July 13, 2008

Why doesn't Univision put English subtitles on American movies?

Many European readers have commented over the years on how watching television with subtitles helped them learn English.

Univision is the giant of Spanish-language broadcasting in the U.S. In 2006 it was sold by Republican Italian-American billionaire Jerry Perenchio to a consortium headed by Democratic Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban for $13.7 billion. Perenchio was the chief donor in 1998 to the campaign against Ron Unz's Proposition 227 restricting bilingual education in California schools. The more Mexican immigrants who learn English, the worse it is for business. (Unz won easily, nonetheless).

Not surprisingly, according to Wikipedia, "Univision's major programming is closed-captioned in Spanish, but unlike main competitor Telemundo, it almost never provides English subtitles." This refusal to run subtitles in English costs Univision a slight amount of ratings -- I recall stumbling upon "Repo Man" dubbed into Spanish on Univision and watching about 40 minutes because I know much of the dialogue by heart. But, to Univision, the principle of keeping Spanish-only residents of America Spanish-only comes ahead of short-term profits. If they started putting "Repo man is always intense" in English under Harry Dean Stanton's mug while some guy says it in Spanish, who knows, somebody somewhere might someday learn enough English to watch a different station.

There are numerous campaigns against corporations for anti-social practices, but I've never heard any criticism of Univision for refusing to subtitle English-language movies in English. Criticizing Perenchio and/or Saban for holding back the spread of English in the interests of higher profits would be racist, so it's just not done.

Speaking of Univision's lack of subtitles and learning another language, Bert Limbec explains "I Bet I Can Speak Spanish:"

Hello, amigos! El soy quando agunto! Ella balloona balunga espanyo!

Did that sound Spanish to you? I bet that means something. And guess what? I've never had one lesson. It's just that I have a natural gift for Spanish. I was able to pick it up all by myself, "outside the system," if you will.

When I was a kid, I thought a foreign language would take a long time to learn. That's what society tells you, probably because of the anti-foreign attitude in America. They're trying to discourage people from going foreign, I guess...

I remember how, in high school, Spanish was taught by Mr. Gomez, and you could spend years learning every single word. Forget that! I'm sure I've got the gist of it. I don't need any classes or books, because I can speak Spanish without all that. I mean, ¡Balunga el baguayo con blinko! Don't tell me that didn't sound Spanish! And it sure didn't take three years of high school to learn. Forget that, I've got a life! ...

But another important link in the chain of me speaking Spanish is that I've been watching tons of Univision lately, and I completely understand what's going on. Just yesterday, there was this soap opera on, called Ellabungo Juanita or something Spanish like that, and I was completely following it! This girl and this guy were in bed together, and this guy came in and was mad. Just from listening, I could tell that the girl in the bed was cheating on the guy who just walked in. There were no subtitles, I just figured it out! You folks reading this might have needed Spanish lessons to understand what was going on, but I'm on the fast track, Charlie!

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Shouldnt that be:

"The life of a Repo man is always intense"

Anonymous said...

Nothing like to seeing American movies dubbed into a foreign language to make you feel right at home.

To me this is the best bit of evidence I've seen that we're losing our country.

Anonymous said...

Funny, it seems like the number one commercial sponsor of Univision programs is "Ingles sin Barreras" - they are always advertising on Univision.

GettingAngry said...

I'm not sure how this relates to the topic at hand, but there is NOTHING - repeat NOTHING - that makes my blood boil more than seeing parents speak to their kids in a foreign language in a public place. If the parents are not well educated (and they usually aren't), you just know that kid will never end up speaking English decently. I've spent 35+ years living in Queens and New Jersey, so living around immigrants is not a new experience. That said, I can't remember this particular problem ever being so bad. BTW, I was just in a NYC subway car (on the A train) that was 100% plastered in a Bud Light advertisement, in SPANISH!! I am sure that's old hat for LA, but it was never this bad in NYC.

Anonymous said...

It seems to be going about it a bit backwards to first dub the film into Spanish, and then add English subtitles. Why not just add Spanish subtitles to the the original? (Yes, I know: spoken lines are long, subtitles are short, but even so.)

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a revelation I had a few years ago in Germany. I speak a little high school German, and would pull out a dictionary in shops and on the subway to help me figure out what words meant. Then I realized - I live in a metropolitan area with many immigrants that speak no English or poor English, but I have never seen any of these people pull out a dictionary!

Anonymous said...

"I'm not sure how this relates to the topic at hand, but there is NOTHING - repeat NOTHING - that makes my blood boil more than seeing parents speak to their kids in a foreign language in a public place. If the parents are not well educated (and they usually aren't), you just know that kid will never end up speaking English decently. "

I knew a lot of kids growing up whose parents didn't speak English well and they turned out fine. It's IQ that makes the difference. Anybody who goes to public school and interacts with English speakers and is taught in the language on a daily basis during their formative years will learn it if the kid is smart enough.

Kids end up talking like their friends, not their parents, as Steven Pinker tells us. If you know kids who grew up in America but can't speak proper English it's because their stupid.

On

KingM said...

Neither of the above statements are true. First, language ability is often divorced from other aspects of intelligence. For you Bell Curvers, consider that it's quite easy to find people in sub-Saharan Africa who speak 4-5 languages fluently. They usually speak a tribal language, a national language or two, plus English or French.

Secondly, for most kids, learning a home language will not affect their English, so long as they have English-only instruction in school.

As an example, I speak to my son only in Spanish, but his English is well ahead of his Spanish due to all of the other English influence in his life. He seems to be doing fine in both languages, however.

Truth said...

The short answer is that the only English speaker watching Univision are horny males who want to see half-naked Latinas bouncing around. The subtitles on such inane programing are totally superfluous.

xrwjda said...

Yep, it's pretty common for immigrant kids to speak perfect English without an accent, and what sounds to my gringo ear like perfect Spanish. (Though I bet a native speaker notices differences that I miss.) This is sort of a commonplace funny scene, right? The teacher says "Enrique is never ready for class" and Enrique translates to his mom as Ella dice que todavia estoy listo para clase.

The second-generation Mexican and Salvadoran immigrants I know, the ones who grew up here, always seem to speak reasonably good English, even when their parents speak little or no English.

Anonymous said...

"Criticizing Perenchio and/or Saban for holding back the spread of English in the interests of higher profits would be racist, so it's just not done."

Especially when such criticism is half-backed conjecture you just pulled out of your ass. You call yourself a journalist? Follow up. Make phone call or two. Find some facts.

Oh wait, you're scared of facts, which is why you're not a real journalist.

Never mind.

Anonymous said...

Saban bought Univision? I'm wondering if this is part of a plan to convert America's rapidly growing Latino Catholic population from Christianity to the "Judeo-Christian tradition", as they've done to the ridiculously gullible Evangelicals.