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Great subtitle translations use natural language to translate the ideas communicated on-screen, in as few words as possible.

Natural Language
Novice subtitle translators tend to translate verbatim everything said on-screen. This leads to awkward phrasing and hard-to-read subtitles that are often too long. An experienced subtitle translator will distill the essence of on-screen communication into translated natural language. This means re-interpreting expressions, grammar, structure, phrasing , cultural references and word-play into the viewers everyday language.

Don’t subtitle everything
Often audio mixes contain background voices, overlapping dialog and other non-essential verbal audio. Be selective in what you include – if it confuses the audience and is not important, leave if out. For overlapping dialog, choose what’s important and focus on the pacing.

Condense! Make it shorter!
Use as few words as possible to convey the meaning of what’s being said. Reading is a chore when watching a film. Let your audience look at the center of the screen, not just the bottom!

Review with a native speaker
If you don’t know both of the languages being translated, review you text with a native speaker from the geographic region where your film will show.¬†For example, a film translated for a French-Canadian audience will be received differently when viewed in France. Having a native-speaker double-check the flow of the subtitles will be very helpful in identifying problems and refining the timing and content.

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