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Why German dubs truely suck!

Why German dubs truely suck!

German dubs disrespect the integrity of films

Why German dubs suckFor Americans and gals and guys from the UK dubs are mostly irrelevant. As far as my friends from the US have told me dubs are mostly frowned upon. You either watch a foreign language movie in it’s original language (with subtitles if needed) or you skip it. Well, in Germany dubs sadly have a long tradition. It’s exactly the other way round: Most Germans never touch the original language. It is common to only watch movies with German dubs. It goes so far that some people even demand that interviews with actors should be dubbed in German.

If you ask me, that is crazy! It is bad enough the actors are dubbed within the movie. Now when the actor talks himself you want to replace his voice (not the voice of his character) with some unrelated German voice actor? Probably sounds crazy to every American, too.

Germans are often made fun of for their bad English. And mostly that stereotype reflects the truth: While Scandinavians are famous for their good English most Germans are not very keen on foreign languages. In Scandinavia all foreign language movies are subtitled and shown in their original language. In Germany this is deemed unthinkable and everything is dubbed. To be honest some cinemas show movies in their original language as well but only seldom and only in the middle of the night or so. Sadly there is not much interest in it. But there should be. That is why I want to give some compelling reasons why German dubs truely suck!

German dubs are schizophrenic

Does not it seem strange that you see a certain actor or actress but hear a completely different voice? For example you see Johnny Depp acting but hear the voice of a completely different guy from Bavaria dubbing his lines. I think that is almost schizophrenic! It is also an insult to the original actor. The voice, the way of speaking, is part of an actor’s art as well. But if you dub this part you erase a part the actor’s work. You exchange the voice of the actor with the one of a stranger. And let’s be honest: It is not very likely some German voice actor is as talented as Johnny Depp ;-) . Even if he was, it is still schizophrenic. If you dub an actor you suddenly have not one, but two persons acting at the same time for the same character. It changes the impression drastically.

German dubs feature many mistranslations

German dubs often feature horrible mistranslations. A recent example would be the movie Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. At the beginning there is talk about a “secretary”. It is clear they mean a minister which would also be translated to “Minister” in German. Well, but guess what the translators made it: They translated it to “Sekretär” which is either a scribe or a bureau secretary…So it makes no sense anymore. The Simpsons is also infamous for it’s extremely bad translation in Germany. For example a common mistake in many episodes is a mistranslation of “swearing”. I know it can either mean cursing or pledging in English. Sadly, the German translators are not blessed with this knowledge cause they always translate “swearing” with “Schwören” which is pledging. In many dialogues the banter between Homer and Bart makes no more sense, cause in German Homer tells Bart “Könntest du mit dem Schwören aufhören?” while he should have sad “Könntest du mit dem Fluchen aufhören?”.

Really all these mistranslations even lead to sillier results. Another prime example is the TV series “Buffy” by Joss Whedon. In the later seasons Buffy and company hunt for Dagon’s sphere. That is an ancient artifact. Somehow the German translators made a mistake and understood “Dagon’s fear”. So in the German dub Dagon’s sphere is always called “Dagon’s Furcht”. Once again this makes no sense at all.

I could go on and on, but I think these few example already show that mistranslations can at best be funny and at worst ruin a movie / series. And they are extremely common.

German dubs often exchange voice actors

Imagine your favourite actor would suddenly speak with a completely different voice! It is common in German dubs. In Germany the director for the dialogue chooses the voice actors. Well, different directors = different tastes. So often the same actor has completely different voices in different movies. Sometimes it’s also a problem when two actors star in one movie who are usually voiced by the same German voice actor. This happened in “Public Enemies” by Michael Mann for example: Johnny Depp and Christian Bale are normally both dubbed by German voice actor David Nathan. So in this case they had to choose a new voice for Bale and kept Nathan for Depp. Is not this bizarre, too?

