Whilst translation as a profession has been around for over 2000 years, audiovisual translation is a much newer professional field and area of academic study. Whilst the meaning of audiovisual translation is rather self-explanatory in that it refers to both audio and visual elements, the range of work performed under this umbrella term can sometimes be unclear. Here I discuss four different types of work that fall under audiovisual translation.
Often the first thing that comes to mind when the phrase “audiovisual translation” is mentioned, is subtitling from one language into another. Subtitles are one of the most cost-effective ways of providing a translation of foreign dialogue for viewers who are not familiar with, or not at a high enough level in the language of the video. Subtitles add an extra dimension to videos as viewers have to read the text on screen, rather than listen to what is being said by the speakers. When translating a video for subtitles, there are many considerations, for example reading speed, screen space, timing and translating on-screen text.
Dubbing is when the spoken dialogue in a foreign language can no longer be heard, and is replaced by dialogue in the target language. This means that viewers are listening to the film in their own language. Translating a video to be dubbed has different considerations compared to subtitling. For example, it is important that there is as little discrepancy between the lip movements of the actors and the dialogue been spoken as possible, as this can be disconcerting for viewers. It is also important to consider the sounds of the language, as the translation is been spoken rather than read.
Whilst audiovisual translation often elicits thoughts of translating one language to another, it can also refer to a monolingual transfer from spoken to written language. The main example of this is subtitling for the d/Deaf and hard of hearing, also known as SDH. This is when videos are captioned in the same language as the dialogue to improve accessibility for those with hearing difficulties. It has similar constraints as translated subtitles, as well as the fact that non-linguistic features also need to be transcribed. This includes things like background noises, accents and non-verbal elements such as laughter.
Another element of monolingual audiovisual translation for accessibility purposes is audio description. This allows viewers who are visually impaired to understand what is happening on the screen through a narrator describing the key visual elements that help viewers understand along with the spoken dialogue. Audio description has to fit around the natural pauses in dialogue, so that viewers can get the full experience of what is being shown on screen.
It increasingly easier to access a whole audiovisual world at the touch of a button, thanks to a growth of streamlining services, digitalisation and the rise of the internet, but audiovisual translation means that the content that they offer can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone.
If you have any questions about audiovisual translation or would like to find out more about the services that I offer, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.