Audiovisual Translation – What means quality subtitling from the Client vs Translator vs Spectator perspective?

April 29, 2021 5:41 pm

| The two main points of a good subtitling work

A good subtitling work is related with several things, two of which are universal: to be understandable for the spectators and that it has enough time for them to read it. But is it just really that what is behind a well subtitled program?

| A well subtitled program from the channel point of view

For most of the channels what matters is that their requires of reading speed are fulfilled, not demanding a well done and thorough revision of the programs that go on air. But is it enough? Is the subtitling process just this basic?

| For the spectators, the reading speed is indispensable, but it is not just about that

Truth is, no matter how correct a subtitle is, if it is not long enough on screen so the spectator has enough time to read it, it’s worthless.

It also needs to be well translated, to be understandable, to be almost invisible. This is something of an unspoken rule in the audiovisual translators’ world, that a subtitling work is well done when no one stops the program do re-read it, when it goes unnoticed, when it has no mistakes, when the language matches the program. If the spectator stays stuck in a subtitle, it doesn’t matter how correct that term is there, if it sounds funny for being to or not enough conversational, for not fitting the character, the time or the space, it takes the spectators attention from the program to the subtitle, and it stops them from having the full experience of the show.

| The quality definition is different in between translators?

These, and other, factors are some of the things that mess with a translators work from the beginning, after some time, it somehow becomes natural. Still, what for me is basic, understandable, and conversational may be different for another colleague. We are all different and each of us has its own still of writing and translation, there are no two of the same professionals, as it there is not two of the same programs, no matter how much you are alike and how much you follow the same rules and the same glossaries.

In audiovisual translation there is not one translation for one specific term as it usually is in a technical translation, you have a context, and it influences everything you do and every decision you make. And you also have everything else we already mentioned, such as our own style. That’s when proof-readers and QCr’s come in and do their thing, first and foremost, the spectators’ part, when they watch and the program beyond what is wrong or right – although obviously also that – and point out what stands out and might need a change.

| A well subtitled program depends on everything

A well subtitled program is not only a seamless one, but one where every little thing coexists peacefully and that, in the end, when the translators name appears, you connect it to a work well done, not necessarily simple or perfect.

By Bárbara Silveira – Head of the Department of Linguistics and Translation at Buggin Media