In German dubs you hear the same voices over and over

There are some German voice actors you seem to hear in almost every dub. Because of this many actors somehow “share” a voice. Just imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger would have the same voice as Sylvester Stallone and even John Cleese and Dan Akroyd – well that is the way it is here in Germany! All those four actors are dubbed by Thomas Danneberg in Germany. Sandra Bullock, Rachel Weisz and Teri Hatcher “share” the same voice, too. These three actresses are all dubbed by Bettina Weiß. In my opinion it is very confusing and also tiring to hear different actors with the same voices over and over

German dubs are cheap and lifeless

German dubs are also bad, cause they are done under extreme money and time constraints. Often a voice actor has to do the voice work for a whole movie in just two days. Of course the voice actors also never meet each other. The results are clear: Characters seem to just talk but not talk to each other. There is no chemistry. And how could there be if the voice actors can’t react to each other? This problem is especially evident in comedy series. For example I love How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. But the German dubs are so bad, most of the humour is completely lost. The chemistry, the timing everything is gone.

German dubs are regularly miscast

A very common mistake are also wrong casting decisions. My prime example is always the fantastic TV series Supernatural! Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) have very deep and manly voices. And this is cool, cause they are often ironic and sometimes a bit chawy. The German dub goes for the exact opposite. The German voice actors both have very high pitched voices that sound very young and a lot like boys. So the mood is changed drastically.

Another example would be Shledon (Jim Parson) in The Big Bang Theory. Parson presents him as very rational and even sometimes cold. He always puts a certain arrogance in the voice of the character that is quite fitting and funny! His German voice actor Gerrit Schmidt-Foß on the other hand plays Sheldon like a gay and whiny character. Honestly he feels vastly different in German. This is a cruel mistake in my opinion as it changes the dynamic of the show.

German dubs sometimes intentionally change the content

This is maybe the worst aspect of dubs. Sometimes someone decides to change the meaning of a movie! This happened with “Starship Troopers” for example. The movie is extremely sarcastic and has many references to faschism. In Germany this was deemed a hot topic, because of our dark past. So they completely changed the meaning of many dialogues and softened it up a lot.

Even worse things happened to Star Trek: Back in the day the ZDF bought the series but could not really get a hang of it. So they originally only broadcasted 40 of the 79 episodes. And they also created a lot of new gags for the dialogue to ease up the atmosphere. This changed the atmosphere of the show a lot. In the German dub there is often a much more goofy mood than there ever was in the original version. Is not this extremely disrespectful to the makers? It’s almost as if the Germans  made fun of their work.

So…These are only some reasons why I wholeheartly think: German dubs suck! To be honest, I understand why some people say: “I can’t understand English. Dubs help me enjoy a movie / series.” I personally would still prefer subtitles in most cases but I get it. Yet for most people this is not even the problem. If they wanted to, they could easily understand the original English audio. They are just too lazy. Of course everyone should decide for him- / herself how to watch a movie or TV series. But this laziness makes me a  bit sad. Cause it means because you are lazy you sacrifice very important pieces of art.

Well…That is all I have to say. I hate German dubs and watch most movies in their original language. The reasons are here :-) .

3 Responses

  1. Hey, guys thankls for the comments! I should keep my blog more up to date…I will write more regularly soon :-) .

    @ Jason

    I think some dubs of animated movies / series are actually okay. The contrast between the actor and some voice actor is not a big there. For example the German dubs of the first two Toy Story movies are actually quite good.

    Otherwise I’d stay away from recent dubs as older dubs tend to be much more listenable. Dubs I consider okay are the ones for Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones 1-3 and Star Wars for example :-) .

  2. Jason

    I am an American who is learning German and I too believe German dubs suck. I watched Fight Club in German and the subtitles didn’t even match the audio!

    Are there any German dubs that you deem to actually be good?

  3. sanne

    You’re so right! In the Netherlands (where I live) films are NOT dubbed :-D

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