Subtitle translation

Best Practices for Subtitle Translation in Multiple Languages

Subtitling translation might seem a straightforward task. But delving into its technicalities lets one discover the complexities involved in it. So, how do you successfully translate subtitles? Following these generic best practices can help you do it in multiple languages.

6 Best Practices for Translating Subtitles

These six practices can help you translate subtitles efficiently and with relative ease.

1. Choosing the Right Subtitling Format

At the outset, select the right subtitling format. One effective option is hard-coded subtitles (non-editable subtitles) embedded in the final video product. Another alternative is soft-coded subtitles, primarily in the srt format which the user can toggle on and off. It must be noted that in the second option, subtitles aren’t embedded in the video and thus add more flexibility in terms of having a single video and the option to choose a target language by opting for the concerned translate srt file.

2. Not Exceeding Two Lines

Another practice or one can say a rule of subtitling translation is to avoid exceeding the screen text beyond two lines. This could be pretty challenging, especially if the line being said in the video is excessively long. The purpose of keeping it confined to two lines is to reduce the reading effort and allow the user to read the subtitle quickly while also enjoying the graphics or images shown on the screen. Excessively long subtitles or too many lines to read can distract the viewer and spoil the video-viewing experience.

3. Keeping the Translations Concise

The length of subtitles is another significant consideration and to keep it concise is another practice to follow. Ideally, the subtitle’s length should not exceed 40 characters. But TV subtitles, where the video is watched by diverse audiences, are kept even shorter. Thus, viewers spend less time reading and more time watching the video.
However, subtitles for movies are usually a little longer, considering that the average reading rate is expected to be higher. It should be remembered that the number of characters per line varies with the language per the set standard.

4. The Entry and Exit Time of Subtitles

Another important practice is to ensure accuracy in the entry and exit time of the subtitles. While synchronizing the translated subtitles, every subtitle you create should enter and exit the screen at the right time. In cases where the subtitle enters much after the screen audio, it would obviously exit much after the on-screen sentence has ended. That can create confusion and make understanding the language difficult for the user.
Instead, subtitles entering and exiting at the right time and well-aligned with the on-screen flow can enhance the viewing experience.

5. Ensuring Cultural Relevance and Accuracy

This is of utmost importance. Cultural relevance and accuracy are factors critical to the quality of translated subtitles and a sensitive element. Videos should be subtitled in a way that the oral speech is converted to written speech.
Additionally, it should be in a style similar to one of the speakers and culturally relevant and acceptable to the target audience. It will help make the subtitles more resonating and enjoyable for the target viewers.

6. Keeping Semantic Units Together

While translating subtitles, when a sentence is divided into a couple of lines to convey the appropriate meaning, you must keep the semantic units together. It means that the grammatical elements like verbs with their nouns and pronouns with the articles defining them should remain appropriately and relevantly intact.
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