3 Myths about Subtitling


Myth #1
Translators charge too much for a job that Google Translator does in 2 seconds.
The only people who seem to have this mindset are those who have never dealt with any type of translation previously. They may compare your translation costs to what they can get for free with Google Translate.
Translation clients that have been in the translation business understand the difference between automatic and professional translation services and, hence the need, for professional services.

Myth #2
Just because someone can speak two languages means that they can be a translator.
Solely being bilingual doesn’t qualify someone to translate. Translation is not an automated or emotionless process of transforming one sentence in language A into language B.
It is a rather complex art form in which idioms and thoughts have to be translated in such a way that the meaning is accurately and clearly expressed to the listener without losing the feel and the sense of language A.

The demand for human translations will soon fade.
Software and automated translations can give the gist of a foreign tongue, but for business and professional use, rough is not enough.
Translation requires a deep understanding of language. This ability lies far away on the horizon of machine translation.
Technology is a tool that helps them keep up changing times and with the surging demand for translations however it is far from replacing humans.
There is no doubt, machine translations and automated transcriptions save time and money but they almost always end up creating inaccuracies and errors.
Technology may not replace human translators, but it will help them work better.

About the author:
Kelly O’Donovan is the creator of GOSUB.tv – An education in the art of subtitling.
GOSUB was born from a passion and enthusiasm for subtitling and teaching.
Having started as a linguistic teacher and then moving on to become the Operations Manager of a leading subtitling agency, Kelly used her know-how, affection, and savvy to create efficient and exciting audiovisual courses.
From her years of experience working with producers, dubbing agencies, video-on-demand platforms, entertainment distributors, encoding houses and more, she has learnt a mountain of information about subtitling and closed captioning. She decided to couple this involvement with her other skill set, which is teaching.


2 thoughts on “3 Myths about Subtitling

  1. This is so true. I am born and raised bi-lingual, but have always had a love of languages, and started interpreting at age 6. The experience and demand upon me, then as well as in my professional careers, lead me to go into translation/interpreting/localizing work.

    I was horrified, when I made this career move, how many people use CAT tools, and do not use common sense in translation work. In fact it is frequently worse, than if translated by hand as I do. Also it is terrible how many translators do a bad job, as they have a University Degree, but no command of the target language, or even their native language, so the grammatical errors are appalling, yet they take offence when they are corrected, even about their native language. Common mistakes (even by professionals that sell “squeeze pages” for thousands of dollars to apparently promote businesses, but having grammatical errors does not promote a translation business but demotes it) e.g. You are better than him (instead of better than he (as the adjective take with it the nominative) another popular mistake is He is better than me (instead of I). – I could go on, but you professional colleagues of mine, have seen it all. What annoys me the most, is when the audio is filled with grammatical errors in children’s videos/DVDs as this teaches them incorrect language. This means, that we are forced to do substandard work when closed captioning, by being faithful to the original content. However, when translating, we can get away with correcting the grammatical errors. – I must admit, I once saw a movie with Peter Sellers in on of The Pink Panther movies, and he said “Fög” instead of “FOG”, and the subtitler translated the former as “þeugga” and the latter as “ÞOKA”. – The was sheer genius poetic licence, and is an exception to the rule. However, the contrary is also true, when a subtitler didn’t get the joke, that the actor was supposed to speak with a lisp, and said: “Chaðade” instead of “CHARADE”, so the subtitler translated the former as “Sjaveit” and finally caught on when it was pronounced correctly, and the translated the latter as “LÁTBRAGÐSLEIKUR”, but NEVER corrected the former translation to e.g. “LÁTBÐAGÐSLEIKUR” to indicate the lisp or even adding a translators note (speaks with a lisp) as is done in captioning, just to deliver the joke, which can be necessary, but cannot realistically be done owing to the limited room and timing of the subtitles.


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