An Intercultural Perspective on Subtitling Cultural Gaps for International Films: A Case of Fifteen Iranian Films

Saleh Sanatifar (1) , Leelany Ayob (2)
(1) Translation Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800, Penang, Malaysia. , Malaysia
(2) Translation Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800, Penang, Malaysia. , Malaysia


Cultural products, particularly films, are considered tools for exporting and diffusing the culture of one society to another. Films selected for international festivals are a case in point. However, subtitling such films for an audience of other languages is a demanding task. This challenge may negatively impact the films' qualification, although they may technically and aesthetically be evaluated and ranked on top. The attraction of the films screened depends largely on how successfully certain features of the films, such as cultural references, including the lexical gaps, are treated in English subtitling. The present study aimed to study the lexical gaps in several Iranian films screened at international festivals. To identify lexical gaps between Persian and English, as the international and common language of subtitling for international film festivals, Darwish’s (2010) taxonomy of lexical gaps is used, and to explore how they were handled in the English subtitles, Pederson’s (2011) source-oriented, target-oriented, and neither-source-nor-target oriented subtitling strategies were employed. The results revealed that cultural substitution and generalization (paraphrasing) were two target-oriented strategies more frequently used in subtitling the lexical gaps and cultural terms.

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Saleh Sanatifar (Primary Contact)
Leelany Ayob
Author Biographies

Saleh Sanatifar, Translation Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800, Penang, Malaysia.

Saleh Sanatifar has Ph.D. in Translation Studies from Universiti Sains Malaysia. He is a member of Iranian Translators and Interpreters Association (ITIA), currently working as a freelance translator, subtitler, and translation researcher. The author has a long list of publications in the world’s reputable journals. One of the author’s current projects focuses on the subtitling into English of an Iranian culture-oriented documentary, approved by UNESCO (2022). His main areas of interest include audiovisual translation and cross-cultural studies.

Leelany Ayob, Translation Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800, Penang, Malaysia.

Leelany Ayob is a Senior Lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia. Her research interests include audiovisual translation and interpreting. Her publication circles around interpreter training and subtitling and her most recent publication is a co-authored article entitled, research on blended teaching of English interpretation in vocational colleges under the background of informatization (2021) and, forthcoming, is a sole-authored chapter in a book entitled, utilizing mock scenario as community interpreting pedagogical tool. Her current research project focuses on boosting the use of Subtitle for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH) and Malaysian Sign Language (MSL) for the inclusivity of the deaf in Malaysian context.

Sanatifar, S., & Ayob, L. (2022). An Intercultural Perspective on Subtitling Cultural Gaps for International Films: A Case of Fifteen Iranian Films . Journal of Intercultural Communication, 22(4), 22–36.

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