How to get into subtitling
Thread poster: transition10

Local time: 10:34
French to English
+ ...
Sep 30, 2011

I'm a London-based freelance translator with an interest in cinema and would like to get into subtitling but all the courses I see offered are out of English (my mother tongue) into a foreign language and not the other way around. Can anyone advise on the best way to get into this field please?



Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Contacts in the cinema of your source language Sep 30, 2011

It's interesting to hear there are subtitling courses at all! That's new to me. But I imagine it's not easy for those who finish them to get into the market. That said, there are many reasons why people would want subtitles. There are subtitles for the deaf (which aren't the same as the script, even when they're in the same language as the film), subtitling for premieres, subtitling for film festivals and subtitling for media producers. I suppose it's a matter of parking yourself where such groups of interest can find you.

I didn't exactly want to get into the field, but I was parked in the area, I guess: my drama teacher was a film director, to begin with. I did a premiere of his as one of my first jobs. But it wasn't until he (posthumously) got into the retrospectives that festival organizers started getting in contact. After that came a few other cineastes. Right now, I'm at a stage where I can already swing the technical side -- I got to really understand the requirements, working with technical people who didn't speak the languages involved -- but it's not really a principal line of work for me. I just reckon personal contacts go a long way in this particular environment. Hope it helps.


Local time: 13:34
English to Russian
A Proposed Set of Subtitling Standards in Europe Oct 1, 2011

I think you can read A Proposed Set of Subtitling Standards in Europe firstly. This small article can tells you about basic requirements for subtitling.


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:34
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Interest in cinema doesn't justify it Oct 3, 2011


After 24 years translating for dubbing, and 7 years doing it for subtitling, I can tell you this: if you intend to translate video simply because you like to watch movies, get prrepared for some disappointment. According to Pareto's Law, you'll spend 80% of the time translating videos that would make you switch to another channel if you had that option.

If you want to do it for the chance of being the first to watch for free some movie or TV series before the general public, think about it... you will be doing it as a translator because you understand the original language. If it's anything expected to draw a big audience, unless you'll be doing the entire subtitling process (quite unlikely for commercial films & TV series), you'll get a small, lo-res video splattered with things like timecode, logos, job info etc., so don't expect to enjoy all that award-winning photography on your big screen TV. Finally, as you are about to take a course to learn how to do it, in case you are successful, it will take you years acquiring the experience to be the one chosen to translate that prospective award-winning film. In the meantime you'll be translating an endless series of pretty dull productions.

So you should look for self-fulfillment in the translation process and possibly time-spotting in itself. Your brilliant subtitling won't turn a bleak movie into a masterpiece... though there are cases where dubbing added a new life to a mediocre film. If you can do it, fine! If you can't, better thrive on text translation to watch only the films you like, nonstop from start to end.


United Kingdom
Local time: 10:34
+ ...
José sums it up very well Oct 4, 2011

Subtitling isn't a priority for the film-makers and broadcasters, so it's usually an afterthought, and the rates of pay tend to be fairly low as a result.

Although it's not a priority for the programme makers, they expect the subtitles to be perfect, so you can expect to spend years working on soaps, low-grade dramas and poorer quality documentaries before you get anywhere near the good stuff, unless you're very lucky or work in a rare language pair, because the high-quality work tends to be reserved for in-house staff and experienced freelancers.

Because there are now subtitling courses available in the UK, the main players tend to take on interns from those, rather than advertising for trainees, so, if you want to work in subtitling, your best bet would be to enrol in one of the courses and then apply for an internship.


Local time: 10:34
French to English
+ ...
Thanks Oct 4, 2011

Thanks for all your replies. Most helpful.

I knew it would not be easy or well-remunerated. I shall think seriously about it before taking it further.


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

How to get into subtitling

Advanced search

PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search