Hearing voices

Perhaps I’m unwise to mention this, but for some time now I’ve been hearing voices. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it tends to be while I’m trying to watch a film on TV. I may be possessed by evil spirits, or god may be speaking to me directly. Unfortunately either my evil spirits are Polish or god is Polish. Either way I can only understand about one word in ten, so it’s a highly ineffective method of urging me to commit evil acts or of passing on new revelations to mankind. I could make absurd translation errors and mess the whole thing up.

As much as I’m flattered to have been picked out for special attention by evil spirits and/or god it makes trying to watch Mel Gibson movies very frustrating. The Voice usually butts in about a third of the way through every sentence, so I catch the first three words and then the rest is drowned out by gibberish. It is a little vexing.




Noooooooo!!! NIE

It has been suggested to me that this is just something called a ‘lektor,’ but I’m afraid I’m far too sensible to believe in mythical characters of that kind. Imagine employing somebody to read over all the lines spoken by 17 different actors, male and female, when the perfectly sensible alternative of having subtitles exists – do I look that gullible?

Subtitles: Helping people understand stuff since 1647 (except in Poland)

And anyway I hear them on the tram too.

I love the tram voices. They’re quite helpfully rather than being pointlessly obfuscatory. In Krakow I used to hear the voice of Anna Dymna telling me the name of the next tram stop. She was pretty sexy:

Następny przystanek Plac Inwalidów… aaaaah

Następny przystanek… actually I live just around the corner, perhaps you’d like to come up for a coffee… or something.

Anna Dymna and her apples. Yes, it is worth looking for the original non-cropped image.

These days I hear the voice of Grzegorz Turnau, probably as a punishment for my lascivious imaginings. What next, Krzysztof Globisz!? Cardinal Franciszek Macharski? Doh!

The next stop is HELL… You’re all going to HELL!!

One day they will have Madonna (not THE) and Brad Pitt reading the next stop announcements, with a lektor of course.

The first rule of fight club is that the next stop is… YADA YADA YADA YADA


Enough of this nonsense. They guy on the left is definitely Lithuanian… if you zoom in you can read the label in the back of his shirt and it definitely says ‘made in Lithuania’ in Chinese (reversed).

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24 thoughts on “Hearing voices

  1. boattown guest says:

    Last Friday (10th) there was an interview on Eska Rock with Tomasz Knapik ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA8UUca3k0k ). I was sitting and listening to music, and then, surprised I started to look for a tv set. I was at work, ok, there’s no tele! Calm down, I thought. I tried to ignore the voice, but it was there! And then it occured to me that he’s talking to Figurski. That was scarry.
    Here in Lodz, we don’t have any celebrities telling the names of next tram/bus stops. It’s not fair.

  2. zaimek says:

    Think about all those people who want to multitask and don’t know english that well. Subtitles are great (and I would love to have _an option_ to turn them on) but unless everyone (or majority) can understand what is being said without paying 100% attention they are just as bad. Imagine this was Italy or Germany, and everything would be poorly dubbed.

  3. Michael Farris says:

    Although generally my preference (as a language geek), subtitles are overrated since the dialogue has to be heavily abbreviated. They are also no special help in language learning (since good subtitles will tend to be non-literal)

    I’ll also say that the lektor made learning Polish much harder for me. I could never turn on the tv and expect to only hear Polish (the way you can turn on the tv and only hear Italian in Italy). I’m sure this isn’t a concern of Polish viewers but it can be concern for foreigners in Poland.

    The awful think about the lektor (which also abbreviates/distorts the original dialoge) is that it ruins the movie for those viewers whose first language is the original language of the movie (also not a concern to most Polish people, but a concern for foreigners in Poland). I can watch a movie with a lektor if the movie isn’t in English, but for American fare I’d much rather watch German dubbed tv than Polish lektor tv (even though my Polish is better than my German).

    For general entertainment purposes, dubbing is generally the way to go and the easiest for good quality translations (Polish subtitle translations tend toward the awful). For some series (like the Simpsons) only dubbing can come close the _quantity_ of dialogue necessary. The current dubbed run on Puls isn’t without problems but those problems wouldn’t go away with subtitles or lektor. And I enjoyed the Polish dubbed version of Friends more than I ever enjoyed the original.

