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I am a huge fan of Breaking Bad and I am currently watching season -3. One thing that I have noticed is that there are several scenes where characters talk in Spanish and some of these scenes are quite important for following the story, but they never show language translations or subtitles. Why is it that? What is the reason for not translating the Spanish dialogues for the viewers.

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I'm not sure this is the right answer, so I'll comment it only. This is Walt's story, as told by Walt, to the audience which may include some Spanish-speakers. Walt doesn't understand Spanish. Like Walt, the audience participants have to experience the dialogue with lack of understanding if necessary. –  wbogacz May 1 '13 at 10:44
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@wbogacz I'd say half right. Cause if it was purely Walt's story, then we wouldn't get any background on Gus or any semblance of why Jesse is all crazed out. But on the right track. –  TylerShads May 1 '13 at 11:56
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Probably because it won't add anything to the plot. Yes, it'll be fun to know what the characters are saying in Spanish but more or less not great value to the plot. Plus it adds another layer of obscurity to the plot, IMO. –  KeyBrd Basher May 2 '13 at 6:35
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I'm a native Spanish speaker, and I can tell you that you are not missing any major plot details whenever a Spanish dialogue occurs. In fact, the Spanish accent is so bad sometimes that even I have a hard time trying to catch what they are saying. –  reno812 May 3 '13 at 0:08
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I speak Spanish, too, and after learning that Gus was supposed to be a Chilean, I started shaking my head every time I heard him speak his horrendous Spanish. –  Flimzy May 25 '13 at 7:08

3 Answers 3

up vote 22 down vote accepted

It's a deliberate directorial device. We're experiencing the world through Walt and Jessie's eyes, so it allows us to appreciate their confusion, suspicion and fear through the powerlessness they feel when events are unfolding around them - with little understanding and consequent lack of control. We're left to interpret the body language (of which 70% of communication arises) and the odd words that are similar in both languages. Just as we would in the same situation. shudder

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So if this is entirely Walt's story, why are we seeing these scenes where they only speak Spanish and where Walt is hundreds of miles away? I'm quite confused about these scenes too, because they add nothing to the plot, there's no way Walt or Jesse would know about any of this, so there doesn't seem to be any purpose to them...why spend ten minutes showing a meeting between a bunch of characters when you can't understand what they're saying, there's no real tone to the conversation, it's not being perceived by any of the primary characters, so the only information you get is that two guys mee –  Brian Flowers Aug 15 '13 at 4:59
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My answer already explains this, but to simplify: it would be incongruous to suddenly start showing subtitles. Doing so would force us to leave the moment and the whole point is that you are along for the ride, the acting is of such a high standard that it gives you enough information to figure out a rough idea what is going on. You're no (-t much) further ahead than Walt and Jesse, who will be figuring things out with the same small set of clues. –  Chandra42 Sep 27 '13 at 11:18

You have not really said who "they" is, but on the Breaking Bad Wiki as well as the Blu-ray they are shown.

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I've only seen the show as the DVD box set, so the original showing may have been different, but some of the scenes are subtitled, and some aren't. This doesn't seem accidental, or sloppy - like everything in the series, it has meaning and it adds to the development of the story.

The most powerful examples of this are two scenes with the Cousins.

At the end of S3 06, Gus meets the Cousins in the desert, in a very tense confrontation. It's not subtitled, but it doesn't need to be. We know the Cousins want to kill Walt, and we know Gus needs him alive, at least for the time being. They argue about it, Gus says something that makes them think... then he says Hank's name, very clearly. And we know that he's given them Hank, to kill, instead of Walt, and the credits roll.

The very next scene (the first scene of S3 07) is subtitled throughout. The Cousins, as small boys, squabble over a toy, and one (Marco) runs to their uncle (Hector) to complain, and says he wants his brother (Leonel) dead. Hector calls Leonel to him, and plunges his head into a barrel of water, holding him there, asking Marco if that's what he wants. Marco pummels Hector desperately until he releases Leonel, and asks him tearfully if he's all right. Hector tells them: 'Family is all'. Not only does this tell us why the Cousins, and the cartel, are such implacable enemies... it also horrifies us to see the innocence of two little boys who we know will become utterly evil and remorseless. But the entire scene would be incomprehensible without the dialogue, so the subtitles are essential.

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protected by Community Aug 20 '13 at 13:11

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