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Practical tips for subtitling and translation

If you are new to movie subtitling and translation, there are certain mistakes you should look to avoid if you want your work to be relatable. Remember that spoken translation is different from written translation. And the challenge is to communicate the same words being said in the video in the language your target audience can understand using the right words. In this article, we want to provide you with practical tips for subtitling. If you utilize the tips in your subtitling and translation work, your finished work will be perfect.

But before we reel out the practical tips for subtitling, let us first explain why video subtitling is important in the first place.

Why is video subtitling important

Language difference is a major communication barrier and there are thousands of languages all around the world. Before now, the need to translate videos into different languages was not seen as economically viable because of reach limitations. However, all that changed with the coming of the internet.

Today, people can go online to watch videos with lead characters who speak languages that they don’t understand. All this is made possible with subtitling and translation. It only does this help to increase awareness and reach for your work, but it also increases the money making potential for such videos. In light of the video streaming monetization opportunities available across online platforms, you will agree that investing in subtitling and translation is a worthy investment.

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So without further ado, here are our practical tips for subtitling.


Be concise

When you are doing your subtitling and translation of words into text, make sure you are concise. There is no need to use too many words at the same time. We know, through research, that viewers feel uncomfortable reading subtitles that stretch beyond the 6 seconds mark. For every subtitle, the sentences should not be more than 2 and should not exceed 37 characters.

This way, the viewer will comprehend what is being said without losing track of the visual action. Another way to make sure the subtitling and translation is concise is to make sure that you keep track of the footage. Avoid overly long words and sentences. Suffice it to say that the shorter the text the better. And you can do this without diluting the message or changing the meaning.

Don’t be overly creative

Still on our practical tips for subtitling, is the need for discipline. To be fair, we know that subtitling and translation require a great deal of creativity. Explaining a message using text that a foreign speaker will understand is not something that is easy to do. However, you should be very careful with creativity since too much creativity can be a bad thing.

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One mistake many translators make is that in trying to make the text understandable, they infuse the wrong words, thereby changing the meaning or theme of the message.

While translating words into subtitles word for word may be impossible, always use words that are available where possible and avoid making too many changes.

Watch as many movies as you can

Experts who give practical tips for subtitling to beginners always advise them to watch as many subtitled movies as possible. If you are learning the ropes, watching so many movies will help you learn the tricks of doing it right. For instance, you can watch movies and YouTube videos with the subtitles turned on to see how they are displayed. Learning from professionals will help you hone your craft and become better. You will also identify the subtitling and translation mistakes you have been making and how you can correct them moving forward.

As they say, “practice makes perfect”. The more you do it, the better you will become at it.

Preserve meaning

The audience cannot understand the message in its totality if they don’t understand the context. This is why it is important to preserve the meaning of the message. Great subtitling and translation involve capturing the tone and context of the speaker at every point in time. You want the words to resonate with the audience as they would if they understood the language.


Picture the need of the audience                                                                                      

Lastly, on our practical tips for subtitling, make sure that as you go about the task, you picture the needs of the audience. Understanding the needs and expectations of the audience will help you do a better job. Remember that you are not translating for yourself or the original speakers but for foreigners who don’t understand the language. Breaking down the words into texts that they can understand is crucial.

Besides our practical tips for subtitling, at Circle Translation, we offer video subtitling services in multiple languages. Our experts have translated hundreds of videos into several languages and our clientele continues to increase. Contact us today for all your video subtitling services.


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