Subtitling as a new challenge for linguists and LSPs

11 Oct 2019
11:15 - 12:00

Subtitling as a new challenge for linguists and LSPs

What competences are required, what can go wrong and what policies can be put in place to mitigate risks.

As the demand for subtitles, fuelled by international streaming giants, is growing, there are more newcomers to the profession than ever before, both subtitlers and LSPs. When compared with the other, more traditional, types of translation, subtitling requires some additional competences. While most of them are technical in nature (working with space and time constraints using specialised software), numerous specific linguistic, personal and interpersonal, and service provision competences are required as well. Whenever some of them are missing, the result may be subtitles that are not fit for purpose. In some cases, seemingly negligible shortcomings (too high speed, poor segmentation) may be so critical that the viewers find the subtitles frustrating or the subtitles fail to get across the message at all.

The paper will present the most prominent subtitler’s competences – which, in turn, should be reflected in LSPs’ vendor management –, what can go wrong when the competences are inadequate and what can be done to mitigate those risks. As universities do not universally offer courses in Audiovisual Translation (AVT), LSPs need to place more emphasis on testing and training. Another reason for robust testing is that subtitling is highly attractive discipline, as shown by fansubbing. Other measures include developing clear style guides, relying on excellent quality controllers, recruiting reliable spotters, offering adequate rates and, last but not least, putting in place talent management schemes. LSPs’ covering multiple languages should set up a network of in-country experts with a deep and extensive knowledge of AVT in their respective countries who will be able to help with linguist recruitment, style guide development, talent management, as well as more day-to-day issues.

Miroslav Pošta has a degree in Translation Studies from Charles University. He is a freelance translator, subtitler and quality controller and he has given lectures and courses in subtitling at several Czech universities. Miroslav Pošta is the author of Titulkujeme profesionálně, the first Czech-language publication on subtitling, and Technologie ve službách překladatele, a book for translators about CAT tools, MT and corpora and he has published more books for translators.