Some Subtitle Translation Rules

Proper translation of subtitles is a complex task, consisting not only of the language part (correctly and accurately translated), but also their practical subtitle purpose, because they become part of the picture, although they are, as it were, official in nature.
We work on international standards for the translation of subtitles, in addition to which there are many additional nuances.
Below we share some of the most basic rules for translating subtitles and their “styling” into a video sequence, they relate to different levels of work:
- to the translation process (which is very important and often not respected);
- to understand the principles of this type of translation;
- to technical implementation, taking into account the laws and psychology of perception.
So among the main rules for the translation of subtitles:
- Mandatory work of a translator not only with text, but also with video material;
- accurate transfer of all idiomatic and lexical features;
- the use of simple syntactic structures;
- full compliance of the used language register [add - this is the main problem of the work of ordinary translators involved in translating subtitles];
- translation of all significant visual elements of the picture (inscriptions, signs, indexes, etc. - what is missing in the dialogues, but present on the screen, is important for the viewer to understand the plot);
- translation of songs - where their content is plot-relevant;
- the beginning and end of the display of the subtitle must correspond to the tempo rhythm of speech in the dialogue, take into account pauses, sound effects, not violate the drama of the frame, but fully comply with it;
- the length of the subtitle can not be shorter than 1 second and longer than 7 seconds;
- the minimum permissible pause between subtitles is 4 frames (the physical ability of the human eye to separate neighboring captions, to notice the appearance of the next);
- the maximum number of lines in the title - 2; at the same time, the top line is as short as possible, and the bottom line is longer - in order not to clutter the main image.
Of course, there are much more technical and linguistic nuances in translating subtitles and their integration with the picture. The above basic rules, unfortunately, are still often ignored (or unfamiliar) by translators with purely philological experience.
One of the reasons for the problems in this area is an elementary underestimation of the importance of the process of translating and overlaying subtitles, which the authors and producers give at the mercy, considering the issue to be either “purely technical” or optional. This is all the more strange that we are talking about an unbroken visual line when new text elements are superimposed on the original picture, which become part of it and carry all the information about what is happening to the foreign viewer.
We believe that the perception of the picture by the viewer and the situation when the impression is spoiled due to the low quality of the subtitles depends on the correct working with subtitles.
If you need the translation of subtitles by a native speaker for a game or documentary, we will be glad to cooperate. Order a professional translation of subtitles by a native speaker with us.
Useful and special offers
Some Subtitle Translation Rules