All right, so you’ve got a bangin’ piece of audiovisual media, and you want to expand your reach; maybe you’ve already been proactive and have had it close-captioned. Great! That’s one way to foster inclusivity and maximize engagement. But did you know that if you translate subtitles, you can get a host of other benefits beyond the obvious?
Having subtitles in your media’s original language is a must, of course, — closed captioning rules! But that’s just the first step in a larger strategy of branding outreach. If you’re going to get serious about going beyond the usual feel-good bromides, you need to start thinking globally.
Look, it’s OK. Not everybody’s looking for the same things, I get it, but if you’re thinking about:
- Broadening your audience
- Improving SEO (Search Engine Optimization) across the board
- Maintaining your work’s original identity
Then, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to have to translate subtitles. End of story.
Ok, yeah, now that’s the matter of why settled, but maybe you’re still unconvinced. There’s, after all, the issue of how this all works in your favor. Care to join me while I explain? I promise it’ll be fun and educational, which is the best kind of fun if you’re a stickler for good results.
It takes one to know one!
If you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
This post has been updated in August 2021.
Subtitles: they’re the way of the world
So, what’s all this subtitle brouhaha? A perfectly valid concern if you’re amongst those philistines that enjoy dubbed content. Well, to make a confession, I do too, from time to time. But the times, they are a-changing’. Netflix, for example, is making strides in getting people to watch more content in the original language. And that’s just the beginning!
But subtitling really is what we’re here for. It, simply put, transcribing what’s being said by the audio track (dialogue) and displaying it onscreen. The text can either be a word-for-word transcription or derived from the original screenplay. Subtitles have been around about as long as film has existed; they used to be a way for filmmakers to cleverly comment on on-screen happenings in lieu of sound and to convey dialogue during the silent film era.
These early-era subtitles were called intertitles, as they appeared in cards, cutting between the action. As time went on, classic subtitles made their appearance, appearing concurrently with images. Intertitles could be easily translated, but sound made subtitles an absolute necessity, as dubbing costs were prohibitive.
As time went on, subtitles themselves began to evolve. The appearance of closed captioning in the early 70s was one of such leaps. Even though they’re normally conflated — subtitling and captioning, close cousins as they are — are not the same.
presuppose an audience who can hear correctly, but may not understand the main language or dialect spoken the feature. They can also be used if for some reason the audio is unclear, or as a narrative technique. In some cases, subtitles are displayed to translate foreign writing or speech.
were introduced to serve the hearing-impaired and deaf communities. Whilst being displayed in much the same way as subtitles, they include a broader range of information; normally audio-only data like sounds and music are transcribed in a descriptive manner. Closed captioning also owes its name to being optional (viewer-activated), as opposed to ‘open’, or baked-in captioning.
If you translate subtitles and captions, will you reach a broader audience?
With 100% confidence: yes. That’s what subtitles are, in a nutshell; a low-cost, effective way to reach a broader set of people while maintaining the original characteristics of a text. Subtitles can be an effective way to step into new cultures, new worlds, and to diversify your content.
Audiences are not always engaged by homogeneity. Even though we live in a world with rapidly-increasing globalization, sameness does not equate with accessibility. That’s why people are looking for authentic experiences with their unique flavoring. Think about it: you don’t travel to Wolfsburg because you want to hear a Texas accent.
It’s the same reason Netflix audiences found German TV show Dark so engaging. Coupled with Spanish runaway hit Money Heist and many others, international shows are here to stay. And, while many will still turn to dubbing, subtitles are a big part of that. In Latin America, as one example, Dark was watched in its native German by most viewers.
And subtitling is not just for the big leagues. In fact, the more you think about cost-effective solutions, the more you want to translate subtitles. Dubbing will always remain an option for your projects but subbing:
- Preserves the identity of the original
- Broadens your audience’s perspective
- It’s just easier to get right. You don’t have to coordinate a full cast of actors, for instance.
