You are using an outdated browser. For a faster, safer browsing experience, upgrade for free today.
    • 2021

    Our Dos and Don'ts for the translation of audiovisual works

    Whether films, videos or other audiovisual works, it is through language and multilingualism that they acquire an intense message. In our blog, we provide tips for a successful audiovisual translation. We explain the specifics and summarize the most important dos and don'ts especially for our junior translator colleagues.

    What would movies and videos be without words, without multilingualism and dubbing or without subtitles. In our blog about translating audiovisual works, we do not deal with the details of audiovisual translation. Numerous explanations and contributions exist here. We summarize the most important working rules for the creation of these translations, hoping to provide junior translators with more incentive and tips from our experienced colleagues 
    Let us first briefly explain what audiovisual translations are, and then go on to name the dos and don'ts.
    Audiovisual translations are all translations of video files. The primary goal is to match each image with what is being spoken and to translate the content appropriately into the desired language. Subtitling is the most frequently requested service in our daily work, followed by dubbing. The challenge of dubbing is to render the content while taking into account the lip movements in the picture, i.e. the translation must be constantly adjusted. Protocols documenting words and images as well as instructions support the translations. 
    In general, there are no fixed protocols, instructions or guidelines for dubbing or subtitling in the conventional sense.
    In public broadcasting, however, there are various regulations and guidelines for the subtitling of audiovisual contributions. For example, a maximum of 21 characters per second may be inserted. An entire subtitle, on the other hand, may not contain more than 38 characters per line. In the so-called pyramid system, a maximum of 2 lines are allowed per subtitle. The upper line cannot be longer than the lower line. In addition, the insertion time of each subtitle is limited. More technical guidelines written by the IRT, the publisher of the technical guidelines and working group results of the public broadcasters in Germany (ARD, ZDF, Deutschlandradio), in Austria (ORF) and in Switzerland (SRG/SSR), can be found here

    Let us now look at the 3 important aspects of audiovisual translations. Besides the content side, i.e. the translation must correspond to the content, intercultural and traditional backgrounds must be known and the technical aspects must be considered.

    Dos: What must absolutely be taken into account?
    1) First, take a complete look at the audiovisual work to be translated. Afterwards, start the detailed dubbing protocol. For a good synchronization is a detailed script. Of course, such a protocol improves with the increasing experience of a professional audiovisual translator and should always be the basis for the speakercryig. Some readers may now wonder what is so important about the protocol and what exactly is documented in it. In this basic document, among other things, the visibility of the lip movement is recorded, non-verbal expressions such as LAUGHING or CRYING are taken into account, but also pauses (for intervention or) in speech are integrated. 
    2) There is the 1:1 translation and the voice-over translation, where the translated passages are spoken superficially and another voice is heard in the background.  As a translator, get away as much as possible from the idea of always wanting or needing to translate what is said in full. Speech flows and volumes vary too much for that. The motto is: Regarding the translation, concentrate and focus on the essentials of what is being said.
    3) It is imperative that you follow the character count and timing guidelines for each subtitle to ensure that the subtitles are readable in the context of the story.
    4) No one is perfect and four eyes see more than two. Give both the subtitle translation and the dubbing, including the transcript, to another colleague, because the 4-eyes review guarantees quality and usually a follow-up order.
    5) For every audiovisual translation, intensive terminology research in advance is essential. Unfortunately, a quick Google search is not enough. Intercultural circumstances, traditions and peculiarities, country-specific characteristics and specifications must be taken into account in the translation in order to support and accompany the authenticity of the audiovisual work.
    6) Make meaningful abridgements of the interventions.

    Dont's: What should be avoided at all costs?
    1) Never leave dubbing translations to a narrator, as? the speaker focuses on rendering, but neglects the fit of text, image and non-verbal aspects.
    2) Move away from trying to translate everything completely and limit yourself to the most important content. Anything else might lead to incorrections.
    3) Always check spelling and grammar, as tenses or misspellings can cause distortions in content.
    4) Pay attention to the timing of the subtitles. Avoid overlapping, emphasize the consistency of speech cues.
    5) Important: Do not censor, that is, vulgar language must also be kept or elevated language must be adopted.
    6) Also, do not separate? syntagms and sense units.

    For each type of audiovisual translation, subtitling, dubbing, or translation for the deaf, there are specific script recommendations and regulations. Enough material to cover these topics in detail and in depth in further blog posts. 
    Here and today, we will leave it at the illustration of the 12 most important general tips for audiovisual translations from our experts. Of course, these tips only complement the professional training and education in this field. 
    It was also important for us to share that in addition to language pair-specific issues and language style, a film translator must also deal with a variety of extra-linguistic elements from the socio-cultural context of the source culture.
    Armed with these tips, you will be in a better position to handle your future assignments in an optimal and enjoyable manner.