Strange accent in dubbed western movies

May 15, 2011, 05:56 PM posted in General Discussion

Yesterday I finally stumbled on the name for the strange accent used in dubbing western movies/tv shows into Chinese - its called '译制腔.'  I'd been wondering for awhile what its called (since it obviously resembles no normal Chinese regional accent, nor does it seem particularly close to the way foreigners butcher Chinese, though it is perhaps designed to resemble that in the strange rythym and emphasis).

I also stumbled upon an interesting internet debate over whether it should be disposed of -

Personally I'm for getting rid of it - I rarely watch Western movies dubbed into Chinese, as the accent just feels too weird and artificial.  If they would speak in a more normal manner (wouldn't even have to be standard, a normal Chinese regional accent would be fine) I'd watch quite a bit more...

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May 16, 2011, 03:02 AM

Hi tingyun - you say that 译制腔 is 'the name for the strange accent...' - can you elaborate a bit? The characters seem to suggest the process of translating with an accent. What I mean is, the expression seems to be value-free, while your discovery suggests an accepted expression for a particular accent.

I think I understand something of what you mean, but I would not have concluded that there is a SINGLE accent used in dubbing Western films. If it is an action movie, granted the voice of the hero may seem 'over the top' macho. Or I have noticed that female characters are often given a silly 'girly' voice. (But female characters in Chinese films and TV shows often have a silly girly voice too.) But I can't say I have noticed a single recognisable accent used in all Western films. I would have thought that we hear sterotyped voices rather than a particular accent. 

Is it possible that there is only one or two companies that do most of the dubbing of Western movies? After all there are supposed to be only 20 new films per year shown on the mainland.  Could it be that we are hearing the same voices over and over again? 

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My understanding is it mostly manifests as unnatural lengthening and shortening, and emphasizing, the pronunciation of certain syllables. Its not like most regional accents where you can point out some particular sound as changing, rather its a change in rhythm and emphasis, resulting in a very strange feel. As for the name, I think it just refers to the accent used when dubbing - 译制电影 would be a term for translated films - so you are probably right that the name itself only means that it is translated in a special accent, rather than indicating that there is one specific one.

We probably are getting alot of the same voices - I also think I remember hearing once that alot of the people come from the same training institutions, where it's probably taught. Though when I skimmed that bbs discussion some people were raising doubts as to whether the particular accent currently used is capable of enduring - contrasting it to some regional accents - so maybe in 10 years it will be a substantially different thing.

Though I really wish they would just dispense with adopting a strange accent. Perhaps its because Chinese audiences expect weirdness from white/black/every other color faces speaking Chinese? Eh, though judging from the thread at least some agree that its just too grating on the ears and should be gotten rid of.

At any rate, I do think there is some level of consistency in the accent - I've caught quite a few western movies, and a few cartoons, in Chinese, and it all feels weird in the same way (at least, I could definitely identify any dubbed movie and distinguish from a recording of a Chinese speaker, regardless of the regional accent - and regardless of how affected a manner the character was speaking). Also, when I was playing around with google search, I ran into this link - - the guy posted a paragraph, and then asked for its dubbing accent pronunciation "求一段话的译制腔说法" adding at the end that he wanted to know what parts to lengthen the pronunciation of "就是怎么读,哪个地方需要拉长音," Which also leads me to think there's something of a standard. Though it could be that the only common element is some weirdness in emphasis, lengthening, and rhythm, and the common feeling I get is only common in that general respect, and not in exactly how the weird emphasis/lengthening places are selected (the person posting might have been expecting more consistency than existed I guess)...

Anyway, I'd noticed this some time ago, but yesterday was the first I'd run into someone who gave me a name (also, I always wondered whether I might be imagining it), here's the chatlog if its informative:

me: 我看美国电影中文配音版本的时候,就觉得所有里面的人的口音很奇怪,像他们故意弄出一种外国人口音(但不像真正的外国口音)。。。这是不是我的想象力太强?或者他们真的有一种奇怪的口音?

Ye: 对,他们故意的,我们叫“译制”腔,很奇怪的

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Hi tingyun

Thanks for the elaboration, interesting.

There is another weirdness in some films. I watched some of Rush Hour last night on TV and was struck at the time by the oddness of seeing Chinese characters being dubbed. And then trying to remember.. in the original, do some of the bad guys speak Chinese, and the viewer sees sub-titles? ? Or do they all speak English/dubbed in English in the original. It's like the weirdness watching Japan v China war movies with everyone speaking Chinese. Sometimes I say to my wife: is that a Japanese or Chinese person, I've forgotten.

Anyway, that is a bit off topic - I will pay closer attention to dubbed voices in future looking for what you refer to above.

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I think I do remember some of them speaking Chinese in the original - some scene about an apple and a knife in a car comes to mind.

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May 16, 2011, 11:58 AM

Here in Taiwan, I don't notice a strange accent, but it seems there are a handful of voice "actors" who have a monopoly on the dubbing.  (I use the word "actors" very liberally, as the voice actors are so bad it's almost unbearable to listen to).

Anyway, I seriously think they use the same 4 or 5 people to dub everything (movies, TV, cartoons, even Chinese study material).  There is one woman's voice who I hear ALL the time.  Taiwan gets a lot of Korean dramas, and this one woman will do them all...she'll even do a women's voice and a young boy or girl's voice in the same scene.  It's quite amusing to hear her lower her voice to do a boy's voice.  I've also heard her voice in many of the Chinese dialogs from the 師大 CD's that come with their Chinese textbooks (Practical Audio Visual books).  I can't listen to her without wanting to shoot myself!  Unfortunately I have no choice as I need these for my studies.

Somewhat back on topic, I notice that a lot of the normal rhythm is destroyed because many voice actors try too hard to time their voice with the original actor's mouth, making certain words longer or shorter, more emphasized, etc. based on the situation.  I'm not sure if that has anything to do with what you're referring to Tingyun.

I can't bear to listen to dubbed Chinese, at least here in Taiwan.  It drives me crazy, so I just change the channel or find another option.

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Ah, you know I think I've heard some of those actors you mention - a long time ago I got some Korean dramas and they were all dubbed in Taiwan. But unless they adopt an entirely different approach when doing western ones, I think this particular kind of 译制腔 might be a mainland thing. I remember people in that bbs post were contrasting it with Taiwan accent (in noting the relative staying power of the latter) - though I was just skimming quickly so I'm not sure if they were particularly talking of Taiwan dubbing.