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Subtitle translation: Basic knowledge for translators

Subtitle translation: Basic knowledge for translators

Subtitle translation: Basic knowledge for translators

What is subtitle translation?

Subtitle translation is a field of translation that specializes in translating speaking parts in television shows, television series, dramas or short films. Subtitle content is usually available in .srt or txt format.

In the early days of the film industry, subtitle translation was not as widely used as it is now. Subtitles at that time were mainly short captions attached to some scenes of silent films (which are films without audible dialogue) when needed. Currently, the demand for subtitle translation is increasing due to the diversity of the television and film industries and especially the global explosion of vlogs.

Dịch phụ đề là gì?
What is subtitle translation?

What are the methods to translate subtitles?

Usually when asked to translate subtitles, translators will receive a subtitle file in the .srt format which contains the timecode and corresponding speaking lines. The translator’s job is to translate those content in combination with watching the original video to choose the suitable translation for the context, mood and character’s psychology.

In addition, in some cases, customers require direct translation of a video without the .srt file. The translator will then have to:

  • Create .srt subtitle file with audio to text tool
  • Create .srt or .txt subtitle files by listening and typing the content of the video
  • Directly translate (direct translation) to a .srt subtitle file.
  • Check the timecode and re-arrange the language content for readability and the synchronization with the frame rate

In general, translating subtitle will be a bit more complicated than translating text, but the conversation content is usually quite easy to translate. Quality subtitle translation also requires the imagination relatively creativity of the translators as well as the scientific quality process.

How is subtitle translating applied?

In general, subtitle translation is applied to videos, so where there is a video, there is a need to translate subtitles.

For example, most Netflix movies have multi-language subtitles. This is a subtitle translating app for movies. Audience will follow the movie plot by reading the subtitles at the footer of the video. This method is often distracting for readers, but in return, a little understanding is better than nothing.

In fact, the subtitle translation industry today is facing a scarcity of quality resources due to the explosion of dramas and vlogs, causing many concerns such as the poor-quality subtitle can be the flaw that reduce attractiveness of the video.

Dịch phụ đề được ứng dụng như thế nào?
How is subtitle translation applied?

Some crucial knowledge for translators to translate subtitles

Subtitle translation procedure

The preparation of the subtitle translator before translating plays an important role in the quality of the final translation. As with other translations, the first thing to do is to carefully consider the salient differences between the source language and the target language. Then, the translator needs to analyze the socio-cultural morphological structure of the original audience and the target audience to find out different factors that can affect the translation (if any).

In addition, translators can also practice specialty and improve translation quality by listening to dialogues in the original language and then watching subtitles in the target language (if available). Stress in conversation is one of the prominent factors that can determine the effectiveness of a translation; therefore, the translators can, through identifying the position of stress, provide their translation. Besides, they also need to follow the rules of spelling and punctuation.

Subtitle creating softwares

Following is a list of some softwares used in translating subtitle:

  • Subtitle Workshop
  • Aegisub Advanced Subtitle Editor
  • Subtitle Edit
  • Gaupol Subtitle Editor
  • Jubler Subtitle Editor

How to have high quality subtitle translation?

Time synchronization in subtitles

“Synchronizing” means matching the speaking lines and subtitles, and it is one of the keys to achieving high-quality subtitle translation. Translators need to pay attention to an important aspect that is the synchronization of the speech on the screen and the subtitles, along with the appropriate starting time of the subtitles.

Length varies between languages

The message of the source language and the target language may not be exactly the same, so the translated sentence can also be longer or shorter than the original sentence in the conversation. Therefore, a professional subtitle translator will carefully consider the above differences and the time to read subtitles to provide a high-quality subtitle translation. Thanks to the development and diversification of subtitle software, translators can save time by applying the additional timecode feature. When translators carefully pay attention to details and apply their accumulated experience, by translating subtitles, they can improve the quality and at the same time give the audience the opportunity to immerse themselves in the movie, TV show or the documentary.

What are the criteria that determine the price of subtitle translation?

Because there are many factors that affect the price of subtitle translation, for each translation company, those factors may be the same or different. Prices are calculated based on criteria such as source language, target language, word count, time required to translate and urgency. Therefore, translators need to accurately state their rate to the service provider.

How to calculate subtitle translation price?

To determine the correct subtitle translation price, we need to determine the following factors:

  • What are the customer’s requirements?
  • What is the deadline for the translation?
  • Do you have to type speech content?
  • Do you have to create timecode?
  • Is there any other special procedure required?
  • How long is the video (in minutes)/subtitles (in words)?
  • How many languages are there in the video?
  • The speech in the video is fast or slow?
  • How complex and diverse is the speech in the video?

International best practices still apply the quote for translating subtitles by the minute. However, to know exactly how much the price per minute is, it depends on one or more of the above combined factors.


What is a Translation Management System (TMS)?

A translator system supports complex translations and allow enterprises and translation companies to centralize and automate the management of localization workflows involving several collaborators that