Being able to empathise is an extremely important quality of a subtitler.
In essence, the subtitler becomes a passive actor in the subtitling process.

 

The best compliment, a non-native speaker can ever give a subtitler, is 'Loved the movie. Didn't notice the subtitles'.

 

Having translated, are you sure that the reader will be able to read the subtitle and enjoy the scene at the same time?

 

Subtitling is not just about one's translation skills. It's about knowing the art of saying it all in few words. 

 

 


Learning subtitling

The worst way to learn the art of subtitling:

The best way to learn the art of subtitling:

 

Simple Subtitling
How the subtitling course came into existence

There is a similarity between playing chess and the art of subtitling: in both disciplines one has to apply very diverse general rules in countless specific situations.

In the nineteen nineties I read and studied Michael Stean's Simple Chess. In the introduction he warned that the chess game was by no means simple, but you could break the game down into basic principles and from there get more and more specific. The book greatly increased the pleasure I found in playing chess.

Colleagues I was teaching how to subtitle were constantly getting lost in all the specific rules, and suddenly I saw I had to break up the 'game of subtitling' and help beginning subtitlers always to remember the basic principles (readability, clarity, look, timing, consistency etc.) behind every choice to be made and subsequently the subprinciples governing more specific cases.

The next step was deciding on a hands-on approach. Subtitling is a handicraft and to start off learning the theory is not only a detour, but will lead the beginning subtitler to pick up bad subtitling habits that will have to be unlearned, which is an uphill struggle. So we came up with a system of buttons with which students can select parts of the course that are the most relevant to them.

Students can quickly scan parts of the material before starting to practise. By doing so, the subtitling principles will enter their short-term memory, and while practising, very gradually, their long-term memory.

The Comprehensive Subtitling Course is punctuated with simple, basic examples, in bold font, which can serve as a support when encountering similar subtitling problems later on in one's subtitling career.

The Comprehensive Subtitling Course was tested extensively by beginning subtitlers of a major Dutch subtitling company.

The success of the course in The Netherlands and Belgium prompted us to have it translated into English, enabling students all over the world to acquire the basics of the art of subtitling. The step-by-step guide will give students extra grip on the material, increasing their chances of success.

Neither chess nor subtitling is a simple 'game', but by learning it the right way one can become a better 'gamer'.

Bartho Kriek
Subtitling Worldwide