In the internet video world of YouTube, and several other video streaming websites we have seen TV shows and cartoons which originated in a different ethnical language being dubbed into English. This means that every characters in the series (antagonist/protagonist/extras/narrations) are speaking English rather than the original language. This could be done by taking the original video to a recording studio (or if you have a recording gear at home that could synchronize with digital video), strip off the original dialogue audio and replacing them with the English version. A very good quality dubbed video is known by looking at the lip synchronization (otherwise known in dubbing terms as “lip-sync”).
– sample of an English dubbed version of DragonBall Z, which is originally animated according to its original Japanese scripts.
I did grow up watching Japanese cartoons being dubbed into English, and I don’t see it as a problem as there is an international market for English dubbed cartoons. The only problem I had is with dubbing any type of TV show or cartoon into a language which is used only by certain countries, or a certain ethnic minority in the world, especially in the Malay language, a language specific to South-East Asian countries of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
I worked part-time in a dubbing studio here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It seems that recently these studios are working like production factories – completing hundreds of titles in a short deadline. Now I will elaborate on what’s wrong in dubbing cartoons into a language which is specific only to certain countries or minorities.
– example of a Malay-dubbed Japanese cartoon “Detective Conan”.
First of all we’ll look into the history of the Malay language. Before the Malay ethnic started spreading out from their ancestral homes in Sumatra, one of the provinces in present-day Indonesia there wasn’t an ethnic realization of a indigenous group called the Malays. During the spread of Vedic religions in the archipelago, travelling monks created a language which mixes Sanskrit with local indigenous languages around the archipelago up to the lands of Indo-China, and as historians and linguists know that Sanskrit is a poetic language (evidences are seen when translating Vedic religious texts such as Bhagavad Gita or Sutras of the Buddha into common English), evidently the Malay language has been developed in such a way that the Malay culture has acquired thousands of poems in the Malay language since the existence of the Sultanate of Malacca, and since then had used many loan words from Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese and English to suit the words for their encounters with objects and situations during daily activities.
Do note that although Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysian language) and Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) shared the same roots and is mutually intelligible, these two languages are still different and that some words used to refer the same objects or situations do not sound even closely related.
The Malay language is fairly easy to be learned by a foreigner. A month is enough to master the basics of the Malay language. But however, the bad side of using the language for dubbing (or even for referring scientific terms) is that most words in the Malay language can be too long to match syllables of other languages, aside its unfriendly grammatical rules for using the same words three times or more in a sentence.
Due to this limitations in the Malay language, Malay-dubbed cartoons often had a difficult time staying on topic or even explaining to viewers certain situations that was clearly explained in the original language. Somehow in the Malaysian dubbing industry, they often liked dubbing materials of English, Japanese and Korean origin (Chinese language shows are dubbed in a rare occasion). People in the dubbing industry often faced transliteration problems from English materials because of the short-sentenced conversations that would make it longer when translated to Malay, and Japanese materials often make sentences longer than English ones due to their nationalized usage of the “Kun-yomi” (Japanese origin words) opposed to the “On-yomi” (Chinese loan words), the latter which is shorter, and that leaves the translated Malay language with insufficient amount of syllables to match the character’s “lip-sync”.
That’s mostly what I’m against on dubbing a material into the Malay language. But as I grow older and matured, it seems that I’m actually against all kinds of dubbing, mainly because it is fun watching a TV show in it’s original language, plus repetition of a foreign language you don’t know with subtitles below makes you pick up a new language. Recently I have been watching One Piece, and I’d prefer it in the original Japanese language (although my ancestors were partly ethnic Japanese, most of my family members don’t practice Japanese traditions anymore because they inter-mingled with the Chinese so that’s why while having Japanese ancestry I don’t know any Japanese words until a few years ago).