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How Subtitle Translation Opens New Worlds

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Subtitled films can open up new worlds, cultures and forms of cinema to new audiences.

Traditionally, subtitled movies have attracted more of a niche audience, but a few subtitled box-office successes have stormed into the mainstream in recent years.

From YouTube videos to adverts, subtitling and subtitle translation can help your business to attract new audiences and reach new parts of the globe. So, what can you learn from cinematic subtitled successes when it comes to your video content?

Subtitled Successes

One of the first subtitled successes of the 21st century was Chinese film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, released in 2000. This was followed in 2001 by French feel-good favourite Amélie, which amassed $173.9 million worldwide. Released just a few months after 9/11, some believe its escapist nature may have contributed to its success at this time.

Fast-forward to 2020, and Parasite, a South Korean movie directed by Bong Joon Ho, became the first film in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards to win the Best Picture accolade, showing that subtitled films can still make their mark, so long as the storyline is suitably gripping.

Meanwhile, the Bollywood industry has been one of the longest-running successes in terms of subtitled films, with 1950s box-office hit Aan an early example, having been translated into 17 different languages at the time of its release.

More recently, streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have created more opportunities for subtitled films, helping to expand the market to audiences beyond the big screen – something that will have been particularly welcome amid the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s more, smaller, independent foreign language film festivals are slowly attracting more mainstream appeal – there was even a lockdown edition in May 2020, We Are One: A Global Film Festival, featuring contributions from some of the world’s biggest film festivals.

When to Use Subtitles in Your Video Content

The skills used in cinematic subtitle translation can be transferred to corporate videos and adverts. Generally, subtitles are regarded as a better option than voiceovers or dubbing, as they help to preserve a more natural, authentic viewing experience.

However, watching a subtitled film or clip requires more concentration, meaning the audience needs to be fully engaged with what they are watching.

With this in mind, it may be best to use subtitled or translated videos at a stage in your buyer cycle when prospects are already engaged with your brand or at a point when you’re identifying a key need for them and are guaranteed to capture their attention.

Subtitle Translation: What to Bear in Mind

If you’re considering subtitle translation for your brand’s video content, it’s important to keep in mind the following:

  • Tone – it can be hard to convey the different accents of styles of speaking in an animation or dramatised promotional film with subtitles, but clever use of punctuation can help to convey tone, tension and other nuances within speech
  • Direct translation pitfalls – word for word translation is not necessarily the most appropriate tactic for subtitles; some words are longer when translated into other languages, which could disrupt flow
  • Cultural context – be mindful of the social and cultural background of the audience when phrases are being directly translated
  • Legibility – subtitles need to be legible; try to stick to a maximum of two lines of text on each frame and bear in mind that character limits may require more concise language to be used without any meaning being lost
  • Avoid automated tools – automated, literal translation tools can lead to clumsy translations; it pays to work with an experienced translations provider instead

Insensitivities or inaccuracies in video or subtitle translations could lead to you losing customers rather than expanding your audience as intended.

At Language Connect, we have a network of translation and transcreation specialists who can support you in making the right decisions for your video content, to make sure it reaches your audience in the best possible way to take you further towards your overall business and marketing goals.

Learn more about our global marketing solutions.



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