A Love Story About Subtitle Translation
Language is all around us. We speak it, we write it, we translate it. We hear it, we read it, we stumble with it. Sometimes we even abuse it. It comes naturally, more or less, for each of us. How about feelings then? Can we convey our emotions to another human being by translating more than words? Can we translate love?
Language and purpose
As language specialists, we are used to working with words and connotations. Accurately representing a certain thought in another language is a challenge by itself. Conveying nuances, tone and subtext on the other hand is an even bigger challenge – look at poetry for example. Literary translation is worlds apart from any document translation. And there’s a good reason for it. Such translations are meant to touch your heart, to excite or mess with your brain, and to shake your knees – at least as much as the original does. And somewhere in the middle is our well known subtitle translation.
Today, more than 100 years after the first movie subtitles were used, they provide so much more than just a way to easily translate video dialogue into readable text. Subtitle translation lets you reach a wider audience for your video or movie, and closed captions help disabled viewers with hearing impairment get a better sense about your content. A study from November 2018 shows that subtitles increase listening comprehension which can help your message be better understood, even in the original language! Watching movies with foreign subtitles can also help you learn a foreign language more quickly.
What’s the last movie with poorly translated subtitles you watched? You probably turned them off, or stopped the movie altogether. Or maybe you poked some fun at the translation, because you are a language person? Yeah, we do that. 🙂 Well translated subtitles should not leave you wondering about what you just read, or rewind to read it again. They should let you focus on the action, while providing enough of the original meaning to hold your attention and stay true to the dialogue! On the other hand, an exceptionally good subtitle translation can keep you immersed in the story and even make you forget the movie is subtitled.
A true story about a short film
One day a new client sent us a very interesting and exciting enquiry. They needed subtitle translation into English for their new short movie called “Love”. It was an emotional story about love and grief, taking place in a small village in the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria. The exciting part was they needed help conveying the very unique atmosphere of this almost forgotten place and its characteristic dialect. A standard approach wouldn’t do, so we decided to look at this from another angle. People from the Rhodope Mountains use an obsolete dialect of the Bulgarian language with plenty of archaic words. Also, their local dialect and way of life are deeply connected to the surrounding mountain landscape. So we chose a similar mountain and archaic dialect of the English language – Scottish English. And it fit perfectly! The effect was obvious and you could clearly feel the emotions much better reading this old mountain dialect.
This story is one of the many examples that have made us proud and excited about our work. It’s in days like this when we see the impact we make and the emotions we evoke. And it also makes us feel good when we think that all international awards this short film won were, at least in part, due to our help. If you’d like to learn more about the film, you can also visit their Facebook page.