What are the Benefits of Subtitles and Subtitle Translation?

Videos, whether they are documentaries, dramas, or other genres of films are popular forms of entertainment around the world. Of course, they mix audio content with video content, which can pose problems for some viewers. Deaf people, for example, only see the video content and miss out on the audio content. Viewers who do not understand the language used in the video format also miss out on important context. One of the answers to these sorts of problems is subtitling and subtitling translation. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of subtitling and subtitle translation.

What is a subtitle?

A subtitle is a text version of the audio content that can be heard in the film or video. Subtitles appear on the screen, typically below the video content. Without translation, subtitles use the same language that is used in the audio content. Noises, music, or other sounds can also be represented by text-based subtitles. Subtitles can often be turned on or off on some screens, e.g. on a TV screen.

What is subtitle translation?

Subtitle translation is simply a translated version of the original subtitle. For example, let’s say a new Bollywood film comes out in Hindi. Subtitles can be added to help hard-of-hearing or deaf Hindiviewers, but subtitle translation means that viewers who don’t understand Hindi can follow what is going on when they can see subtitles in their own language.

Where are subtitles used?

Subtitles are primarily used to help deaf people or those who have reduced hearing ability understand the audio content that is on the video or film. The subtitles may just be the text version of what is being spoken, or may include sounds and noises where relevant as well. For example, if people are laughing in the film, the subtitle may show the word “laughter”.

Where are subtitle translations used?

Subtitle translations are translations of subtitles. They are used to allow viewers who do not understand the language used in the original video or film. Subtitle translation allows films made in one part of the world to reach out and be enjoyed and viewed by many more people around the world, as long as the translation happens to be in a language they understand.

What other techniques are available for video promoters and marketers?

The main alternative to using subtitle translation is the use of voiceovers. A voiceover is also called dubbing. When video or filmmakers or marketers use voiceovers, what they do is employ someone to say what the actors or spokespeople in the original video, but in another language. The original audio content is muted, with the newly translated audio voice content superimposed on the film instead.

Advantages of subtitles

Apart from the main virtues of subtitles and subtitle translation already mentioned, the main advantage of using subtitles, rather than opting for voiceovers, is that they are much cheaper and more flexible. A video that has been subtitled can be converted into many other languages quite quickly by translating the subtitles. Finding real people to translate the audio content and dub the original content is more complex and certainly more expensive.

Disadvantages of subtitles

The main disadvantage of subtitles is that is that it tend to distract from the video content of the film, documentary, or other format. Viewers may spend so much time reading the subtitles that they miss what is actually happening on the screen. There is an additional disadvantage of translating subtitles into some languages, as they may occupy more space than the original language, adding to the potential distraction for viewers.


Subtitles are useful extra provisions for hard of hearing or deaf viewers of videos and films allowing them to understand the context of the video content. Subtitle translation allows foreign viewers to watch and understand the content of videos and films that are not in their own language. Subtitles are cheaper and more flexible to use than the main alternative, dubbing or voiceovers, but may be more distracting.


A Simple Guide to Choosing a Subtitling and Captioning Service

Subtitling and captioning are not quite the same thing but are related when in the context of being used in videos. It is important to choose a professional subtitling service when your video is to be released in places where people do not speak the same language as those in the film script or are deaf.

What is a subtitle?

Subtitles are short summaries of what someone is saying which are displayed clearly at the bottom of a video. Ideally, they appear just when needed, i.e. not too early and not too late, and are long enough for viewers to get the message, i.e. follow the speech or utterances of the characters in the video. Subtitles may be in the same language as the language used by the characters in the video or different. Subtitles that are composed in the same language help to provide an overview or précis of each person’s speech. This is basically to cater to those people who find it hard to hear or are deaf. They may also be turned on (if available) in certain circumstances when an audio version of the video is not suitable, e.g. if used in a library or educational institution and earphones are not available.

When a video is released outside of the country where the video was made and an audience who does not speak that language is targeted, then subtitles are typically translated into the relevant language. Very popular films and documentaries, for example, may have dozens of different versions of subtitles, each available for a different audience.

What is captioning?

Captions are typically very short words or phrases used to highlight a part of a video or documentary. Like subtitles, they may be used whenever someone who is hard of hearing or deaf is watching the video or when it is not acceptable for there to be sound. Captions, like subtitles, are typically translated when the video is intended for audiences who don’t speak the language of the characters in it.

Why is there a need for professional subtitling services?

There are two major challenges faced by subtitling services. The first is making the subtitle fit the actual speech or sounds heard in the video. The second is when the subtitle is translated. The second challenge is then added to the first challenge!

The first challenge involves knowing how to simplify what is being said without leaving out the main message. By simplification, it is common for a subtitle not to occupy more than a single sentence; otherwise, by the time someone has read the subtitle, the video has already progressed further, leaving the person watching well behind. Also, the subtitle has to appear on the screen in a suitable place and be of the font, color, and size that is required by the video maker. The subtitle also has to appear on the screen just at the right time and be replaced by another subtitle or disappear just at the right time. 

The fact that subtitles are frequently translated means that all of the challenges listed above also have to be taken into consideration when the translated version is devised. Text used in some languages, for example, may be of different lengths when translated, so the translator has to work with the subtitler so that the length of the subtitle, its appearance, and timing still fit in with the video.

How to choose the right subtitling and captioning services for your objectives

When you choose a professional subtitling and captioning service, you will want to know which languages they are familiar with and how much experience they have with the genre of video you need subtitled or captioned. Most videos, for example, use a lot of colloquial terms and slang, so the subtitler must be able to understand all of the nuances of these words and phrases and be able to convert them into equivalent subtitles in the target language without creating confusion or offense.