Wide Subtitling Experience at Your Disposal

A subtitle is a written text you see on the lower part of the screen.

It is used to show you in letters the translation of the dialogue between the characters (the actors and actresses), the other elements appearing in writing or otherwise (signs, etc…), and other audio elements like songs.

In fact, the difficult part of subtitling is how the text will survive the constraints of time and screen space. Any translation should be fit for only two lines that will be shown at the bottom of the screen. If a line would be six or seven words, then you are allowed to use 15 words. When such limit is exceeded, editing should be made. Many factors should be balanced in order to get a good subtitle. If you are given a word for word translation as subtitling for your video, you may not have a problem of space on the screen. That would be Ok. But as you know, we speak with a faster speed than we read.

So your audience will have a problem to catch on the words. They have to read with the same speed the actor talks. Right? In this case, you’d better ask for editing. Subtitling involves many phases from the first moment until the subtitles are ready for the program.

At Elaph Translation, our translators are keen to watch the program or the film before proceeding to producing subtitles. By watching, our translators can form a better understanding of the context.

You know… one word may have different meanings even in written text, let alone audiovisual translations.

The word ‘طيب’ in Arabic can have different meanings depending on the context and intonations. It can mean ‘simple-minded’, ‘delicious’, ‘openhearted’, or could mean ‘what else’ in some context.

In the same vein, the word ‘well’ doesn’t always translate as ‘حسناً’ as you always see in poorly subtitled movies.

You watch these badly subtitled movies and wonder at how funny the English word funny can be subtitled.

So by making available your video material to Elaph, you actually help us give you better subtitles. But sometimes watching the video material seems unrealistic due to a reason or another including time constraints.

If they work on a written script, scenario or character dialogue, our translators first tend to read such material to note any problematic or difficult spot in the text. Our experience taught us to focus on certain parts of the script. The gender and number in Arabic and English are couldn’t be treated the same.

How many subtitles went wrong on these aspects of linguistic differences.

Give this sentence ‘You are smart’ to a subtitler and ask her to translate. If she doesn’t ask for the context, for example the addressee, don’t trust her with your video material.

Here are possible subtitles for the said sentence depending on number and gender:


This is how difficult a straight sentence can be?

Let’s not talk about exclamations like, ‘goodness’, ‘geez’, ‘Christ’, ‘my gosh’,‘oh, my’.

Review of Subtitles

At Elaph Translation, we make sure that your subtitles are reviewed and proofread to the highest quality possible. In this stage, any translation mistakes and mistranslations are corrected in the printed version.

If your script is translated by translator A, we assign translator B to revise the subtitles. You know, each one of us is not good at discovering his own mistake. But others easily notice them. You know this stage is important in translation, but it becomes even more important in subtitling.

Mistakes tend to be more visible and more influential on screen than on page. Few mistranslations may waste your efforts.

Subtitling Constraints

Due attention has to be paid to the actors’ dialogue, but withoutforgetting other acoustic and visual elements that should also be translated: songs,inserts, newspaper headlines, or voices coming from a radio or a television set, for instance.

Yes, it is true that dialogue is an important aspect of the subtitling process. But there are many elements in the audiovisual translation that needs special attention.

These include inserts, songs, newspaper headlines, television or radio voices, for example. When we subtitle, we focus on other things as well. Namely, spatial and temporal elements. These are the space available on the screen for the subtitles, and how long they should be, so much to give a good watching experience.

But if you want us not to worry about time and space limitations, we have no problem to translate your script as if it is a written text. Of course, then you should use the service of a technical expert to adapt it to your screen requirements.

Or you may go the easy road: Send us your audiovisual translation, and get it ready for the screen.