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Professionally Produced Interlingual Subtitles’ Analysis Essay


Though often underrated, being a subtitler involves hard work and impressive efforts, as well as an outstanding command of both the primary and the target languages (Gambier and Gottlieb 4). However, even in the cases of a professional subtitling, the efficacy and usefulness of the results are often questioned due to the problems of perception of several types of information through the same visual medium. Although the phenomenon of subtitling is often criticised as the one lacking in efficacy and contributing to the audience’s confusion, subtitling, in fact, not only allows for a deeper understanding of the message conveyed by the author than dubbing, but also promotes learning of the second language.

It should be noted that the variety of approaches, which are used for creating interlingual subtitles, is truly ample. According to the existing evidence, the tools for producing the subtitles from Spanish to English and vice versa may involve the use of a variety of equipment, including both traditional and digital tools for text capture, analysis and transformation (Lionnel and Singer 313).

The integration of the specified devices and strategies may be interpreted as a means of enhancing the quality of the final product and facilitate a faster and a more successful subtitling process. In fact, the latest Amazon tool for transcribing speech allows for reducing the WER (word error rate) per translation to an impressive degree, therefore, creating the premises for a consistently satisfactory quality of subtitling (Beauvais et al. 416).In fact, the process of professional subtitling often involves the use of Verbatim, which opens new possibilities for expert subtitlers and translators (Beauvais, Olive and Passerault 417).

However, according to the latest researches, no matter how impeccable the software chosen for this purpose might be, it will still fail to provide a fully error-free result, as the vocabulary stock, which the program is based on, cannot possibly embrace every single dialectal variation of a certain word: in the study conducted by Marge, Banerjee and Rubinsky, “both the reference transcription and those obtained from MTurk were normalised by using a spell checker to correct common spelling errors and remove annotations ” (Marge et al. 3). Thus, it is essential that the process of subtitling production should not be based on the usage of digital tools solely and should be controlled by a professional translator and a transcriber

Therefore, the evaluation of the subtitles produced by professionals for the media that requires either English-to-Spanish or Spanish-to-English translation may start with the actual tools, which they incorporate into the process (Cronin 7).

The integration of the latest subtitling software may be interpreted as both an opportunity for an interpreter to shine and a chance for a downgrade in quality of the final product, depending on whether the translator uses the tool in question as a means to pace the process in a more elaborate manner, improving the time management strategy, or relying on the above-mentioned technology entirely, only making minor edits to the version that the tool in question supplies. While it is unreasonable to defy the outstanding programs such as WinCap their obvious advantages (Austermühl 12), one still must admit that capturing the essential information and transcribing it properly is the prime task of an interlingual subtitler and not a computer program.

Among the key benefits of interlingual professional subtitling, language learning must be mentioned. Indeed, the specified technique encourages the audience to acquire new information concerning not only the vocabulary, but also the structure of the foreign language, specifically, the syntax related issues. For example, the SVO structure, which is traditionally used in the English language, can be traced easily in the course of listening to the audio recording (Cintas and Remael 29), whereas the subtitles provided in Spanish will allow for rendering the key idea behind the message, as well as to correlate the sentence structure to the Spanish, which often deviates from the traditional SVO one.

Indeed, in a range of cases, especially those involving active use of intransitive sentences, invites the possibility of the situation, in which the object comes before the verb, whereas the subject is –placed after the latter:

Both confederate and naive participants were native Spanish speakers with moderate or high proficiency in English. Prime sentences were Spanish active and passive transitive sentences, as well as intransitive sentences (active sentences without direct objects) and active sentences in which the object came before the verb and the subject after the verb (a form not found in English). (Hartsuiker et al. 410)

One might argue, though, that the study of the syntax is barely possible for the one, who does not even know the basic vocabulary required for understanding the foreign speech. In many respects, the statement concerning the problems in the second language skills acquisition is true; however, for the Spanish language, where numerous lexemes are based on the same heritage, Indo-European in general and Latin in particular (Moore 24).

Apart from the benefits that they provide for the learners of either of the languages, the interlingual subtitles for the English and the Spanish languages can also be considered essential for the people, who are actually interested in the concept of the discourse that is represented to them (Bowker and Pearson 18). The issue in question is especially topical for the scholarly conferences or any other type thereof, where the audience needs to know not only the basic data, but also the underlying innuendoes, which a professional translator must capture and render in the form of captions beneath the video or a print text (Quah 118).

It should also be born in mind that the phenomenon of subtitling is far from being entirely unambiguous – if anything, it can only be deemed as a rather equivocal concept. On the one hand, when performed professionally, subtitling allows for promoting a better understanding of the source material and provides the people, who do not speak the language used by the narrator, to enjoy the product and gain the necessary information. Moreover, subtitling is clearly much cheaper than dubbing (Bagheri and Nemati 87).

On the other hand, the benefits of subtitling can be viewed as a rather dubious tool for getting a message across to the people that do not speak the target language, as reading the interlingual subtitles and perceiving the visual information provided is quite complicated for the speaker of a different language. The difficulty is primarily predetermined by the fact that, for the native speaker, two types of information (the aural and the visual ones) are represented in most types of media in question; as a result, the analyses the specified information types occur simultaneously, and the viewer is always ready for the next piece of data to digest. Indeed, as MacWhinney explains, the process of information acquisition is both simplified and complicated with the use of digital software and the integration of subtitles into the canvas of the narration (MacWhinney 13).

