AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 7, Number 2. May 2023 Pp. 44-66

Translating Cultural Features in Arabic Subtitles of English Literary Film Adaptations between Domestication and Foreignization

Department of Modern Languages, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom
Department of Languages and Translation, Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


The fundamental dilemma that always faces Arabic subtitlers of English films is whether to maintain the Western cultural features or find cultural equivalents to make the content more accessible to the Arab viewer. Building upon Venuti’s (1995; 1998) distinction between domestication and foreignization methods of translation, this article aims to explore the effect of different types of subtitling strategies used in translating English literary film adaptations on Arab audiences. The article, thus, fills a gap in the literature on audiovisual studies in the Arab world and provides an applied framework for analysing the effect of subtitling strategies on the target audience. The main question raised is whether domesticating or foreignizing the original English cultural features leads to a closer equivalent effect among Arab audiences. To answer this question, the researcher explored the methods used in Arabic subtitles of cultural features in two film adaptations of Jane Eyre. The researcher initially collected 38 samples of cultural references from the opening minutes of the two film adaptations, classifying them equally based on whether they were translated using domestication or foreignization strategies. Classification of subtitling strategies was derived from Gottlieb’s (1992) and Díaz-Cintas and Remael’s (2021) models. Quantitative data analysis indicated that domestication leads to higher rates of equivalent effect, a result validated by the responses of Arab audience to a questionnaire, which revealed that 51.28% of the 39 participants considered domesticating strategies more successful in achieving the equivalent effect in the subtitles, in comparison to only 12.82% who agreed with applying foreignization strategies.

Cite as:

Al-Kahtani, A.  (2023). Translating Cultural Features in Arabic Subtitles of English Literary Film Adaptations between Domestication and Foreignization . Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 7 (2): 44-66.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awejtls/vol7no2.4.


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Abeer Al-Kahtani is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Exeter and a Translation Lecturer in the Department of Languages and Translation at Imam Muhammed Ibn Saud Islamic University, Saudi Arabia. She is interested in the field of Audiovisual translation, particularly subtitling the cultural references in literary-based films such as Jane Eyre film adaptations.
ORCID ID:  https://orcid.org/0009-0006-8276-948X