Best Practices

What is Subtitle Translation?

Nowadays, subtitle translators are being more and more requested by a number of different companies. As the world is turning fast into a digital environment, many companies are relying on videos to communicate.
Rodrigo Demetrio
2 min
Table of Contents

Nowadays, subtitle translators are being more and more requested by a number of different companies. As the world is turning fast into a digital environment, many companies are relying on videos to communicate.

Thus, they have to translate their material in order to capture audiences in different locations.Several studies show that around 85% of people that watch videos on Facebook or Tik Tok view them with the sound off.

Captions and subtitles are exploding all over the place.  And as time goes by, the companies are realizing that translating subtitles is not a simple thing to do. It is much more than “just” roughly translating what is said in a video. Therefore, translating subtitles should be done by experts who understand the language and all its cultural context to localize the content and avoid mistakes like what happened with the Netflix series Squid Game.

Luckily, many professionals are available on the market to do such work. Do you want to know more about the subject and how to excel being a Subtitle Translator? So keep reading this text!

What is Subtitle Translation

In a few words, subtitle translation is the translation of a video, which is in language “A”, into written subtitles, which are in language “B”. Those can come from dialogues, classes, or any type of video format there is. Afterward, the written subtitles are synchronized with the images, making it possible for a person who does not speak language “A” to understand the content. The best way to do this successfully is through a translator and linguist specialist who is fully fluent in language “A”. That way, the professional is capable of getting the nuances of the language into the written text.

The role of a Subtitle Translator

A common mistake people make is assuming that anyone can do the work of a Subtitle Translator. This is because the translation of a video into subtitles is not a mere “copy and paste” (from Google Translate) of what was said, since jargon and idiomatic expressions may occur.Above all, a good Subtitle Translator will be an expert in both languages ​​in question, as well as in localization. Thus, he will make the best possible adaptations so that all messages present in the video come through the audience, despite their mother tongue.More than that, a good Subtitle Translator is also familiar with the format (i.e. video) in which the work must be done. Since the written text varies plenty from the oral one, the translator must be an expert on that matter as well.

Best Practices for Subtitle Translation

Now that we have proven the importance of Subtitle Translators, it is time to understand the best practices that a good professional needs to follow. As there are many people who are fluent in more than one language, how can someone stand out as a Subtitle Translator? We gathered here a few important points to pay attention to in order to master this profession!

Localize the content

Writing subtitles is much harder than doing a rough translation of what is being said in a video. Therefore, an excellent Subtitle Translator must be able to localize the content in question. When localizing content, the translator should be aware of other aspects related to the target audience’s culture. For example, how they write dates or time. The professional should also be aware of the variants of each language - so he or she can engage properly with the audience and can adapt the content to other groups.

The length of the subtitle translation

As a general rule, video subtitles should be short. Of course, this depends on the media in which the video will be presented, but a good rule to follow to maintain the high quality of your subtitles is to keep them short.

Right Timing

In order for people to understand rightfully the subtitles of a video, they should appear on the screen at the right time. That means that they can not be too fast or too slow - appearing at the right speed on the screen. Luckily, nowadays there are a number of software that can help a translator to find out the perfect speed for subtitles.

Focus on the Audience

It is important to know your audience. To whom is the video talking? How can you make an impact on these people? Does the targeted public use any type of slang? How do they communicate on a daily basis?Answering these questions will make the life of a Subtitle Translator much easier.

Keep it simple

Subtitles are only part of the magic - they should not be the whole show. Therefore, it is necessary that the text is legible enough so that someone can follow the video even without sound. Still, the subtitles can not stand out for some unnecessary reason. Hence, the goal here is that they are kept in a simple and clear style.

Pretend you are the audience

A secret to making good subtitles is proofreading and watching the content you just translated. By doing that, you will be able to analyze some aspects that are not directly related to the translation itself - such as if each line covers too much of the screen, or if the line breaks are flowing naturally. A good technique is to read the subtitles out loud in order to pick up on these peculiarities. Another thing to pay attention to is whether or not you can read the whole text before the next frame - hence most subtitles should be kept short. As for modern languages, the ideal number of characters is around 25 per second. For Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, this number drops to 10 characters per second.

Practice daily

The fluency of a person varies from how much they are in contact with the languages in questions. Therefore, a person who was once fluent in English, for example, may not be anymore after a while. An expert Subtitle Translator has to think outside of the box. Forget about only aiming to merely directly translate what is being said in a video. The art of excelling at translating subtitles involves much more: localization, adaptation, focus, empathy. It is essential to put yourself in your targeted public’s shoes. Would you like the material you just translated? Is there any way to make it more understandable to their eyes?

Frequently used software

Today, a person can find a number of different software that make the life of professional translators easier. Here you can find some of the best subtitle translators in the market.

Ayato 3

Although paid, Ayato 3 is one of the most used subtitle translators out there. This one is perfect for open-captioned translations of subtitles and/or fast closed-caption access subtitles.

Subtitle Workshop

Subtitle Workshop is really popular among translators due to the fact that it provides good performance for free. It offers a wide range of formats and features, as well as customized tools and a user-friendly interface.


This software is used mainly by UNIX and Windows operating systems’ users. It can translate and process multiple documents, thus it has become one of the most important software in terms of translating text-based subtitle files.

Subtitles Translators

Another free software that is used by many people who wish to translate subtitles. This software offers line-by-line translations and editing tools that make it possible for someone to redefine shortcuts, intervals, and tags.

Subtitle translation rates

A freelancer can charge different rates depending on the job requested. Those often vary according to the expertise required, minimum fees, and type of clients.

Subtitle translation demo

This video shows an interesting demo of subtitle translation. There, you can watch and understand how to use subtitle translation software, as well as learn tips on timing stamps and other key details for providing high-quality subtitles translation. When done properly, translating subtitles is one of the more effective weapons in regards to capturing and maintaining an audience. When running a business, you must choose the right translation service to expand your market. Website translation, for example, helps you reach more clients. Software localization consists of adapting languages and design elements. Translators can also count on TMS, which is great for optimizing their work. However, a detailed human review is essential for a good result.

Rodrigo Demetrio
Steering the marketing ship at Bureau Works with 17+ years of MarTech under my belt, I transform mere ideas into tangible realities. Passionate about languages and their power to build bridges, let's build a new one?
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