Multi-Media Translation Projects
Subtitling "Covington Cross"


Keeping Sentences Short
You should try to make the sentences of your subtitles as short and simple as possible so they can be read quickly.
To save space, leave out simple words like names, "yes", "no", repetitions of the same word or fillers like "well", "erm" etc., but at the same time try to preserve as much of the characters' speech patterns, accents, stuttering, stammering, etc. as you can.
Example (Name)
Example (Repetition)
Example (Stammering)
Example (Characteristic speech pattern)

People often talk much faster than the audience can read. This may require you to leave out parts of sentences or even whole sentences, or to make one sentence out of two in the original, to make it possible for the audience to read the subtitles.
In this case, try to preserve the meaning of the sentence, rather than the actual wording or structure.
Example 1
Example 2
Example 3

If you work from a language that has only one pronoun to address people, like English, into a language that has several pronouns, which are used according to social status and the relationship the characters have to one another, be careful to choose the right pronoun and adjust the verb accordingly.
Example 1
Example 2

Staying in Character
Shortening sentences and conversations does not mean that you shouldn't try to adapt the subtitles to the kind of person who is speaking. A 20th century teenager uses words and speech patterns that a 14th century peasant never would, a priest speaks differently from a lawyer, etc.

Keeping Jokes Funny
When people tell jokes, they often pause for effect before delivering the punch line. Although you usually should not break a sentence into more subtitles than is absolutely necessary, you should disregard this rule when subtitling a joke To keep it funny and the audience laughing at the right time.
So instead of putting two lines into one subtitle, you can break it up and create two subtitles with one line each. Otherwise, you might end up giving away the punch line too early and spoil the joke.
Example 1
Example 2

At Church, In Courts, etc.

When movie characters speak in very formal standardized situations like at funerals, weddings, and court hearings, do not just translate what they are saying literally, but find the standard expressions that speakers of the language you subtitle into would use in this respective situation. this also aplies to translating humor. When humor is communicated in the language, do not just translate the actual words but also the situation. Do not be afraid to not stick to the original, but if necessary change words to translate the actual humor in the situation.
In our project, this problem arose when characters were praying or quoting from the Bible.
Example (Prayer)
Example 1 (Bible)
Example 2 (Bible)

Adapting to the Target Audience.
Do not just translate the words in the dialogue literally, but try to make it sound naturally in the target language.
Sometimes, it will become necessary to make greater changes due to cultural differences or differences in the languages you're working with.
More often than not, puns or metaphors will also work only in the language they were originally intended for.
Example (Metaphor)

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