Law Would Make Translations of Foreign-Language Ads Mandatory

The Communist party is pushing new legislation that would require Czech equivalents on all foreign-language signage

The practice of television and film dubbing, whereby Czech actors provide voice-overs for foreign films in place of localized subtitles, has historically been a controversial one in the Czech Republic.  

A couple of years ago, a group of students even launched a campaign to put an end to the practice, calling it a relic of communism that puts the Czech Republic linguistically behind other countries where dual audio channels and subtitling of foreign-language programs is the norm.

Now a group of politicians wants to make dubbing mandatory in the Czech world at large, so to speak, proposing that street signs, bill boards, banners, even movie posters should have Czech-language equivalents, reports

Czech speakers who would have a hard time understanding an advert for the film Batman, for example, could see a version of the ad that includes the Czech for “Bat Man” (Netopýří muž); likewise, establishments offering accommodation (“Rooms”) would need to provide signage reading “Volné pokoje.”

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According to Communist Party MPs Gabriela Hubáčková (KSČM) and Marta Semelová (KSČM), the deputies behind the bill, the change would aid Czechs who lack basic skills in other languages while helping foreigners better integrate.

“Part of the law of most European countries, including EU Member States is a legislative basis for the national, state or official language and the language in these countries also enjoys appropriate protection,” they wrote.

According to the party, 30 percent of Czech citizens do not communicate in any other foreign languages. Opponents are calling the law draconian.

Aside from ensuring that all mass-media advertising become Czech friendly, the proposal suggests that business owners would need to prove that they can speak Czech with customers or face a fine of up to 50,000 CZK.

“It is thinking from another age,” said Jiri Zlatuška (ANO), chairman of the House Education Committee. If approved, the bill, he said, “could give the impression that the parliamentary majority has an IQ that might not reach ninety.”

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In an opinion piece from last year, Reflex columnist Marek Švehla suggested another extreme: that the Czech Republic adopt English as its official language

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