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All About Multilingual Subtitles and How They Can Help You

video translation multilingual subtitles

Last updated on June 9th, 2020 at 01:19 pm

multilingual subtitles in video translation
Usage of Multilingual subtitles in Video Translation

What Are Subtitles?

What are subtitles, how do you make them, and how do they work?  In their basic form, subtitles are text that appear on the screen while a video plays, usually on the bottom of the screen.  They serve as a way for the viewer to read what is said in the audio track.  Subtitles can be in the same language as the audio, or they can be translated into any other language to address a bigger audience.

Subtitles can be used in any kind of video across any industry.  They are perfect for increasing the visibility of your brand, enhancing the audience’s experience, and improving content for global usage.

Multilingual Subtitles

Should your business take advantage of multilingual subtitles in your videos?  What languages should the subtitles be in?  Do you need subtitles or captions?  We’ll break down how subtitles work and how you can make them work for you.

Subtitles or Captions?

At first glance, subtitles and captions seem like the same thing.  Both are text versions of the sounds played in the video but when you look closer, there are differences.  The biggest difference is that subtitles generally provide a transcript of the words spoken, while captions provide text depicting other sounds as well.

Imagine two people in a video having a conversation while they walk through town.  Subtitles will tell you what they are saying, captions will do that while also including text for other sounds, like brief notations for a crowd cheering, a twig snapping, or music playing.  In this way, subtitles work under the supposition that the viewer can hear the audio, while captions are intended for viewers who cannot hear the audio.  Closed captions give the watcher the choice to turn them off, while open captions stay in place.

video translation subtitles

Uses for Subtitles

Subtitles are a valuable tool used for helping the hard-of-hearing and those who speak different languages than the one used for film or video.  While they are often in the same language as the audio, they see wide use as language aids.  Subtitle translation is used across a vast range of industries to produce video products for many different purposes.  Let’s look at a few.

  • Educational films. Translated subtitles are an excellent way for teachers to expand their video library and improve the content offered to students.
  • Language studies. For those learning a new language, translated subtitles can be very helpful.  Depending on their learning preferences, the subtitles can be in the second language while the audio is in their native language, or the other way around.
  • Training videos. Translated subtitles are found in training videos on subjects from manufacturing to medicine.  Using a professional translation agency is a must for the translation of the subtitles to be accurate and effective, otherwise the video might not be safe to use or not well synchronized and executed to facilitate effective learning.
  • Film festivals and screenings. Sometimes these settings will include subtitles shown on a different screen so that the film itself is not altered.
  • News broadcasts. News media usually uses captions.  Sometimes live broadcasts are captioned in real time, with a stenographer listening to the audio and typing the captions rapidly.  This is high-pressure work, especially when translation of the caption is involved.
  • Movies of all kinds. Do you have a favorite foreign film?  Professional subtitle translators worked to make the script you read an elegant, yet accurate translation of the language spoken in the film.
  • Marketing videos. Introducing translated subtitles to your marketing media is a high-impact way to drive up viewership.  Subtitles catch the eye and are ideal for the increasing number of video content on social media that plays automatically without sound.  Open Captions that are translated increase the Video SEO in those languages.
  • TV shows. With a greater range of channels than ever and the advent of smart TVs, translated subtitles are in demand.
  • Live events like speeches and concerts. A transcript of the translated address or lyrics can be shown on screens or software can be used to translate live.  Live machine translation can be faulty as there is no time for post-editing.  But they can be revised after by a professional human translator to improve the quality.

translator subtitle multilingual

How Are Subtitles Made and Translated?

Subtitling is a job that combines use of technology with human expertise.  It is not so simple as feeding a script into software that displays the text onscreen.  Intent and context are vital.  When translating subtitles, the translator does not only work from the script (which they may not have), but from the video also.  This ensures a higher-quality product, as the translator will incorporate more context, localize, and suit the translation to the video content.  The result may not be a literal translation but will convey the meaning better and result in a smoother end product.  A professional translator will be aware of the need for accurate localization as well as the possibility of text expansion or contraction.  Some languages appear longer than others in print, and the translator can condense the material to fit the screen without losing meaning.

Subtitle creation software is available for personal and commercial use, with varying degrees of quality.  Voice recognition technology is used by some video hosts with mixed results.  The best subtitles are made and translated by hand by professional translators.  The translated subtitles can then be applied to the video by the company providing them or supplied to the client to render and apply as they wish.


What Does This Mean for You?

All businesses strive to reach new clients by presenting their products and services in a way that speaks to those clients’ needs.  With the prevalence of video as a marketing tool and the globalization of internet media, having translated subtitles or captions for your videos is a wise move.  With these tools, you make your content accessible not only to those who speak various languages but to those who are not able to hear the audio.  Subtitle translation offers a large return on investment, and better search engine optimization.  Subtitle files allow search engines to find keywords relevant to your new audience’s search terms, increasing your sphere of influence.

How do you go about having your videos subtitled in a different language?  We do not advise using language translation software or a bilingual employee, as output quality is not guaranteed.  A professional translation company with experience working with video translation is necessary to produce content you will be proud to show the world.  Let’s look at a few ways you can get the most out of working with a translation company.


Now You’re Speaking my Language

So you’ve decided you need translated subtitles for your video.  What’s next?  How do you make sure you get good translation within deadlines and on budget?  Try these guidelines:

  • Choose a professional translation company that has the right experts for your project. Ask questions and request quotes.  The right agency will be able to guide you on matters like whether your video needs subtitles or captions, suitable file types, and help you stay on schedule.
  • Plan ahead. Start as early as possible so the project can be given the time and care it needs.
  • Be communicative. The translation company needs to be able to ask questions and get feedback.
  • Provide plenty of source material. Make sure the translation company has the video, the script, and the files of any other titles and images used.  If the video is already subtitled, include the video and original script anyway so as not to lose meaning and context.

Whether you plan skyscrapers, decorate cakes, or manufacture lawnmower parts, subtitle translation is a perfect way to strengthen your brand through your videos.  With this type of multilingual content, your business can broaden its horizons and see returns as well as interest from other markets.

Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela and has a BS in computer engineering. As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. 20 Years of experience in marketing Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.