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Best Practices and Guidelines for Subtitles

Have a video or an eLearning video course that needs subtitling? Make the most of your subtitles with subtitling services and these best practices.

Subtitling may seem like a straightforward video editing element but there is an art to subtitling, which means there are many good reason to have it done by a professional, especially if you require language translation services. Subtitling services are especially important if you have content that needs to be translated into another language as a subtitling translator can apply the best subtitling practices but can also ensure translation accuracy. 

Two girls in front of a subtitled screen

Subtitles can be found in a variety of video platforms such as business or academic content as well as in entertainment. – Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

What is Subtitling and When Do You Need It?

Subtitling is the accompanying written text or dialogue from a piece of video. The text is synchronized with a video segment and is concise enough to be read and understood in a short time. Subtitling can be used to add additional support to a video so that it can be viewed without sound or it can be used to provide content in a language that differs from the audio dialogue and content.  While subtitling is used in the entertainment industry with movies and TV shows, it is also used commercially, especially as businesses make use of visuals in their marketing and localization strategies. For example, eLearning localization has become more prominent on eLearning platforms as they expand to reach a wider global market. The use of video translation services is also being used more often within business websites as part of their global marketing strategies. 

Whether you need subtitles for a video on your website or for your eLearning platform, here are some of the best subtitling practices.

Subtitle Timing and Placement

As the images are just as relevant to the subtitles, the timing and position of the subtitles are very important. 

  • Subtitles need to appear and disappear as the words themselves are spoken but are also on-screen long enough to be read. Around 15-18 characters per second is a good standard.
  • If necessary, simplify the text to make it easier to read but always ensure to caption all important and relevant information. This is especially important within eLearning platform content.
  • Each subtitle should be one complete sentence, with no more than two on the screen at a time. With two sentences on the screen, the shortest one should generally be on top to minimize eye movement, prevent image overlay, and make it easier to read.
  • Synchronization and pauses in the sentences should occur naturally with the speech or when there is a natural change or pause in the course, content, or scene.
  • Font size is important. The font needs to be large enough to read with ease and the colour and contrast of the font also needs to align with the image background.
  • Subtitles are generally placed at the bottom centre of a video. This is to avoid it clashing with images and other word content on screen. The most important thing to consider is the subtitles clashing with the image or video content so positioning can be adjusted if necessary. 

Subtitle Meaning

Ensuring your subtitles capture the meaning from the original audio is even more important when translating into another language. 

  • Using a subtitle translator can ensure that you’re getting the best translation possible and that your subtitles capture the meaning of the content and not just the words. 

Subtitle Sounds

Video editing

Sounds and sometimes even silence are both important aspects of subtitling. – Photo by Matthew Kwong on Unsplash

The backgrounds sounds and noise in a video, while not part of a dialogue or speech, can be just as important to capture the meaning of the content. 

  • If dialogue or speech is inaudible a label should detail the cause.
  • Ie. The noisy crowd muffles speech
  • Sound effects, such as a car horn or a dog barking, should be enclosed in brackets and italicised.
  • Ie. (dog barking)

Subtitle Punctuation

The addition of punction and formating can help add clarity. 

  • If multiple people are speaking at the same time, add the names or descriptions of the person or character to identify the speakers
    • Ie. (Claire) You have got to be kidding me?
            (Steve) I told you so!
  • When subtitling a song or singing, it’s helpful to indicate that it is music with a music icon () at the beginning and end of the song.
    • Ie. Take a sad song, and make it better…

The Importance of Subtitling Services or a Subtitle Translator 

Video translation services are essential if you are localizing your video content or in the process of website localization to ensure consistency and quality in your content no matter what language it’s being presented in. Into23 offers quality video translation serviceseLearning translation, software localization services in any language your business requires. Our translators offer the highest quality translation with fast turnaround and delivery. Inquire about our subtitling services and get a free quote.

Top 6 emerging translation trends of 2022

What types of marketing translation trends are becoming prominent in 2022? Here’s what to expect for the remainder of the year.

Content translation services have seen a massive increase in demand, with much of this growth being linked to the internet, the pandemic, our global expansion and uses of technology. The market worth of this industry has grown and is looking to grow further in 2022 as the pandemic has slowly stabilised and more people and places of business took their work and education online and have kept it there. 

What has driven growth in the translation industry in 2022?

Man in pjs

The pandemic saw more people working from home and increased online spending. – Photo by Thirdman

The biggest driver behind the growth of the translation industry has been the increased need for people to access information in different languages and cultures, coinciding with the growth of technology and our reliance on it. Technology has made it possible for people to communicate in meaningful ways across the globe in various formats and languages, which became increasingly important during the pandemic. Language translation technology has also come a long way, making it faster and more accessible for people and businesses to get what they need.

While translation solutions come in many forms, depending on your business or need, these areas are some of the most noticeable upward trends of 2022. They are relevant aspects to consider if you’re looking to expand globally. 

