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Automatic subtitle translation: advantages and disadvantages

Subtitles are key to making sure video content is effective.

Thanks to subtitles, we can watch audiovisual content without sound, even when we don’t understand the language spoken in the video.

Subtitles need to be effective to do their job properly. To do so, they must respect specific timing, methods, and rules.

Creating subtitles is a complex task, but translating them is even more so. Although automatic subtitle translation software often does a great job, the output does not always meet high standards.

Automatic subtitle translation: the pros

The number one benefit of automatic subtitle translation is that it is extremely fast.

You can generate subtitles for very long texts very quickly, and without incurring practically any costs, beyond the price of the software, which is usually a one-off cost.

Machine translation software is a good option if you don’t have much time or money to hand and need to translate subtitles into a few close and relatively widely spoken languages.

Automatic subtitle translation: the cons

As you might have guessed, automatic subtitle translations have their pros and cons. The cons include the fact that machine translators cannot always generate consistent or understandable subtitles between two distant languages, or if one of the languages is not widely spoken.

In addition, machine translators are not always great at handling metaphors, idiomatic expressions, slang, dialect, and puns.  In practice, automatically translating subtitles is not entirely reliable when the language deviates from its standard form in any way.

Since subtitles are meant to appear at specific times, they need to be short enough to be easily read and understood by viewers.

When translating subtitles, it is sometimes necessary to rephrase or modify sentences so that they fit the required timings on screen. This work cannot be done automatically: it requires a human being’s linguistic awareness and creativity.

Who should you ask to translate video subtitles?

As it is a complex task, you should ask professionals translators specialised in subtitling to do the job for you.

Eurotrad's subtitling services are performed by specialised professional translators. Don’t hesitate to submit your project. We provide quotes free of charge!


Redazione Eurotrad

August 29, 2022

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