Ministry sides with subtitles in movie debate

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Barely a week goes by in Hungary before social media regulars run into yet another “subtitles vs dubbing” discussion, like the one pictured above. But now the Ministry for Innovation and Technology has made it official that the government favors subtitles, news portal Mandiner writes.

The ministry said in a statement that this was part of a comprehensive drive to increase Hungarians’ language skills as proposed by the National Council for Competitiveness. Looking at language skill statistics, the ministry may have a strong case: according to Eurostat data, among the 28 member states of the EU Hungary is second-to-last, only trailed by Ireland.


But with a long tradition in movie dubbing – giving work to small studios and many actors – the battle is far from over. The professional groups are understandably lobbying in favor of dubbing.

Also, the majority of Hungarian adults have grown up with Hungarian actors lending their voices to such iconic characters as the detectives Columbo and Kojak, agent Fox Mulder or – for a more recent example – locally well-known Károly Rékasi as the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Dubbing, however, does not only prevent Hungarians from at least hearing a foreign language: mistranslations and length constraints often lead to strange results. For instance, the famous last line of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” translated back from the Hungarian dubbed version slightly differently: “Louis, you are just as sentimental as I am”.   

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