Subtitle translations

Over the past year, I’ve been working a lot as a subtitle translator. And I must say,  I love this work! The reason I actually got into the translation industry was because I wanted to translate subtitles. I love movies and I grew up watching (way too much) TV, so it seemed like a natural choice. But I really vowed to become a subtitle translator after seeing countless movies that had bad subtitles. On many occasions, my movie-watching experience was ruined because I knew that the subtitles were off or even simply wrong. I knew that I could make the world a better place with better subtitles!

I also love the fact that I can make my own schedule with my client and take on as many shows/movies as I can handle… After all, my 19-month old toddler is my full-time job!

The way I broke into the industry was quite unexpected. I was on a T&I forum on Facebook and saw that someone posted a comment saying: “If you’re interested in subtitle translations, please contact so-and-so”. So, I immediately contacted that person and sent them my resume. Luckily, they replied back, hired me and I’ve been working for them ever since.

The process usually consists of me downloading the video file and receiving a word document with the transcript (in French) and time codes. It’s important to watch the video before and during the translation process since intonation and context can greatly affect meaning and word choice. Once I have my files, I translate directly into the word document and send it back once I’m done.

I tried using Fluency to help speed up the process but I wasn’t able to make it work. My software kept freezing because of my large files (the word documents can be over 100 pages), and I was concerned that it would affect the formatting and mess up the time codes.

Each line can only accept 37 characters (with spaces), and each subtitle is limited to two lines, which means that you can’t always write everything you would like.

Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way to manage to get the meaning across while respecting the space constraints:

-Shorter is always better. Sometimes certain thoughts have to be edited down to make everything fit. “He lived in the red house, on the hill”, I’d consider deleting “red” or “on the hill”… It’s really a judgment call, but if you think that it’s unnecessary or repetitive information, then it might be worth deleting in order to fit the space.

-Editing really is key. For instance: “Just say that she’s sick” there’s no need for “that” in the sentence, “I don’t think so” can become “I doubt it”, the year 1999 can be shortened to  ’99…etc. Always think of a shorter way to say the same thing.

– I find that “Ça va?” is more often than not a simple “Hi!” or “Hey!” It’s not necessarily “How are you?” Keep the context in mind rather than the literal translation. Imagine yourself in the character’s’ shoes. What would you say in that moment, if you were them?

-If they curse on-screen, then your subtitles need to reflect that… The formality of language must be the same. Translating a movie with French street talk means that you need to know US slang and urban expressions.

-If a character emphasizes something or yells, that must be reflected through punctuation.

-Make sure that you fact-check everything. Always do your research and make sure that the city you have never heard of, the fruit you’ve never seen in your life, or that strange-looking animal’s name is spelled correctly. Never assume that the transcript writer did that for you. In fact, you should always assume that it might be incorrect and double-check everything. Someone out there reading your subtitles, does know the correct spelling and will know if it’s incorrect. Let’s not encourage others to want to do our jobs just because we didn’t do it well enough!

-When I translate, I actually have the bilingual viewer in mind the whole time. I think about ways to “impress” them. I don’t just want them to be satisfied with the subtitles, but I want them to think, “good choice”, “I wouldn’t have thought of that” etc. It’s essential that the subtitles are really adapted to the language and culture of your viewers. They have to feel as though the characters are genuinely saying the words that you chose for them, and it should sound natural according to the context. Recently, I translated “C’est fou de te retrouver comme ça” to “I can’t believe you are here” which worked with the storyline. My first draft was “it’s crazy to seeing you again”, but upon proofreading it, I realized that this did not sound quite as natural.



Preparing For The Department of State Exams

A few weeks ago I decided to fill out an online application (update-this is no longer available on their website) to be a consultant interpreter and translator for the Department of State. I mailed it thinking that I would never hear back and that I had just wasted a stamp.

Well, much to my surprise, I did hear back. I got a call from an interpreter who wanted to schedule a phone screening/small interpreting test for later on in the afternoon. It was consecutive interpreting and even though I was nervous and it was hard, I somehow managed to pass which meant that I received an invitation to go take the interpreting exam in DC, at my own expense.

Continue reading

My Article In The ATA Chronicle

Inspired by Catherine whose interview with Chris Durban was not only featured in The ATA Chronicle, but also in a number of blogs and webinars, I started toying with the idea of interviewing an experienced professional in the industry myself. I knew that it would be a great learning opportunity in terms of the industry (which is still somewhat new to me), creating relationships with potential mentors, overcoming some of my own nervousness…and hey, in the process I might even get my name out.

I felt as though everywhere I turned, people were tweeting or talking about Catherine’s interview. Even as I was sitting in my interpreting class in NYU watching Chris Durban’s webinar, this article was mentioned. I was inspired and decided to attempt an interview of my own. Why not try? Why not shoot for the stars, right? Continue reading

2011 My blog in numbers

Happy New Year everyone!

I just received a recap of the 2011 stats for my blog and thought I’d share.

My blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2011.

In 2011, I wrote 26 new posts. There were 22 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was November 9th with 81 views. The most popular post that day was It pays to be proactive which is not too surprising given that it was about my high-profile gig to date, with the Mayor of Toulouse.

The top referring sites in 2011 were:

Some visitors came searching, mostly for jennifer bikkal hornehispanic fact pack 2011jennifer horne translator, and adorkable jen.

A Translator’s Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on all of the things that I can be thankful for as a translator.

Even though my translating career isn’t even one-year-old yet, I realized that I already have tons to be thankful for.

In particular, I am thankful for:

-the incredible support system/mentors I have met in the industry. I have been inspired and have learned so much from each one of these people: Marcela who inspired me to start this blog,  Judy Jenner who I was lucky enough to meet at the 5th annual AAIT conference, Catherine my wonderful classmate at NYU, Martin Hoffman my interpreting professor at NYU, Grant Hamilton my marketing and advertising translations professor/hero at NYU…just to name a few

-my two amazing interpreting experiences (for the multinational company Tupperware and Mayor of Toulouse) Continue reading

Translating vs. Interpreting

Yesterday, I received an email from someone looking for a “translator for a deposition in ABC town on xx/2011.” As I had not yet had my cup of coffee, it took me a minute to realize that they were in fact looking for an interpreter.

For a minute there, I honestly thought that I would have to go to ABC town to translate documents in front of someone. My caffeine-free brain wondered, “Why on earth would they need a translator on location.”

So to avoid any confusion, here’s a quick breakdown: Continue reading

CMOS (Care More Or Scram!)

Ok, fine… so the real abbreviation is, of course, Chicago Manual Of Style. But I do think that we all need to pay more attention to the way we write and to our style in general.

Translators and advertisers especially. We are writers and marketers, so we must know the rules.

Consistency is key when it comes to style. Pick one style guide, and stick with it. Continue reading