You will need certain skills and personal qualities that we at Titles-On cannot provide training for. Read the following carefully, and you will know whether you will succeed as a subtitler or if subtitling may not be the best choice for you.
1. Ability to adhere to deadlines
This is the be-all and end-all quality all subtitlers must have. If you don’t have the self-discipline, foresight and organisational skills which ensure that we receive the finished subtitle files on time, every time, your success as a subtitler will be limited and short-lived.
2. Keeping files, material and any other sensitive material confidential and safe
Our Industry is based on copyrights, and security is of the highest importance. You will need to sign a confidentiality agreement before we give you access to any material.
Subtitling speech, often with poor audio, can sometimes result in words being misrecognised. Mistakes impair the audiences’ viewing experience. For that reason – not to mention the linguistic pride we take in our work – we do everything to avoid and correct any mistakes before they are aired. Staying calm, being ready to go back and correct files (at any hour) and maintaining that other useful skill, a sense of humour, is often the best way for a subtitler to remain sane!
4. Good language skills and a love of language
Language competence in both source language and target language is the basic skill a subtitler must have. In addition to knowing your grammar in and out, as an AD-translator, you must also enjoy writing, experimenting with words, testing out what goes where best. Often you will have character counts that you must not exceed. Adhering to such specifications may require some linguist acrobatics or lateral thinking.
5. Cultural competence
As a subtitler you must have cultural competence. Without understanding the context and culture of the original language, you may mishear words or find it difficult to understand certain ambiguities, expressions, slang, references etc. It is important to improve and update your cultural competence for the source language as well as for your target language.
6. Being non-judgmental and neutral
You must be able to work on a translation job without judging the content or putting your own slant on it. Take a step back and translate exactly what the characters say, not what you would prefer or think is correct. If you discover factual errors, first double-check, then alert your supervisor of the fact. If the supervisor (and our client) wants the original text to stay unchanged, translate as instructed.
7. Attention to detail
Apart from missing a deadline, not getting simple facts – like numbers – right is one of the mortal sins of the translation profession. If you have a file which includes figures, always check their accuracy separately from spelling and grammar. Make sure to convert metrics when applicable.
Always check that you have translated all dialogue and text that is burnt on to the screen. You will need to watch the whole program and listen carefully to the dialogue as well as watching the action on the screen. Oversights will result in the file being rejected (worst case by our client if it goes undetected) and… heads will roll.
Check for “false friends” and words you commonly misspell because they sound the same, but mean something different. Be aware of different spelling and meaning of words in US English and GB English.
8. IT skills
You need to have access to reliable Internet, own a computer, and be skilled in operating and manoeuvring the Internet.