Subtitling Hong Kong Code-Mixing and Code-Switching

The case of Netflix English and Spanish official subtitles for Hongkonese audiovisual creations




Cantonese audiovisual content, Hong Kong audiovisual media, Netflix subtitles, multilingual subtitling, code-mixing and code-switching, multilingual translation strategies


Translation has largely been considered a process involving only two languages, source and target. However, plurilingual audiovisual content has proliferated over the last few decades, reflecting, as a result, the world’s linguistic intermingling. Such a plurality complicates both theoretical categorizations and translation practices. Even though multilingualism in the media has received scholarly attention, more explorations are needed to ascertain the translation processes and methods adopted to handle linguistically diverse source texts in the streaming era.

The present piece of research tentatively explores the treatment given to Cantonese and English code-mixing and code-switching present in Hongkonese films and TV shows currently streamed on Netflix, the video-on-demand platform. This article probes a selection of such content and compares the original dialogues with official Chinese, English and Spanish subtitles. Preliminary results point towards a loss of linguistic diversity and nuance caused by subtitling processes. The differentiated roles that both languages originally play in creating comedic, stylistic, or emphatic effects are rarely retained, possibly affecting viewers’ reception and appreciation. This article argues that further attention should be paid to the translation and adaptation of code-mixing and code-switching present in Hongkonese creations, both by the industry and academia, if such a multilingual reality is to be portrayed successfully via subtitles.


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