We’ve watched TV in all the countries we’ve been to so far. That means we’ve seen a lot of dubbed TV programmes that were originally filmed in English. At first it was really annoying, but now that we’ve learnt a bit about dubbed TV programmes and how to watch them, we’ve decided it’s not so bad.

Dubbing started in different countries for different reasons

In Italy, Mussolini didn’t want people to hear foreign voices. He insisted that subtitles should replace the voices so people could read the dialogue instead of listening to it. Unfortunately, literacy was very low in Italy at the time so not many people could follow what was going on. Instead of addressing the literacy problem, dubbing was brought in to replace the subtitles and it soon became the norm.

Like in many other countries, dubbing has been embraced in France to preserve the French language and ensure that it’s the default for people living in France.

Some film stars have ‘designated voices’

Famous actors often get dubbed by the same dubbing artist throughout their careers. These dubbing artists are called ‘designated voices’. We watched a film called ‘Being George Clooney’ about the dubbing artists who dub George Clooney’s voice in films. Each country has a single George Clooney voice actor apart from Germany, which has 2 because Steven Soderbergh shafted the original one when he insisted on auditioning dubbing artists for ‘Oceans 11’ and picked someone new for the job. When the film was released, German audiences were very confused when George Clooney suddenly had a new voice.

There’s often a way to avoid the dubbing

In Spain, there was almost always a button we could press on the remote control to watch the original version in English. In other countries, we had to do a bit more work fiddling around in the TV settings, but we could normally reset at least one programme or film to English.

It gets tricky if a country speaks more than one language

Apparently when they go to the cinema, most Swiss people prefer to see the original version of a film rather than the dubbed version. This can cause problems in a multi-lingual country like Switzerland, though. It often means you only see the top half of the film because the bottom half is taken up with both German and French subtitles. Sounds exhausting!