- Cost-effective, if you compare it to dubbing.
What other benefits do you get if you translate subtitles?
It’s not just about what’s visible, but about the invisible benefits that still affect your bottom line. If you’re trying to get your content seen, making it multi-lingual is only the first part of the process! Regular subtitles increase engagement by 12%, and that’s a fact. Then you have to factor in the extended reach when you translate subtitles; then the real fun begins.
You see, it’s not just about the content your language is in. The question is: how are you getting your audience or client-base to see your content? Chances are you’ve uploaded your video on some website, let’s say YouTube. Well, your content gets indexed by search engines like Google (who own YouTube). But that doesn’t ensure clicks in any way.
So far, attempts for machines to auto-generate subtitles based on video content have been less-than-stellar. What does Google normally do in order to index the content of a video in its library? It uses subtitles to generate keywords. Those keywords are what is taken into account by any SEO specialist to let you know how people are finding your content. If your subbing content is auto-generated, people may find your video due to incorrect keywords.
I think the picture is starting to come in more clearly, right? After you find that SEO guru to look at your keywords, you already know what people are finding you for. You may even start to make waves in the English-speaking world with your content. What’s the harm in having a multi-lingual SEO strategy? Absolutely none.
When it comes to SEO, the more the merrier. To top it off, Google doesn’t consider translated content to be a duplicate. Subtitles get a pass on this, so you can use them as the tip multi-pronged spear to break into new territory. Not only will Google and YouTube index your video in each language you add, but the aggregate will also give a major boost to your SEO presence.
So, you’ll be reaching that 70% of users that don’t speak English and increasing the overall watch time and engagement. Not just that, you’ll improve your SEO ranking while you’re at it! Not bad for some letters on a screen, is it?
Now, as for what to translate subtitles into, that requires some demographics research. According to Tubular Insights, here are the most popular countries according to YouTube views (excluding the US and UK):
- South Korea
You may want to think about targeting those markets!
If you want to translate subtitles, who do you call?
It’s not as easy as in the movies, that’s for sure. Any professional endeavor that includes translation is probably going to be fraught with some issues. Mostly, the fact that there’s an overabundance of vendors that claim to be great at the job. And sure, the ever-growing offer to the mammoth demand means that a lot of new faces are appearing in the game.
Your best bet, then, is to know your options. Freelancing platforms, for one, are a great way to translate subtitles. I recommend going on Upwork and posting a project. It just takes a few minutes to set up and it´s very straightforward.
You basically describe the job and set up a mini-audition where vendors can try to win you over. They write a cover letter and show you their portfolio, when applicable. You’ll also get to see how many reviews and how much they’ve worked on the website. You can pay them for the completed job or set a fair hourly rate. In general, I recommend you set your search for pros with an experience level that’s intermediate and above. They will charge higher rates, but you won’t be attracting beginners — mostly, at least, you’ll still get the odd screwball.
The other, which I also recommend, is going for specialized translation sites. Places like our own translation studio or Lionbridge.com curate extensive lists of professional translators in most major languages. What’s even better is that they’ve got multi-language QA teams going over translations. That removes one of the hassles with freelancing platforms, which is not knowing about the accuracy of a translation. Until it’s out and about, it’s hard to know whether you’ve stuck the landing.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to completely edit a botched Spanish or English translation. With these sites, you have a team of proofreaders and editors going over translations so you don’t have to. If you don’t like the end result, they’ll provide a refund. It’s pretty simple! Reading this guide also can’t hurt
We’ve gone over the reasons why you need to get in on the action and translate subtitles. You’ll expand your market, improve your SEO, break new ground, and look good doing it! Whether you want to go with a freelancing or translation studio is going to be up to you.
Just remember to look for professionals with great qualifications and a proven track record. If you can get someone that speaks the target language to check out their previous work, all the better!
Now, get out on the world stage! Find the perfect person today at Bunny Studio!