Professional Tips for Overcoming Subtitling Difficulties

It seems that digital developments are having an impact as well on the kind of translation that is highly sought after by clients. Based on the 2021 statistics, someone tends to spend at least 100 minutes on audiovisual media such as movies for a day. Referring to market interest, the subtitling difficulties will increase as more and more audiences can judge the quality.

Continue reading to find out the three main issues for subtitling and how to deal with them to improve your performance in this industry!

Subtitling Challenges in Language Aspect

According to the type of media that allows one to get information visually, it is salient to pay attention to the small things displayed so as not to miss the essence.  In this case, translators need to improve their inter-semiotic translation skills when they translate special signs that have meaning in a culture.

For instance, in Japanese culture, a person who agrees to something will make a fist with one hand, then do a fist motion with the other hand’s palm. If the translators are not aware of this thing, then they will not provide information on the screen as they are only translating the spoken word. The translation technique involved in this matter is Substitution and is commonly used by interpreters.

Translation issues in movie subtitling are about restrictions since the words that appear will deal with the duration of the scene which may not be the same as someone’s opportunity to read the translation. Therefore, creative synthesis skills are needed to summarize the information contained in the source without changing its essence.

In the end, creative synthesis will convince the audience that the subtitles are of good quality. Although they do not fully understand the message in the source text, they still have a sense of language that needs to be considered. This is evident in the audience’s comments who are not satisfied with the subtitles as after they understand more about the context, it turns out that the translation is not accurate.  

Working on movie subtitles requires using a top-down translation method where it is necessary to understand the whole context first, then make “conclusions.” This is useful in order that articles or adjectives from their respective nouns are not separated when displayed or leaving isolated prepositions in a separate line. As a result, the audience will read a complete piece of information without confusion.

Subtitling Challenges in Culture Aspect

In every movie, there must be a unique value that the maker wants to highlight. For instance, the character of a figure is shown through the choice of words they use. A reliable translator will take this into account, so the tone of the translation is similar to the source text. When a person’s character is authoritative, then the right choice of words in the subtitle will build the image.

Culture is one of the most challenging translation issues in movie subtitling. Moreover, there is an informal language and contemporary culture in the movie. Can you imagine the humor that needs to be translated, while it has a different context in other languages? Or, how does the translator handle songs that need to be translated as the scene plays, while there is a lot to consider like rhyme and duration? Finding a common equivalent is the solution to all these problems and requires a series of steps that need to be carried out by translators, such as asking natives and doing cultural research.

Subtitling Challenges in Technical Aspect

The technical aspect of the movie subtitle is related to one another. For instance, space and time restrictions will affect readability. When the available space is only at one scene, while the text that appears requires more, a translator needs to use translation techniques that can summarize a message into a shorter one, such as Paraphrasing, Reduction, and Linguistic Compression.

More specifically, this technical aspect requires cut sync skills, so that the translation results match the scene shown. Subtitles that appear when changing scenes with dark screens are not good either, so punctuality is like an absolute law.

To complete this aspect, mastery of technology can support the translator’s performance. As a result, it will be easier to deal with problems that may arise. Cooperation with the Project Manager also needs to be done in order to create a comprehensive work cycle.

Subtitling difficulties come from three main things, namely language, culture, and technicality. There are other points in it that need to be considered now that they will be interconnected. However, movies are a creative industry that wants to highlight the unique value of a nation. The translator’s responsibility here is not only as a moderator toward one message to another, but also to maintain the essence of the movie.

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