5 Things to Avoid When Subtitling



5 Things To Avoid When Subtitling

With great subtitling comes a great time. In order to offer your audience the best experience and keep them connected and engaged while watching your video content, professional subtitling is your wise strategy. It helps boost your audience’s experience up and build the trust needed for your business to prosper.

So, what could possibly go wrong with subtitling?

Before going through the things that you should avoid when subtitling, let’s first have a glimpse of what subtitling means;

What Is Subtitling?

Subtitling is providing a translation to a foreign language in an audio-visual material such as videos and films to help the audience understand and enjoy what is being said in their own language. Subtitles are usually placed at the bottom of the screen and they are usually the maximum of two lines synchronized with the speech.

Pitfalls to avoid when subtitling your audio-visual content.

The essence of subtitling is creating a satisfying viewing experience. So, here are 5 pitfalls to avoid when subtitling your audio-visual content.

  1. Inaccurate Timing.

There is this wise saying: ‘timing is everything’. Well, it is true. When it comes to subtitling, it is very important to put time into consideration. Imagine a viewer watching your promotional video where the subtitles are lagging behind. That can completely ruin the viewing experience and puts off the desire to continue watching, understanding, and engaging with your message.

To avoid this happening, subtitles should appear on the screen at the time of speaking not before or after (synchronizing subtitles). The estimated time for the subtitles to appear on the screen should be 5-6 seconds for an adult viewer and it may vary according to the viewer’s age as well as the text. So, if it is a short text such as “okay” the timing would be a minimum of 1.5 seconds.

  1. Avoid Literal Translation

Subtitles are one of the most cultural-based translations because mostly you don’t tackle a text as much as you tackle idioms, cultural expressions, sometimes jokes and puns in comedy videos and movies.

This can be a bit challenging since it’s really hard, for instance, to make a viewer laugh at a foreign joke. Literal translation deprives the global audience of feeling like they even slightly relate to what is being said, even worse it goes against your goal which is amusing and engaging the audience with your content.

  1. More than 2 Lines

When watching a video in a foreign language, the viewer is already in two minds. One is for watching the video and the other is for reading the subtitles. For that, 2 short and comprehensive lines should be enough to interest and keep the viewer’s attention without losing track of the sequence. Because once you lose sequence, you lose all the fun.

  1. Style of Language; Formal or Informal

Giving a special voice to each speaker is one thing that makes subtitles realistic and credible. Like the original context, subtitles should make sure that speakers are distinguished by using different voices and vocabulary according to their age, background, tone, and personality.

For example, if you are working on a video about ‘pop culture’ which is a youth-related topic, using formal language will make it sound odd. If the original script uses an informal style, your translation must do the same.

  1. Translating Without Watching the Video

One subtitling hole that your audio-visual content might fall into is translating the script of a video without firstly watching the video. Watching the video beforehand allows you to

  • Get a glimpse of the general idea.
  • Be familiar with the characters involved.
  • Know the tone of the speakers.
  • Decide on the style of the video.

All of these elements will help you decide what type of language you are going to use to convey the right message to your viewers. For example, is it going to be formal or informal, serious or sarcastic? Also, the synchronization of the dialogue and the tone are vitally important to provide your translation with a natural voice as well as reliability.


Subtitling is a form of translation that helps your audio/visual content reach a large base of an audience different backgrounds and interests. Because of that, you should bear in mind the elements that ensure the best results.

Using the help of a professional language service provider (LSP) like bayanTech guarantees the subtitles of your video content don’t fall into these traps. At bayanTech, we make sure your subtitles are short and well-timed as well as sound natural.

Let us help you; let us start now. Contact bayanTech

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