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Working Practices in Foreign Closed Captioning and Subtitle Translation

Working Practices in Foreign Closed Captioning and Subtitle Translation

On the face of it, Foreign Closed Captioning and Subtitle Translation can seem quite straightforward. Simply transcribe speech to text, time your transcript, translate and add to video. However, there is a surprisingly high level of complexity involved in producing high quality closed captions and subtitle files. We’ll outline the typical working practices of closed captioning and foreign subtitling services in this blog.

Foreign and English Subtitle Transcription

Transcription services are a prerequisite to creating English or foreign subtitling and a high quality transcription is the first step towards high quality subtitles.

Creating a quality transcription for use with subtitling isn’t always straightforward. Verbatim style is usually preferred, but often, transcriptionists need to make good writing choices. This includes making decisions in terms of what to include and exclude; what to correct and what not to correct.

The consensus around subtitling is not to oversimplify subtitles or correct grammar, but what to do in terms of working with sound effect descriptions, inaudible dialogue and transcription of over-speaking can be a judgement call.

Subtitle Timings and Formatting Subtitles

Before starting work on any translation, a subtitle file should be created in the source language in order to ensure accuracy. Audio pauses should have an impact on how subtitles are split, and reading speeds also need to be considered when timing subtitles. Languages vary in terms of being wordy (German) or concise (Chinese). Subtitlers and translators need to maintain timings and reading speeds as comparable to the source caption file. This ensures viewers have time to read the foreign subtitles. 

Subtitle Translations

Methods used in translation can have an enormous impact on the quality of finished subtitles. There are a few options available in how to translate subtitles, but the quality of the finished captions can vary hugely depending on what type of translation service is used.

Direct Subtitle Translations

This option involves a linguist transcribing subtitles directly from source to target language and timing subtitle file as they go. This option can be good for clients requiring urgent foreign subtitling. However, quality can be compromised and subsequent edits can be harder to make, requiring the subtitler to spend more time working with the original audio rather than working from a document.

Subtitle Translation from Transcription 

In this method, transcription services are used to create a document in the source language. This document is then translated and subtitles are created using the translation. This is a good option if a script is already available for a video. It can also be a slightly less costly method and hence, good for those on a budget. Quality can be compromised when subtitling foreign videos using a translation in long form.

The reason for this is around syntax and differing language structures. A linguist translating a document may not pay attention to maintaining structural similarity between the source and target files. Whilst changes to word order, sentence length and choices in omissions of details may not have an impact on a document translation, when it comes to subtitles, they can cause timing issues or leave viewers feeling like captions are effectively out of sync.

Foreign Subtitle Translation Using Templates 

By far the best method for translating video subtitles, this process involves transcription and subtitling in the source language. Using a subtitle template, a linguist then translates the subtitles, working line by line. This ensures the highest level of accuracy and means amendments are easier to make as subtitlers work from a document.

So as you can see from this blog, there is quite a lot of complexity involved and the decisions you make from the outset can have an effect on timescale and how much your project costs. Creating foreign closed captioning and subtitle translation is highly specialised and can be a complex process. If you would like more information visit our foreign subtitling and subtitle translation services page or our closed captioning services page for a more in-depth look. 

If you are after a quote for any of our services, contact us for more information. 

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