Pedagogical devices: On the subtitling of Atayalic speech in Indigenous films from Taiwan

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The "partial translation"of Inuktitut-language lyrics in the Indigenous film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (directed by Zacharias Kunuk, 2001) has been interpreted as a means of challenging outsiders to understand the film "emically,"meaning from insiders' perspectives. On this interpretation, Atanarjuat is linguistically exclusionary, because the challenge of partial translation effectively excludes most outsiders from a full understanding. But given the problem of language shift in Indigenous communities, we should not expect Indigenous films to be linguistically exclusionary in general, or they would exclude young Indigenous insiders along with outsiders. We should instead expect Indigenous films to adopt an inclusionary approach to subtitling, consistent with projects of language revitalization. To see what form such an approach might take, I analyzed three Indigenous films from Taiwan in which speech in Atayalic languages is subtitled in Mandarin. Staggered over three-and-a-half decades, these three films index the subtitling approach as a function of concern about language shift. I found that all three films were fully, not partially translated, but that the two films made in a context of concern about language shift were subtitled pedagogically. The two pedagogically subtitled films are "devices"for the pedagogy of Atayal, the most widely spoken Atayalic language. This result from Taiwan suggests that a pedagogical approach might be common in the subtitling of Indigenous films in settler societies around the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-440
Number of pages25
Issue number3
Early online date28 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs (FIT) Revue Babel.


  • Taiwan
  • subtitling
  • indigenous film
  • language shift
  • sous-titrage
  • Taïwan
  • language revitalization
  • revitalisation linguistique
  • changement de langue
  • film autochtone
  • Indigenous film


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