Italian Fascism and language focuses on dubbing.
What's doppiaggio (dubbing)? After receiving a translation of a script, an actor, in a special recording booth with a monitor, has to watch a movie, adapting what he or she reads to whatthe actor on the screen is saying. The meaning and intention have to be there, and at the same time, there must be the same number of syllables, more or less, so that it can look convincing. It’s a huge, creative, and painstaking job. Historically, Italians have been champions at this. Dubbing provides a way for people to enjoy foreign movies. When dubbing started out in Italy, lots of people all over the country had never learned to read. They were analfabeti (illiterate).
Nel millenovecentotrentatré viene inventato il doppiaggio, che permette ai film di circolare in vari paesi.
In nineteen thirty-three dubbing is invented, which allows for films to be distributed in various countries.
Uno dei più complessi e magici trucchi cinematografici.
One of the most complex and magical cinematographic tricks.
Captions 11-13, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana - Part 9Play Caption
Even today, although many Italians read a lot, there are still those who aren't comfortable or just don’t enjoy reading. When given the choice of a dubbed movie or one with subtitles, dubbing wins most of the time. This is certainly a generalization, but the fact that you need to go to a special art movie theater to find a movie in its original language with subtitles bears witness to this.
There are arguments for both dubbing and using subtitles, each having vantaggi (advantages) and svantaggi (disadvantages). Luckily, in this digital age, you can often choose your language when watching at home on DVD, streaming, or even on commercial TV. It comes down to personal preference as well as familiarity with the original language of the movie. Culture, tradition, and economics determine what happens in the movie theater.
There was a time when it was popular to dub Italian films in post-production, rather than record the sound live. At the outset, it may have been for technical reasons, as recording live sound is complicated, but for some directors, like Fellini, it was part of their art. And ofcourse, in many filmmaking situations, there comes a time when dubbing is needed to fix mistakes made by actors or for technical reasons. So the dubbing booth is part of making movies.
Italians, having had a lot of practice over the years, happen to be extremely good at dubbing.
Here at Yabla, of course, we promote watching a video in the original language. It’s hard to learn a foreign language if you never hear it spoken. And being able to turn the subtitles on and off with a click is pretty handy.
Speaking of Yabla, two people on our talent force have worked in the field of dubbing.
Eh, all'inizio sì, lo facevo come [sic], doppiavo grandi artisti e attori.
Yeah, at the beginning, yes; I did that like I dubbed famous artists and actors.
Poi, eh, mi sono concentrata molto sui documentari.
Then, ah, I started concentrating a lot on documentaries.
Captions 14-15, Marika e Daniela - Daniela Bruni, voice overPlay Caption
Inoltre, questo... in questo corso si impara a interpretare: interpretare un personaggio, interpretare un testo.
In addition, this... in this course one learns to act: to play a role, to interpret a script.
Questo è fondamentale quando ci si trova appunto nello studio di doppiaggio a dover affrontare un, un testo oppure un personaggio.
This is fundamental when you find yourself, in fact, in the dubbing studio and need to deal with a script or a character.
Captions 14-17, Arianna e Marika - Il lavoro di doppiatricePlay Caption
The verb doppiare comes from the noun doppio. Its cognate is “double” in English. And sometimes it means just that, as in the following example, where it functions as an adjective. Note how the ending of the adjective changes according to the gender of the noun it modifies.
Ecco qua, doppia senape e doppio ketchup. -Bella schifezza.
Here you are, double mustard and double ketchup. -Nice bit of junk food.Play Caption
But more often than not, it means “twice,” as in the following example.
E per metterci magari anche il doppio del tempo?
And maybe takes even twice as much time?
Caption 7, Marika spiega - Proverbi italiani - Part 2Play Caption
Italians use sdoppiare to mean “to duplicate, to copy” when referring to CDs or cassettes. It is the negation of doppiare, and means “to split” but it also means “to make something into two.”
Mi potresti sdoppiare questo CD?
Could you copy this CD for me?
Interestingly enough, the verb “to dub” comes from “double” and came into use in the nineteen twenties. We use the verb “to dub” to refer to replacing speech in a movie, but also to copy from one tape to another (sdoppiare).
As Arianna tells us, you can go to school to get professional training in dubbing. Apart from dubbing actual movies, producers need dubbers for corporate videos, voice-overs for documentaries, and voices for cartoon characters. It’s a career choice that doesn’t immediately come to mind, but one that will never become obsolete.
See this fascinating article in English about the practice of dubbing in Italian cinema.
When speaking a foreign language, the important thing is to make yourself understood. Sometimes, however, unless someone makes a point of correcting you, you might spend years saying something that sounds right to you and gets the appropriate result or response. Then un bel giorno (one fine day) you realize with horror that you’ve been using the wrong word all this time and no one has ever corrected you because they understood anyway. This can easily happen with common words like fare (to make, to do) and prendere (to take, to have), because Italian and English have different conventions about how they get paired with nouns to mean something specific. It’s easy to fare confusione (get mixed up).
For example, you or I might make an appointment, but when Francesca gets serious about buying a new car, she “takes” an appointment:
Dobbiamo prendere quindi un appuntamento per andare dal notaio.
So we have to make an appointment with a notary.
Caption 34, Francesca - alla guidaPlay Caption
And while most English speakers make decisions, Italians “take” decisions:
Siamo preoccupati, perché dobbiamo prendere delle decisioni molto importanti.
We're worried, because we have to make very important decisions.
Caption 45, Marika spiega - Proverbi italianiPlay Caption
Do you take a nap in the afternoon? Well, the nonno in Medico in Famiglia “makes” a nap.
Io ho fatto solo venti minuti di pennichella...
I took a nap for just twenty minutes...
Caption 27, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1 - Casa nuovaPlay Caption
You want to take a trip to Sicily, but if you call an Italian travel agent, remember that Italians “make” trips.
Salve, vorrei fare un viaggio alla Valle dei Templi ad Agrigento.
Hello, I'd like to take a trip to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
Caption 2, Pianificare - un viaggioPlay Caption
All this talk about fare brings to mind a popular Italian proverb:
Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare.
Between saying and doing, there’s an ocean in the middle. [Things are easier said than done.]
Bearing this proverb in mind, we could say that repeating a list of which verbs to use when and where is il dire (saying). It will only get you so far. Fare is a catch-all word, a little like “have” or “get,” having so many shades of meaning that you can’t possibly absorb them all in un colpo solo (in one fell swoop). Fare means “to do,” “to make,” “to give” (see the lesson on Gifts and Giving), “to be,” and more (see the lesson on Making It Happen). Prendere is less of a catch-all verb, but also has several meanings like “to get,” “to catch,” “to have,” and “to receive.” So when you are watching Yabla videos and come upon the verb fare or prendere, pay special attention to how the verb gets paired with the noun in the specific context, and then make it your own: Listen for it, repeat it, write it, conjugate it, make up sentences with it. This is il fare (doing). It will gradually start to feel right.
The following are just a few more examples in which fare and prendere are paired with nouns in ways we might not expect:
Ce la farai! (You’ll get it!)
For more on proverbs see: