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Subtitling: What, why, and how?

Subtitling is a multilingual process that displays the synchronous translation of audio content in text format on the screen. We're sure you've all seen a "subtitled original version" before. It involves accurately translating the initial message into on-screen text which complies with various visibility and legibility restrictions. Although subtitling may seem like a case of simply typing the translation of what's being said, many are often surprised by the number of rules the translation has to conform with: Maximum number of characters per line, subtitle display duration, intervals between subtitles, etc.

By choosing an audiovisual translator to take care of your content, you can be sure that you'll get adapted and compliant subtitles. This experienced professional, who specializes in the topic at hand, follows the same rules as the transcribed, namely:

  • Research, research, research: The subtitler will make sure that terminology is accurately translated and that the style of the original document is maintained. Of course, the tone and vocabulary for a sports ad won't be the same as those for an industrial conference talk. As is the case with any translation, the professional linguist will identify any cultural differences, in order to optimally localize the content;
  • Fluent and natural writing: For an optimal target text, sentences need to be fluid and respect the various syntax norms and standards applicable. Awkward phrasing, repetitions, and other unfortunate wordings will only be kept under the express instructions of the client, or if they're deemed necessary for understanding the text;
  • High-quality translation: The subtitler will have all of the tools and guidelines required to provide a high-quality linguistic service. This way, they'll be able to ensure that the spelling, grammar, conjugations, and punctuation in the target language are faultless;
  • Indication of relevant non-verbal elements, such as sounds, laughter or even particular accents. Generally, these indications are shown between brackets and in italics and are there to support viewers' understanding of the scene.

That's not all:

  • It's all about accuracy: Given the limited space available, phrases need to be kept short and sweet, or rather short and concise, making sure that readers aren't getting overloaded with superfluous information and to make it easier for them to read.
  • Keeping it consistent across all of the subtitles, both in terms of terminology and style.
  • The use of time codes allows for the subtitles to be synchronously integrated into the bottom of the screen, in order to avoid any offsetting.

The countless advantages of subtitling:

Effectively, subtitling is a simple method for localizing content into another language and comes at a lower cost than dubbing.The script created through the translation can also boost visibility, whilst also expanding your target audience. Lastly, subtitling software is compatible with all alphabets, in both reading directions.

Did you know?

  • For the Latin alphabet, current guidelines recommend that a maximum length of 42 characters per line is respected, with no more than two lines per subtitle.
  • In addition, the reading speed should be no quicker than 21 characters per second, in order to give the viewer enough time to register all of the information, such as non-verbal communication or graphic elements.
  • One last thing to consider is that some languages are more concise than others. For example, French uses 10–20% more words than English. This is what we call the lexical similarity coefficient. Thanks to their skills and expertise, audiovisual translators will be able to summarize the information without any distortion.

Do you need subtitling? Contact our experts!

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