Subtitle Translation and Audio Localization

Last Updated On: June 19, 2017


Audio Translation

Audio Localization

Subtitle translation is an important aspect of professional translation. Some translators specialize in subtitle translation and may do little else. Subtitles are needed whenever a TV presentation, a video, film or, increasingly, these days, marketing material is distributed world-wide.

As with much translated material these days, some companies try and make short cuts to keep the cost of subtitle translation down. This inevitably produces some shocking translation, usually because a free online translator has been used rather than use a professional translator.


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    The main point about subtitle translation is that much of the material that needs to be translated is colloquial. The speech, i.e. what the actors are saying to each other, is usually in informal language and may involve a lot of slang. This can be quite difficult to translate as the subtitle translator must have an excellent working knowledge of the equivalent language in both the original film speech and the target language for where the film or video is directed.

    A more expensive and difficult exercise is voice-over speech. This is familiar experience that many video and film viewers have when they listen to say Chinese actors discussing, arguing, shouting or whispering in English, when in actual fact they are actually talking in their native Chinese dialect.
    The main reason that voice-over is difficult, and therefore expensive, is that it is hard to match the translated version with the original script. If you watch a voice-over carefully, you will more or less lip-read the actors, but what it appears they are saying doesn’t really match the lip movements and may also take longer or shorter to say. This results in the actor moving his or her lips and mouth when there is no voice over being spoken and vice versa.

    Difficulties apart, subtitle translators and voice-over interpreters do a fine job providing a much greater range of entertainment for the world to watch and listen to. Sometimes, the translated versions can be so painful to follow that they are not worth watching, but usually understanding what the foreign actors are saying makes the whole film come alive. Professional translation agencies that employ subtitle translators are a boon to global entertainment!

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