When it comes to subtitling, though, the target audience is only capable of perceiving the visual data, which comes in form of images and the text, i.e., the subtitles. Herein the significance of a simultaneous analysis for two visual data types lies; unfortunately, not all viewers are ready for the task in question, which makes the entire idea of subtitles rather questionable.

It should be noted at this point, though, that the aural information is not dismissed instantly in the case of Spanish to English or English to Spanish translation. Seeing that the languages belong to the same family, they share a range of phonetic and vocabulary characteristics, which allows for introducing certain elements of an audio data analysis into the overall experience (Vitevitch et al. 105).

It should also be born in mind that the process of subtitling the movies or any other types of media contributes to the development of bilingual skills in young children. At this point, the concept of code switching deserves to be mentioned. Traditionally defined as the process of switching between two or more languages in the process of speaking, code switching contributes to the progress of young bilingual learners immensely.

After all, the process of language acquisition, even when occurring along with the process of learning the first language, still needs direction; otherwise, the prevalence of one language over the other will become obvious: “in conversations with young children (in the first grades of elementary school) from Portuguese-speaking households e.g. in Misiones, Argentina and Rivera, Uruguay, Spanish admixtures almost always involved insertion of individual Spanish specific lexical items” (Lipski 39).

The provision of subtitles for a movie in Spanish or English, in its turn, creates the premises for a young learner to alternate between the English and the Spanish version of the discourse, therefore, understanding the specifics of the two languages better and mastering them in a far more expeditious and efficient a manner than they would in any other scenario involving media use. Hence, the subtitler will need to make sure that the text represented by the subtitles and the discourse represented by the speech of the actors coincide completely. At this point, the quality of the language skills, which young bilingual learners develop, depends mostly on the delivery of the subtitles and the accuracy of the information provided by the subtitler.

The significance of subtitles for discourse in English and Spanish, therefore, is extraordinarily high for not only the people, whose sole goal is to acquire the information relevant to the text topic, but also for the learners of the language. Though the significance of professionally produced subtitles is often questioned by authoritative sources due to the complex task, which they pose to the audience (i.e., the perception of the audio information through the visual medium), subtitles pay an essential part in shaping people’s understanding of the subject matter, the second language and the aesthetics thereof. Thus, a professional subtitler must adopt the basic principles of personal and professional responsibility towards the process of translating and transcribing so that the audience could acquire the necessary data fast and efficiently.

Works Cited

Austermühl, Frank. Electronic Tools for Translators. Manchester, UK: St. Jerome, 2001. Print.

Bagheri, Marzieh and Azadeh Nemati. “On the Translation Strategies of Movie Dubbing and Subtitling: A Frequency Analysis on Explicitation in Translation.” Linguistics and Literature Studies 2.3(2011), 86-91. Web.

Beauvais, Caroline, Thierry Olive, and Jean-Michel Passerault. “Why Are Some Texts Good and Others Not? Relationship Between Text Quality and Management of the Writing Processes.” Journal of Educational Psychology 103.2 (2011), 415–427. Web.

Bowker, Lynne and Jennifer Pearson. Working with Specialised Language: A Practical Guide to Using Corpora. London, UK: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Cintas, Jorge Díaz and Aline Remael. Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling. Manchester, UK: Routledge, 2007. Print.

Cronin, Michael. Translation in the Digital Age. New York, NY: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Gambier, Jerome Y. and Hans Gottlieb. (Multi) Media Translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2001. Print.

Hartsuiker, Rovert J., Martin J. Pickering, and Eline Veltkamp. “Is Syntax Separate or Shared Between Languages?” Psychological Science 15.6 (2003), 409–414. Print.

Lionnel, Timothy and Robert Singer. “Transcription Goes Digital.” EMBO Reports 13.4 (2012), 313–322. Print.

Lipski, John M. “Spanish-English code-switching among low-fluency bilinguals: Towards an expanded typology.” Sociolinguistic studies 8.1 (2014), 23–55. Print.

MacWhinney, Brian. The CHILDES Project. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2012. Print.

Marge, Matthew, Satanjeev Banerjee and Alexander J. Rubinsky. Using the Amazon Mechanical Turk for Transcription of Spoken Language. Pittsburg, PA: ICASSP. Print.

Moore, John C. Reduced Constructions in Spanish (RLE Linguistics E: Indo-European Linguistics). New York, NY: Routledge, 2014. Print.

Quah, Chiew Kin. Translation and Technology. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007. Print.

Vitevitch, Michael S., Melissa K. Stamer, and Douglas Kieweg. “The Beginning Spanish Lexicon: A Web-based Interface to Calculate Phonological Similarity Among Spanish Words in Adults Learning Spanish as a Foreign Language.” Second Language Resources 28.1 (2012), 103–112. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 4). Professionally Produced Interlingual Subtitles' Analysis. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/professionally-produced-interlingual-subtitles-analysis/

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"Professionally Produced Interlingual Subtitles' Analysis." IvyPanda, 4 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/professionally-produced-interlingual-subtitles-analysis/.

1. IvyPanda. "Professionally Produced Interlingual Subtitles' Analysis." July 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/professionally-produced-interlingual-subtitles-analysis/.


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IvyPanda. 2020. "Professionally Produced Interlingual Subtitles' Analysis." July 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/professionally-produced-interlingual-subtitles-analysis/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Professionally Produced Interlingual Subtitles' Analysis'. 4 July.

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