Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Public enemy number one: Lektor

The tension nears the unbearable, muscles clench, the hero is about to save the....some arsehole five rows down starts to fricking chat away and ruins the entire effect. That same sin is committed by the Polish lektor but committed each and every day. I call on all expats based in Poland: Let us track down the nefarious Polish lektor and put an end to his misery-making power.

For the confused, Polish TV and cinema mostly eschews dubbing or sub-titling foreign films or TV shows in favour of having some guy (very rarely some gal) read dialogue just after it is spoken. The original dialogue is audible but quietened. To be clear, one person reads the text for all parts of the film or show. All. Whether of the opposite sex or not.

Poles tend to love the lektor. A poll I found on the internet showed that only 19% of Poles would prefer subtitles to the lektor. One Polish forum I found saw broad support for the lektor over subtitles or dubbing since no one wants to "read a show" and dubbing was deemed poorly done.

Fair enough. But what about the disruption?

When I ask my Polish friends how in the hell they can even follow the plot, most say the lektor becomes invisible. He sort of installs himself in the brain and the text is read out and understand almost sub-consciously.

Sounds easy enough. But I have tried this trick. I just can't stop listening to the original person speak English. Usually, I'll start following the lektor, but then naturally start trying to listen to the actual speech, I'll not hear something, I'll try to figure out where the lektor is, get lost, the scene changes, I've missed something, then I turn the channel.

The lektor is not as much of a problem these days as he was. The interwebs and digital TV mean you can pretty much watch a show in any language you want any time you want.

But this does not account for the educational damage done by the lektor. Sure, it's easier to listen than read subtitles. But Poland's two education ministers in 2008 said they wanted to encourage TV to add subtitles in order to help Poles learn foreign languages. The lektor thus stops learning.

I say this motion should be re-heated -- nooo, this is not selfish -- and all TV should be subtitled.


  1. Scott you have found probably my largest pet peeve here in Poland. As you said almost every Pole LOVES this blight on the landscape that is TV. It is easily more annoying than having someone bite their fingernails, slurp soup or sniff constantly on the metro when sitting next to you. It certainly has an impact on peoples learning of other languages, but also upon people reading. As we know Polish adults read less than a book a year on average and I think it is partly down to the Lektor culture. I also love to argue with Poles about who is a good actor as they never get to hear the actor act. And this also explains why they do not understand accents either. It gets me so angry that I want to leave the room as soon as I hear it. The fact a lektor does both male and female, young and old all in the same voice?! I mean honestly you might as well watch the movie and listen to the radio at the same time. Surely to cost of creating subtitles is cheaper than employing a lektor as you are obviously already employing someone to translate and write a script for the lektor!

  2. It is annoying, isn't it? Thankfully, I rarely have the problem anymore since I watch very little TV other than news in Polish.