  4. ge'ez says:


  5. scatts says:

    Freudian slip. He cropped the other apple.

    Don’t like Hannibal Lektor at all. Dubbing is often very good on kids films and animations. Subtitles not ideal either but would be my vote. Still, I imagine 90%+ of the country don’t give a fig about the original language so why not let Mr Monotone talk all over it.

  6. Ewa says:

    I grew up watching films with lektor and I have to say it doesn’t disturb me at all.
    I dont mind subtitles either but I really, REALLY hate dubbing (exept if it’s animated film off course). I just find it extramely unnatural and fake and annoying, dubbing destroyes all the pleasure I could have watching some good film.

  7. guest says:

    Lektor better than dubbing because you can still hear the original voice.

  8. Michael Farris says:

    “Lektor better than dubbing because you can still hear the original voice”

    No you cannot!!!! You hear the beginning and end of some sentences, even when you can make out all the words (in English) the intonation is lost (which is really important for native speakers).

  9. Ewa says:

    Ok, it is not better if you want to understand what they are talking about in orginal but IT IS if you just want to HEAR the original voice – actor’s voice. I find dubbing very disurbing because I just hear the voice doen’t belong to the actor, comes for somewhere else, dosen’t agree with mouth movement – I just find it extramely annoying.

    So – ok, lektor is not very good when you want to learn the language, but it is MUCH better then dubbing when you just want to enjoy the film.

  10. Jarek says:

    heh, that polish lektor-system is just a mess.

    in germany there are fully translated + multi voice synchronized movies. (well the translations suck most the time but it’s at least not that disturbing like an one voice lektor)

    in the netherlands there are subtitles. (my fav – i love to watch shows in english)

    in poland they have that disturbing one voice lektor. it’s just no fun in watching TV in poland … so i didn’t even bother to buy a proper TV. i only watch polish news and discovery channel (documentations with an one voice lektor are not that bad). and for my fav shows: i download them.

    oh and the worst i’ve ever seen (or heard) in polish tv: lektor voice volume exact the same like the original volume. i didn’t understand anything.

    btw. cartoons and movies for children (like harry potter) are in poland all multi voice synchronized. so it can be done …

  11. Michael Farris says:

    The worst for me is when they show a movie that’s already been dubbed with a lektor. A few times (before getting a dvd player) I’d want to see a movie that I knew wasn’t made in English only to find out that Polish tv was showing a dubbed English version (so the original voices that Polish people like to listen to weren’t original at all).

    My favorite German dubbing is Spongebob Squarepants, which I enjoy more than the original for some reason.

    There as another channel (Polonia 1? Does it still exist?) that would sometimes show American tv shows in dubbed Italian versions with the lektor. That didn’t bother me.

  12. Jacek Wesołowski says:

    Without Polonia 1 and the institution of lektor, there wouldn’t be one of cult memes of my generation, “Yattaman”.

    (yes, the lektor is reciting lyrics of the song in the background)

    However, it cannot be ruled out that it’s an institution in the sense of “asylum”. One thing the lektor says in that clip means: “sometimes he’s here, sometimes he’s there, and sometimes he’s somewhere else”. Pure logic.

  13. wiosanna says:

    I grew up on tv with lektor and for me it’s normal. I prefer subtitles now. I can understand that is hard understand what the lektor is saying especially if you hear the language you know in background (I tried and I got headache). But normal dubbing like in Germany is awful to hear for me. I still remember manly voice of Dana Scully in X-Files in Germany…
    I think there is no good solution that would fit everybody.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a hilarious clip from the film Clerks with Polish lector. It’s amazing the guy could keep an emotionless voice. ;)

  15. BobBob says:

    Countries in Europe that have the highest % of English speakers use subtitles (except for the UK where they voice over with a British accent)

    Poland never seems ‘to connect the dots’

  16. Bob says:

    Guess I was stuttering with the BobBob

  17. michael farris says:

    “except for the UK where they voice over with a British accent”

    Since when does UK tv use a lektor for non-English movies? Since when does UK tv ever show movies not made in English?
    I thought that on the rare occasions they do, they dubbed (lowbrow stuff) or subtitled (for the aht of cinemah). I sometimes wonder what a movie with an English lektor would sound like, but not for long.

