Why Hire A Professional
Whether you are the director, producer, distributor or part of the post-production team, you probably spent months, maybe even years, working on your material — a feature film, children’s show, series of corporate videos, e-learning course, ad campaign or something else. Much work and investment went into it — planning, budgeting, writing, directing, acting and editing — all done by well-paid industry professionals. To bring your production to foreign audiences, you will need to localize it, and this is where people blunder — they decide to save a little and hire someone for cheap instead of paying up for a trained linguist, putting their production’s international success at risk.
Contrary to popular belief, fluency in two languages does not qualify one to work as a translator, just like the ability to write does not make one a best-selling author. To become a professional in this field, you need to go through rigorous training in linguistics and translation studies. Subtitlers take it a step further, as they also have to receive specialized training in the theory, practice and technical aspect of subtitling. Plus, to be in demand, you’re required to have quite a bit of experience and own expensive software. Naturally, a specialist like this, who’s dedicated many years to honing their skills, wants to be paid well — just like any other member of the post-production team.
But what is the difference between an amateur and a professional subtitler? Why hire the latter? Consider this example from the film industry:
To translate a film faithfully, the subtitler first needs to scrutinize it — the references, symbolism, humor and terminology it contains; the pace, style and register of its dialogue; and the significance of its shot composition, sound track, editing and camera movement. All this influences the translation choices and hence must be carefully considered. Further, the translator must know how to best work within the time and space constraints of subtitling, to make reading the subtitles as comfortable an experience as possible: they should match the rhythm of the speech, follow the film’s editing and remain on-screen long enough for the viewer to be able to keep up. The language must be precise and natural, logically coherent, appropriate for the context and not culturally insensitive.
If created to the highest standard, subtitles soon vanish in the viewer’s mind. Enthralled by the story, the audience forgets about their existence and watches the film almost as if it were originally created in the target language. Can an amateur subtitler achieve this effect? No, not at all — your viewers will have to deal with flickering subtitles, jerky rhythm and mistranslations, which will become the focus of their attention, ruining their experience. Ultimately, this means lower ratings and sales abroad.
The example above is from the film industry, but the same idea applies to many other forms of video content: a single translation error can damage your ad campaign, undermine your e-learning series’ credibility or, when it comes to safety training, even endanger people in the workplace.
So, if you truly care about your work’s success and want to avoid unnecessary risk, the best strategy is to hire a professional subtitler.