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Foreign subtitles: how to do good subtitle translation

You want to translate properly your subtitles into a foreign language ? We got you covered with our comprehensive guide

January 28, 2021

“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”

Bong Joon Ho, winner of the Oscar for Best Film in 2019 with his South Korean film “Parasite” knows well how subtitles make fascinating creations accessible to everyone. This is all the more true with videos from a foreign culture and language.

Foreign subtitles: how to do good subtitle translation

But translating is not a job to be taken lightly. It’s about providing the best original experience to a foreign audience. That’s why we have put together the best recommendations to guide you in this work.

Why translate foreign language subtitles?

We often feel comfortable in sticking to our native language or the universal language that is English when creating videos. Why make an effort when you can show your creations to an understanding audience?

However, translation into a foreign language is good for broadening your audience to other countries and cultures than your own. By subtitling your video content in popular languages such as Spanish, Hindi, French, Mandarin, Russian, you mathematically increase your chances of being watched.

But that’s not all. Translation is also a factor of cultural enrichment with countries further away from your core audience. Here is why you should invest in foreign languages:

  • You expose your video to cultures that may be more supportive of your ideas and messages.
  • You make yourself more easily known around the world.
  • You show certain audiences that you are making an effort to connect with them that you are counting on their support.
  • You can learn new ways to connect with culturally diverse communities.

You start to feel interested? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Translation subtitles: good practices

Translation is not a practice to be taken lightly. While viewers can use the video to interpret subtitles, this does not mean that their design can be neglected. On the contrary, subtitles should be a complement to your video, taking into account all the subtleties of a language. Here are some recommendations from professional translators :Don’t try to translate a language if you don’t have a nearly bilingual or native speaker. If you are not bilingual yourself, you can try to make do with your own knowledge and tools, but proofreading by someone who understands it is essential.

  • Always keep in mind the space limitation of subtitles. Some languages say less in more words or vice versa. You can try to reduce non-essential information to have shorter, screen-friendly expressions. But this should be done carefully.
  • Avoid reducing yourself to a literal translation. Good translation often requires working on different formulations, phrases and expressions from the original language.
  • Consider cultural and national differences related to language. Australian, Canadian, American, South African… English is not the same as English in England.
  • It is often necessary to get a practical knowledge of the culture and social practices of the foreign country. Some words or meanings rely heavily on social beliefs and rules.
  • There are words and cultural references that cannot be translated. It’s okay to eave them in their original language.
  • In terms of humor and irony, you may need to show some creativity in the delivery.
  • Get inspiration from the subtitles of successful movies and series, to get more smart and creative when translating subtitling.

Can an automatic subtitle translator be used?

As machine translation technologies have become widespread, automatic subtitle translators have become commonplace on the Internet. Based on deep learning, these software programs analyze phonetic and semantic regularities to provide accurate results.

Since the launch of Google Translate’s new algorithm in 2016, these technologies have achieved even higher accuracy in the translation of words, phrases and short sentences. However, they are still unable to understand the meaning of longer sentences and less used words and expressions.

While subtitling and translation software can save you a lot of time, they still require human correction. You can use them to manage your video projects, but be aware that you have to understand the translated language, or your subtitles might be defective.

Our translation API is quite effective compared to the market, but it’s not perfect. That’s why we combine intelligent translation with human expertise. You can try it out for 1 hour of free video. Otherwise, there are other solutions available on the web.

Subtitle translation service: how to use a professional?

As you can see, professional expertise is essential for quality translation work. Subtitle translators can get the best out of each language they work on. To handle your subtitling project, you can choose different departments:

  • A freelancer who offers you his services. Often the cheapest option.
  • An agency that has competent staff and makes them available to you. This is the trusted option where you’re sure that you will get the job done on time.
  • A platform that connects the needs of your project with the most suitable translation partner. With this option, you get one of the best cost-effectiveness for your video project.

Your decision will depend on your means and the workload of your project. If you have no idea, you can always use our collaborative platform with competent and reliable collaborators.

In any case, we hope we’ve helped you spread your creations across the globe!

Foreign subtitles: how to do good subtitle translation

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