    The jury is out on whether actually subtitles help people learn languages (when not backed up by years of classroom experience) but the idea that Polish people need to order their lives around learning a foreign language is just sort of creepy. I personally don’t like the lektor but it is the winner in the market place and if that’s what Polish people want (and the majority clearly do) then that’s what should be used.

    I’ll finally mention one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard was pøяN with a lektor. Hearing some 50 year old guy with a chainsmoker voice intone “I’m a dirty little slut, put it in me, harder, harder!” in that special lektor monotone was guaranteed to whither anyone’s sex drive (unless they’re really into 50 year old male chainsmokers).

  18. adthelad says:

    From an anglopoles point of view it may not be a great system but it’s the best one we have. Polish T.V. is there to entertain and inform Polish people. Not English, French, Italian etc or any mix of them but Polish people.
    Using a lektor you don’t have to be glued to the screen to follow the dialogue and instead you can concentrate on the actors. Secondly you don’t have to hear all the english clearly. It’s enough you see the actors and catch the tone, speed and volume of their speech to be able to catch the character of the acting whilst still understanding the plot.

    Naturally for those of us that understand the film’s original language it can be distracting to be led by the ear everytime the actors speak only to have the train of understanding repeatedly interrupted by the lektor. I don’t really find it a problem, having both languages :)

    Oh and yes I concur, we should all count ourselves very, very, VERY lucky that dubbing is not the norm.

  19. island1 says:

    You’re all right of course. There’s no reason why Polish TV should try and cater to the needs of the tiny number of non-Poles who live here.

    The whole thing was an easy target, and I only wrote it so I could put in the idea about the tram announcements in English with a Polish lektor at the end… well I thought it was funny.

  20. adthelad says:

    sorry for the boring comment – seem to have temporarily misplaced my sense of humour – normal service will be resumed shortly :)

  21. Sylwia says:

    “Unfortunately either my evil spirits are Polish or god is Polish.”

    Many Poles think He is!

    The number of Poles who can speak English has nothing to do with lektor, only with the number of Poles who could choose only Russian as their second language.

    The lektor indeed isn’t a bother to Poles, because unlike you we don’t hear him at all. That is we hear the voices behind, and only the meaning of the words from him. I can’t explain it, but we just hear differently. Problems occur only when we do hear the lektor, which sometimes happens when some TV hires a guy with a wrong voice.

    Dubbing is awful, even in Harry Potter. Actually Poles can dub very well, the problem is that we can’t bear dubbing outside of cartoons.

    I don’t think that watching a film with subtitles helps in learning English, unless those are English subtitles. Otherwise I focus on reading them, no matter the language, and not on listening to the actors. Perhaps it’d be differently if I was used to watching films with subtitles since childhood, but then you all assume that English language films are the most frequent in Polish TV, while in fact it’s rather a novelty. In the past our TV was busy showing films from all over the world. How many languages would you have us learn?

  22. Ewa P. says:

    Sylwia: “Perhaps it’d be differently if I was used to watching films with subtitles since childhood” – but well, aren’t you? I am. OK, maybe I was going to the cinema more frequently than you did, but still :) And I can say, having tasted French and German dubbing (French I know, German… less) I’d prefer lektor any day. As Sylwia has correctly presented, someone who was listening to this kind of thing from childhood doesn’t really hear the reading guy. We catch the voice and intonation of the actor/actress, and lektor is only for giving us the meaning.

    OK, I _do_ prefer subtitles. And for me they definitely helped my language learning (be it English, French or German), because I tried to listen to the actors, and only look at the subtitles when I’m lost. On the other hand, best are English/French/German subtitles… :->

  23. Sylwia says:

    Oh, I’m used to subtitles in cinema, but perhaps with tv it’d be differently. I’d have no choice at all. As it is my problem is that I always focus on reading subtitles, even if they’re in a language that I don’t know, and even if it’s a Polish film with foreign subtitles. Madness!

  24. marlee says:

    I hear voices exactly like you do. I mean you described it PERFECTLY! I always tell people it’s kind of like if you were to patch into a party line telephone system and just get little bits of people’s conversations. Weird.

    Not to scare you or anything but they’re trying to tell me that I have Multiple Personality Disorder and that this is a symptom : /


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