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Creativity

Foreign Language Subtitling Services - What You Need to Know


By Michael Sum | 17th September 2021

Your video may have reached audiences at home, but excellent foreign language subtitling services are at the heart of connecting with global markets. 

Understanding foreign language subtitling services is simple enough, but comprehending what it means to produce them is trickier. Knowing why subtitles can help a project penetrate new markets, increase the potential for international reach, and improve access are essential to a modern, forward-thinking media project. The world is getting smaller, so it's easier than ever to find success in any country by transforming your project to any language. 


What are Foreign Language Subtitling Services?

A straightforward question with a simple response; foreign language subtitling services refer to the act of translating dialogue from media into a new language and then adding them as captions. These captions align with the speech onscreen to match what is communicated in the original. Otherwise known as subtitles. 

Of course, this is a surface-level description; the minutia involved in the process is more elaborate and the focus of this article. 


Why it Matters: the Benefit Subtitles Serve

The main gain for you is that you are given the opportunity to reach new global markets with content tailored for different languages. Here's an example: 

Less than 30% of Japan's 129 million population speak English - with cultural resistance being high in the country, so adoption rates are low. Additionally, over 92% of Japanese people have internet access; that is 118 million people who are connected and tech literate. If we assume this statistic overlaps with the online segment of the country, that leaves us with over 83 million technologically proficient and connected people who only speak Japanese! 

That is tens of millions of media-savvy people who could potentially be part of your audience if you catered to them in your content. And that is only one country - the sky is truly the limit when you utilise foreign language subtitling services to access international demographics. Imagine amplifying these statistics for all developed nations, through German translations or Korean.


Translation in Foreign Language Subtitling Services

No two languages are equal. This should be obvious, but what I mean is that translating a script from one language into another isn't just a matter of one-to-one translation. The grammar, linguistic makeup, and etymology of a language can differ significantly, meaning effective translation might necessitate some creative liberties. 

These alterations go a step further than simply translating each word in a sentence; they may reshape a sentence completely to match the new language's sentence structure. 


Subjects, Verbs, and Objects, Oh my!

Let's return to Japanese as an example. Japanese speech differs crucially from English, as Japanese is a language constructed around Subject-Object-Verb (SOV), whereas English sentences are organised as Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). 

Imagine a man named Jason were to walk to the shop. In English, this sentence may look like this. 

Jason walks to the shop. 

This makes sense - Jason (the subject) walks (the verb) to the shop (the object). Simple enough. 

However, this would not take on the same structure in an SOV language like Japanese. A literal English equivalent to a proper Japanese translation would look like this. 

Jason to the shop walks

Jason (the subject) to the shop (the verb) walks (the object). This is a tremendously simplistic representation of a single major difference between these two languages. It is just scratching the surface, which should showcase how complex it is for professional foreign language subtitling services to work. 

If you want to learn more about this complicated process, watch this video! [turn captions on!]


This is a singular example too! The differences between English and languages like Arabic are even more complicated; Arabic subtitles are read right-to-left. 


Man vs Machine: Handcrafted vs Automated Translations

With automated subtitling services on everyone's minds these days, you may think that it's best to circumvent this entire process and let a robot do it all for you. 

I understand the temptation; however, this would be a big error. Simply put, a machine cannot accurately capture the spirit of a script in its translation. Cultural differences may require rewrites during the translation process of the foreign language subtitling services. 

A machine cannot understand the subtleties of a joke to anticipate whether or not it will land for foreign audiences. 

Even an android in the 24th century struggles to grasp the nuance of jokes.


Many organisations create translations for content, and while this may be a fine starting point, it will never guarantee quality as a final product. Only a human professional can translate content for foreign language subtitling services while ensuring the quality of the subtitles remains top-notch. 


How Our Subtitling Services Work

The foreign language subtitling services procedure is a multi-stage undertaking, employing multiple skillsets to transform a project from one language to another while retaining the original's quality. Here is how our process works:


Preparation

The first step in this procedure is a stage that preludes actual production. By sitting down and having a think about your ideal project, you can streamline production. Also known as Preparation!

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" - Benjamin Franklin

What The Ol' Frankster was trying to convey to us here is that being ready is super important to any endeavour. With a process that requires precision, like foreign language subtitling services, it is even more essential. 

From the customer side, all the original production files need to be readily available for a localization team to work with. The most vital content will be the script for subtitling, as this will need to translating before completion. Access to the original writing team can also be beneficial for projects where nuance and characterisation are pivotal. Animations, films, video games may all require this extra cooperation to maximise authenticity across each iteration.

Providing these bits and pieces goes a long way to ensuring quality is retained from the initial version when the subtitling has been completed. Beyond this, it can also be a great idea to know what you want your ideal subtitle style to look like. There is no absolute aesthetic for foreign language subtitles, although some styles are more popular than others. 

There are a wide array of possible aesthetics; Learn more about subtitling styles here


Production

This is where the fun begins. Our team starts to work their magic at this stage to put together the subtitles according to your chosen language, style, and other requirements. 

Translating the content with careful consideration is the trickiest part; by breaking down the meaning of the script and rebuilding it in another language, we can keep the spirit of the media intact. This takes a slightly longer production time, although it is always worth it when it guarantees top quality foreign language subtitling services. 

From here, the process is all about syncing the dialogue to what is happening on screen. As the subtitles will not match the speakers' language, there isn't a strict requirement for words to match mouth flaps (the mouth movements of the speaker) as that would be impossible! But this doesn't mean that there is no care given to timing. Generally, matching a subtitle sentence up to what is being said on screen is the best way to keep everything nice and well-timed. 

Otherwise, you could end up with the actions in the video not aligning with the content being read. Imagine everyone reacting to a shock reveal seconds before you even know what is being revealed! Pretty jarring.


Delivery

From here, we should have completed the foreign language subtitling services, and it's time to send it all over to you. Depending on what you prefer, there are a few different ways to go about delivery. 

At its most basic, we can deliver the .SRT file straight to you. This is essentially just a time-coded text file that matches your video content for you to insert back into your project and export in any which way you prefer. These are referred to as closed captions. 

Alternatively, we can export the video project with the subtitles burned into the video itself - aka. open captions. These are not a setting; they are part of the video and unable to be turned off - this is ideal for ease of delivery. We would export in your preferred file format, e.g. MP4, MOV, WMV, AVI, etc. 


There we are once again. Hopefully, you feel that you learned something about how subtitling works and how it may benefit your projects. 

It's worth remembering that a result of globalisation is that people are likely to find your work eventually, especially if it's entertainment-based. Being prepared and anticipating your audience can help you cater to them directly with subtitles - maximising your potential to connect with this international demographic. 


Learn more about Subtitling Services


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Michael Sum

Michael Sum

Marketing Specialist at Voquent.

About Author

Michael Sum

Michael Sum

Marketing Specialist at Voquent.