Audiovisual translation is a sector within the translation industry. If we were to define audiovisual translation, we would call it a form of translation that ‘transmits’ multimedia content (i.e., film, television, theatre and advertising) from one culture to another.

Multimedia content is complex and normally comprises images, sounds, and verbal language. As such, it requires translators to think carefully about the cultural references specific to their target language.

Audiovisual translation

What is audiovisual translation?

Audiovisual translation consists of translating the language of multimedia content so that its message can be easily and accurately understood in the target language. As such, it requires some fairly significant geolocalistion and broad knowledge of the target language and culture.

Audiovisual translation has various forms of application, especially in the film and television industries. International TV series are continuing to grow in popularity around the globe and as a result, subtitling has quickly become one of the main ways of supplying audiovisual translation.

Dubbing is a form of multimedia translation that some countries have used for many years, with excellent results. Italy, for example, is famous for its dubbing industry. Translating an actor’s lines so that they can be dubbed (rather than made into subtitles) is quite a complex process, and a translator has to consider both lip movements and timings. The pace must also be identical in the target and source languages.

How do you find work in the audiovisual translation sector?

Unfortunately, as often happens in new or emerging professions, there is currently no official training route to becoming a qualified audiovisual translator. A languages degree is certainly a must, as is a familiarity with certain tech tools (i.e. subtitling software), which play a key role in the work of a multimedia translator.

However, there are several European Master’s degree courses in audiovisual translation out there, which provide students with an opportunity to deepen their industry knowledge and practice using the tools needed to translate and localise multimedia products. Many multimedia translators take their first professional steps by browsing specialised websites on how to produce multimedia translations or subtitles for films, TV series and programmes.

You could even do an internship at an agency specialised in professional multimedia translation and then become self-employed. It is also not uncommon, especially when translating a text for the dubbing sector, to spend a lot of time in the dubbing booth, working closely with actors and voice actors.