Multilingual customer support

Chatbot

Trends show that people prefer to contact companies via messaging apps when looking for support. – Photo by mohamed_hassan

If you have a platform that has been localized for customers, you’ll also need multilingual customer service support. As more people use their phones for everyday tasks, from emails to banking, these services must be provided and serviced in the customer’s language. The same goes for customer support. Today, 67% of consumers expect to be able to message or chat with a business when they need support. As this number is likely to increase, businesses that want to continue to reach their customers globally must consider multilingual customer support in their localization strategies. A marketing translation agency can provide support and resources in multiple languages to help fortify an existing localization strategy or start a new one. 

Increased use of machine translation post-editing

Machine translation has become an essential part of the translation industry and is a trend that has continued upward for several years. 

What is machine translation post-editing?

Machine translation is when you enter content into an automated software translation tool, and the machine converts it into the target language. Google translate is the most well-known machine translator that most of us use in our daily lives. However, the results of these machine translations alone vary drastically in terms of accuracy and are not sufficient enough to be used in business for a variety of reasons.

Related: Why Google translate isn’t effective enough for business

The post-editing portion comes after the machine translation. A professional translator will go over the machine translation and compare it to the original text to get the most accurate translation. Machine translation post-editing is desirable for businesses and marketing translation as it offers a quick turnaround at a lower cost.  

The machine translation market has been steadily increasing and is anticipated to reach 230.67 million USD by 2026. 

Increase usage of eLearning platforms

Woman wearing a mask

The pandemic changed our lives, but one of the largest impacts was felt in the education sector. – Photo by Edward Jenner

The pandemic may have kept us at home the last few years, but eLearning platforms kept us learning and connected. Forbes estimates that by 2025, the eLearning sector could be worth as much as USD 355 billion dollars. As the business and education sectors looked towards online learning tools and software to maintain a global reach, the videos, courses and quizzes also needed to be updated and translated for global audiences. This newfound flexibility offers benefits to businesses, educators and students as people can work and learn on their own time from the comfort of a home or café. eLearning and eLearning translation shows no signs of slowing and will continue to increase in demand as more and more people and businesses maintain a work/study from home approach. 

Businesses using media localization

Two different types of media are trending right now, podcasts and videos. Podcasts are now being used for business, pleasure, and education and have seen a large rise in listeners, especially considering they’ve only been around for two decades. It is estimated that there will be around 424.2 million podcast listeners worldwide in 2022 and that podcasts will be a USD 94.88 billion industry by 2028.

Videos are also an essential part of today’s media market. In 2019 alone, the average person’s video consumption was 84 minutes daily. Enter the pandemic, and by 2021 that average was nearly 100 minutes per day. Now we’re in the beginning part of 2022, and video streaming and downloads are anticipated to account for 82% of the global internet traffic. A study done by Wyzowl found that 81% of businesses now create at least some video content. Point of fact, if you’re not using videos in your business marketing materials, you should be. 

With the impressive rise of both video and podcast consumption, the need for localization, such as audio transcription services, multilingual voice-over services, or subtitling services, becomes necessary for going global and is a trend that will continue well past 2022. 

Subtitles have become a must

As previously mentioned, videos are currently making up the majority of consumer internet traffic. To make business ads, videos, and video courses more accessible for everyone, subtitles have become essential. 

Even outside of any language or subtitle translation, many of the videos people consume on social media are often viewed on mute, meaning that if a video doesn’t have subtitles, it’s more likely to be skipped and scrolled past. Subtitles have become a required feature for views and impressions, even when the language hasn’t been changed.  

Further, if you do require language translation for a video to reach new audiences, subtitling is generally more affordable than dubbing and is just as effective in reaching your target audiences. 

Multilingual SEO strategies 

By now, it’s obvious that the biggest trend is the translation and localization of businesses in general. This is an upward trend that was growing even before the pandemic. Going global means having an online presence and reaching and connecting to audiences in new and meaningful ways with technology. While website localization is becoming more common, it is often an afterthought. Businesses are now opting to create a multilingual SEO strategy from the get-go so that their business content and practices are aligned with their global goals from the start.

What is a multilingual SEO strategy?

It is the practice of optimizing your SEO in more than one language. This includes everything from websites, eCommerce platforms, video content, social media, customer support and more. The best way to develop a multilingual SEO strategy is to work with a translation project management company that offers multilingual translation services and marketing translations. This ensures an effective strategy that is aimed at a specific target audience and ensures effective use of your business’s resources along with a quality translation that showcases the values and goals of your business. 

Into23 offers quality translation solutions for all major global languages to help your business enter any global market. Bring your business into 2022 and beyond with our transparent and quality language solutions. Contact us today for a free quote to start your global journey.

