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A sheer pleasure to have YOU as a reader of my blog. At present my main teaching area is English so you will find that most of my posts are in English -my second language of communication. I promise to publish posts related to Spanish eventually; in the meantime, those of you interested in Spanish will find some interesting links regarding my native language. Truly hope you will visit my blog now and then; will try not to disappoint you!

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GÄVLE, Sweden
I am an English/Spanish language trainer who thinks communication is a key issue in human interaction. Good sensible communication is needed whatever the language. On the personal side I strive for happiness by keeping love, respect and honesty as main ingredients. Last but not least, my smile is my trademark :O)

7 de noviembre de 2010

TO DUB OR NOT TO DUB

Today's newspaper, El País, featured an article Aprenda inglés con Brad Pitt y Angelina Jolie that I am sure has arisen many readers' remarks and opinions. This same topic crops up in my classes now and then when discussing Spanish learners' doubtful success in speaking English fluently. There seem to be many arguments to back up the poor fluency of most of my countryfolk when facing a situation in which they need to communicate in English; and among them one that is much agreed on is the fact that we watch TV and films in our mother tongue, i.e. they are dubbed, and consequently, this seems to prevent us from developing better listening and speaking skills.

Even our Minister of Education, Ángel Gabilondo, has remarked that dubbing films affects negatively in our mastering of languages. To complement the information gathered by Francesco Manetto -the author of the article-, there are two other interesting articles. One in favour of not dubbing by Fernando Galván, who writes Oído menos acostumbrado , and another one in favour of letting the viewer choose by Luis Moser-Rothschild, who writes La realidad y la libertad del espectador .

And what's my view in all this?

Well, I am more in favour of letting the viewer choose, although I do realise that being exposed to the language, English in this case, will always benefit the learning process. But, let's be realistic in all this, watching all the films and TV series in English will not guarantee that we will speak English fluently and more easily. In essence, the teaching-learning process needs to be approached in a communicative way so that the learner becomes the centre of the learning process and the teacher becomes an interlocutor, a guide, a facilator, an instructor, a trainer. Fortunately, this is happening more and more in our schools nowadays, and the aid of native-speaker assisstants provide a great support to our non-native-speaker teachers during the teaching-learning process.

Fernando Galván says that, according to a Eurostat report, half of the Spanish population between 25 and 64 cannot speak a second language, but I think we would be very simplistic if we are to blame this inability to the fact that they have not been able to watch films and TV series in the original version. There's more than that for certain. Right now, and as Luis Moser-Rothschild explains, anybody can decide whether to watch a film or their favourite TV series in the original version or dubbed, and if it isn't available, the blame should be put somewhere else.

More and more students of English are taking to this, but a setback appears eventually: they can't move a step forward which is to switch to no-subtitles, so they end up stuck in this situation. I mean, it's ok for them to watch a movie in the original version with subtitles, in Spanish first and, then, when their command of the language improves they move to English subtitles. However, they get so used to relying on this ¨scaffolding¨ that when faced with watching a movie without subtitles they simply miss a great part of it, so they back out and their frustration is initiated again. I am not saying this to support the view that not dubbing isn't effective......IT IS! but I want to make clear that dubbing is not the culprit of our poor listening skill in English. There's more to this, which I will not discuss in this post. I just wanted to offer my personal opinion on this.

On the other hand, I do think that exposing children to their favourite cartoons and other programmes in English will benefit them considerably. There is a ¨minor¨ drawback: they will not be very willing to do so because watching TV is an enterntainment for them, not a ¨class of English¨; having to read takes away most of the fun, let's face it! Thus, one almost needs to ¨force¨ them to do so. I have to do this with my 8-year-old daughter, and I must admit I'm not always successful. Mind you! Our children and youngsters listen to a lot of English in their music, so this should also count in their favour. When I hear my daughter singing an English song she likes, she gets most of the lyrics right, and she doesn't understand all of it, so something must be improving then!

Scandinavian countries are well-known for their impressive skills in speaking English as a second language. Still, let's not forget that their mother-tongues belong to the Germanic languages . Our mother-tongue belongs to the Romance languages and this should be taken into account as well, since English sounds so alien to us at the beginning. I have been told that Germany and France dub most of their films -please, correct me if I'm wrong-, and they seem to outdo us when it comes to understanding English. One nationality that I am very impressed with is the Portuguese. It is true that they do watch their programmes in the original version, so I gather this facilitates their better auditory and oral skills, but I must also say something in their favour, their vowel system is richer than ours. I will talk about this in another entry in the future.

Least but not last, Spanish dubbing has always shown great professionalism and we cannot wipe them out just because we are made to believe that they are harmful when it comes to learning English.

In conclusion, ¨to dub or not to dub¨ should not be the target on which to blame this obstacle we, Spaniards, have when using English communicatively. There is more to it than that! Having said that, we should encourage our students to watch their favourite programmes in the original version because it will certainly benefit their skills.

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