Code-switching and screen translation in British and American films and their Italian dubbed version: a socio-linguistic and pragmatic perspective


  • Silvia Monti University of Pavia



multilinguism, multicultural films, codeswitching, audiovisual translation


Much attention has been recently focused on exploring how a language shapes its speakers’ identity in multiethnic contexts of interaction (Carter, 2004), where linguistic identities are constantly open to renegotiation, reconstruction and reinterpretation. From this perspective, multicultural audiovisual products prove to be one of the most apt media to represent the richness and complexity of real-life multilingual realities (Bleichenbacher, 2008) within which code-switching plays a crucial role. Starting from these assumptions, this paper sets out to investigate the conversational functions code-switching fulfils in two British and two American intercultural films: Bend it Like Beckham (Chadha, 2002), Ae Fond Kiss (Loach, 2004), Spanglish (Brooks, 2004) and Gran Torino (Eastwood, 2008), where it is functional both to plot development and to the bilingual immigrants’ characterisation (Wahl 2008). In establishing a specific socio-linguistic and pragmatic framing within which code-switching seems to operate in audiovisual products, the film scripts will be analysed: looking contrastively, in both the original and the Italian dubbed version, at the translation strategies of the different types of code-switching; focusing on the scenes where code-switching emphasizes the competing visions of the world held by the two generations (Myers-Scotton, 1993); pointing out which functions of code-switching are encoded in the Italian version and which ones are lost in translation; showing what can be achieved by both dubbing and subtitling in terms of transcultural transmission in conveying the “translaguaging space” (Wei, 2011, p. 1222) the immigrant characters live in.


Auer, P. (Ed.). (2007). Style and social identities: Alternative approaches to linguistic heterogeneity. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Auer, P., & Wei, L. (2007). Handbook of multilingualism and multilingual communication. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Bleichenbacher, L. (2008). Multilingualism in the movies: Hollywood characters and their language choices. Tübingen: Francke.

Bucholtz, M., & Hall, K. (2005). Identity and interaction: A socio-cultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies, 7(4–5), 586–614.

Carra, J. N. (2009). The presence of Spanish in American movies and television shows: Dubbing and subtitling strategies. Vial, 6, 51–71.

Carter, R. (2004). Language and creativity: The art of common talk. London: Routledge.

Dasgupta, S. D. (1998). Gender roles and cultural continuity in the Asian Indian immigrant community in the U.S. Sex Roles, 38(11–12), 953–974.

Díaz-Cintas, J., Matamala, A., & Neves, J. (Eds.). (2010). New insights into audiovisual translation and media accessibility. Media for All 2. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Freddi, M., & Pavesi, M. (Eds.). (2009). Analysing audiovisual dialogue: Linguistic and translational insights. Bologna: CLUEB.

Heiss, C. (2004). Dubbing multilingual films: A new challenge. Translators’ Journal, 49, 208–220.

Hua, Z. (2008). Duelling languages, duelling values: Code-switching in bilingual intergenerational conflict talk in diasporic families. Journal of Pragmatics, 40, 1799–1816.

Kallivayalil, D. (2004). Gender and cultural socialization in Indian immigrant families in the United States. Feminism & Psychology, 14(4), 535–559.

Monti, S. (2010). Screen translation as gateway and gate-keeping in Ae Fond Kiss. In A. Elimam & V. Flippance (Eds.), CTIS Occasional Papers, 4(1) (pp. 24–48). Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Monti, S. (2009). Language use and multiple identity: A transcultural approach to Ae Fond Kiss. In D. Torretta, M. Dossena, & A. Sportelli (Eds.), Forms of migration: Migration of forms (pp. 3–20). Bari: Progredit.

Monti, S. (2009) Code-switching and multicultural identity in screen translation. In M. Freddi & M. Pavesi (Eds.), Analysing audiovisual dialogue: Linguistic and translational insights (pp. 165–185). Bologna: CLUEB.

Myers-Scotton, C. (1993). Social motivations for code-switching. Oxford: Clarendon.

Pavesi, M. (2008). Spoken language in film dubbing: Target language norms, interference and translational routines. In D. Chiaro, C. Heiss, & C. Bucaria (Eds.), Between text and image: Updating research in screen translation (pp. 79–99). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Pavesi, M. (2009). Dubbing English into Italian: A closer look at the translation of spoken language. In J. Díaz-Cintas (Ed.), New trends in audiovisual translation (pp. 201–213). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Serban, A., Matamala, A., & Lavaur, J. (Eds.). (2011). Audiovisual translation in close-up: Practical and theoretical approaches. Bern: Peter Lang.

Wahl, C. (2008). Du Deutscher, Toi Français, You English: Beautiful!: The polyglot film as a genre. In M. Christensen & N. Erdŏgan (Eds.), Shifting landscapes: Film and media in European context (pp. 334–350). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

Wei, L. (2011). Moment analysis and translaguaging space: Discursive construction of identities in multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 1222–1235.


Ansell, J. & Sakai, R. (Producers) & Brooks, L.J. (Director). (2004). Spanglish [Motion Picture]. United States: Gracie Films.

Chadha, G. (Producer & Director) (2002). Bend It Like Beckham [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: British Sky Broadcasting, British Screen Productions, Helkon Media.

Eastwood, C. (Producer & Director). (2008) Gran Torino [Motion Picture]. United States: Village Roadshow Pictures, Malpaso Productions.

O’Brien, R. (Producer) & Loach, K. (Director). (2004). Ae Fond Kiss. United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain: Bianca Film.




How to Cite

Monti, S. (2013). Code-switching and screen translation in British and American films and their Italian dubbed version: a socio-linguistic and pragmatic perspective. Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series – Themes in Translation Studies, 13.