What we can learn from the Squid Game subtitle debate

Phenomenal runaway South Korean hit Squid Game, streaming via Netflix, was in one regard panned: For many viewers, the subtitle translations obscured the original content’s meaning. Criticism centred on the subtitles not conveying the complexity and nuances of the brilliantly written script. The errors are so bad, according to observers, that the English subtitled version and the Korea are completely different films in terms of not only dialogue, but meaning and character development.

For the uninitiated, Squid Game follows struggling South Koreans who do battle to escape the drudgery of their existence by winning a huge cash prize in a bloody series of games in which the penalty of losing is death.

(The script by director-writer Hwang Dong-hyuk had been rejected by movie companies on numerous occasions over the course of a decade, before it was made.)

One American Korean-speaking viewer, put their finger on the frustration this caused fans of the show. “Not to sound snobby, but I’m fluent in Korean and I watched Squid Game with English subtitles and if you don’t understand Korean, you didn’t really watch the same show,’ she tweeted. ‘Translation was so bad. The dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved,” she was reported by Elle as tweeting.

How bad was it, really?

Because of the changes of meaning in the subtitles, some of the characters came across as very different from that originally envisioned by the filmmaker, who is releasing three of his films the streaming platform.

The intensity of the situation contestants found themselves in was somewhat marred by the soft expletives they used whilst battling to the bitter end. In the original Korean, the language is far more gritty, as would befit such a hellish scenario.

Squid game-video translation services

Source

One aspect of Korean that was wholly lost in translation was the use of honourifics. In many East Asian languages, honourifics are important parts of communication between people of different generations. They convey rich meaning about social relations, which was lost in the subtitles. These honorific comprise words like verb forms and pronouns that reflect and recognise the speakers’ social hierarchical status. There are certain pronouns that a younger speaker would use to address an older speaker. ‘Older brother’ is commonly used by a younger make when referring to an older man. It indicates a degree of closeness and fondness, but this was lost in the translation.

Another instance is when Pakistani shop worker Ali meets company chief Sang Woo. At first, Ali addresses Sang Woo with the moniker, Mr Company President. As their relationship deepens in the face of extreme adversity, Sang Woo bids Ali call him, hung, or big brother, instead. This affects the way a scene where Sang Woo betrays Ali, as the English translation was ‘call me Sang Woo,” which is not as poignant. The intimacy conveyed by the big brother moniker powerfully conveys the exploitation and selfishness of humans in general. Lastly, the lead film’s entire meaning was warped through the subtitle translations.

There are two English subtitles, one of which is closed captioning, has fewer errors. Closed captions display more than just what’s said, they convey other aspects of the visual display. It’s used for when the sound is unavailable or can’t be understood. The other version comprises a transcription of the dubbed version.

What is subtitling? (Subtitles, closed captions and dubbing)

To understand where it went wrong and how you can get it right first time, it’s necessary to understand the subtitling process and its limitations.

Subtitling falls between translation and interpretation and requires video transcription services with a specific set of skills, including the ability to condense dialogue into a set parameter – the on-screen closed caption space – whether the dialogue is intensely complex, or incredibly simple. Expert subtitles must be totally up-to-date with changes in vernacular language as much television content features everyday language, often spoken by young people, who are on the cutting edge of changes to language. Just as a dubbing studio would have a dubbing artist, audio and video transcription services include highly honed subtitle experts. A good subtitle translator is hard to find, so do your due diligence. A good subtitling agency will be able provide premium subtitling services that are fit for an international hit. When consider a dubbing and subtitling services company, make sure to look at the reviews of existing customers, and assess the level of content they have produced before. Many companies will provide audio transcription services, voice dubbing and video translation services under one roof.

Subtitle challenges

Translating phrases in a way that takes the same amount of time to say the same thing in two languages is incredibly challenging. Copying actors’ mouth movements is important as it increases the feeling of authenticity and audience engagement. There is a fine balance between matching the actors’ mouth movements and staying true to the actual words.

The language pair being translated also has a bearing on subtitle challenges. For example, when translating from Korea to Japanese, as the latter language also uses a similar set of honourifics, then its easier to convey the precise meaning of the original.

But with a language pair like Arabic and Korean, the difference is going to be much greater. One reason for this is a language’s compactness. This refers to the number of words used to express a thought. Some languages have single words to explain a thought or action, for example, whereas others will use several words. Another way to put, is that a compact is a more efficient language.

Writing in The Atlantic, John McWhorter postulates that the least efficient language is Kabardian, which is spoken in the Caucasus. He notes that in the simple sentence “The men saw me,” the word for “saw” is sǝq’ayǝƛaaɣwǝaɣhaś (pronounced roughly “suck-a-LAGH-a-HESH”).

Why is it becoming more important?

Global audiences are becoming more comfortable with watching content in foreign languages with subtitles. Indeed, many of Netflix’s top hits are foreign language series like Borgen and Call My Agent. Foreign content is also becoming increasingly accessible. If you want to increase your content’s audience, then expert subtitling is the way to go. Contact us today to explore your options.