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Subtitling is More Than a Service

It's an Art.

A first-rate translation requires the know-how that cannot be rated by a translation program or a computer-assisted translation tool.  Accuracy is not the only point of measurement. It's about immersing in another culture and offering words that wholly speak to the viewer.

What's fascinating about audio-visual translation is the creative authority the translator has.  You must adapt the original dialogue to another culture through language.  The translation turns into a new creation. This being said, the translator usually adheres to the original narration, but sometimes the translator will actually create their own dialogue to convey the same message in a better way.  This new creation communicates more effectively than if the text were translated literally.  If drastic changes are to be made, the translator will usually ensure to get authorization.  For audio-visual translators, they usually find enjoyment in conjuring up the best way to adapt a song, a pun, or a joke into another culture, and another language.

Many subtitle viewers often complain that portions are missing in subtitles. The truth is, everything cannot be translated as subtitles are limited to around 40 characters per line. It doesn't matter how much is written in the subtitles if the viewer doesn't have time to read them.  The subtitler's job is to shorten what is being said.  This creates some tough decisions.  They must decide which parts of the dialogue are important and which parts can be left out. If everything seems important, the extremely creative and challenging part is determining how to fit three ideas into one sentence.

I talk to people often about what kind of work I do.  The general public has no idea what translation subtitles are all about.  Typically, they say something like, "Isn't that for free" or "I thought that just happened by the TV or a computer." The people behind them (if they are good subtitlers like Aberdeen Captioning's team), are highly educated and markedly cultured individuals.  They are usually people who have parents from two different countries or who have grown up in two or more countries.  In addition to being multi-cultural, they are linguistic superstars.  They have not only been brought up in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual environment, but they are extremely gifted and highly trained in writing.  Take if from me, a person who bilingual in Spanish and English, but is not a translator: It takes much more than knowing a language to create a subtitled masterpiece.