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Make audiovisual translation a professional communication tool

Audiovisual content

Video becomes more and more important today.

In 2019, 80% of the global web traffic comes from video content. We have seen such media explosion thanks to the development of technology, and to the companies of streaming video companies which offer content upon request all over the world. And new audiovisual content is created every day to meet to the growing demand of viewers.

Even if their primary role is to be visualized, audiovisual content are made to be both heard (audio) and seen (visual).

Video is important for your communication strategy, especially for your international development. It creates a close relationship with your target, it is deemed to be more dynamic, more playful and easier to remember than other formats.

For this, you must therefore think « Audiovisual translation».

Audiovisual translation

Audiovisual translation refers to the transfer of verbal elements of an audiovisual work or an audiovisual product, from one language to another. TV programs, feature-length films, web pages, video games, or even musicals, theatrical performances, are part of the wide range of audiovisual products that require translation. The two main modes of audiovisual translation are dubbing and subtitling.

It is a very good idea to showcase your services to your customers abroad through a video, to translate it and even to include subtitles. But if you rely on your remote cousin’s services because he spent two months on the Côte d’Azur last year and he is computer savvy, and also because you want to reduce your expenses, you may submit a content of poor quality which, instead of serving your professional interests will be harmful to  your image.

Whether you opt for dubbing or subtitling, it is essential to entrust a professional with this work.


Dubbing is to replace the original soundtrack with a soundtrack which has been translated into the target language. This allows the viewer to focus solely on the film without risking to be distracted by the presence of subtitles at the bottom of the screen. This technique was developed in the 1930s, with the onset of the first sound films. It is the most widespread form of audiovisual translation in some countries for historical or even political reasons (under certain dictatorships, in particular, because it allowed the leaders of that day to change dialogs, so as to promote « higher moral values ».

Dubbing may prove to be the best option in the case of: persons with a disability that makes their reading subtitles difficult, with children, or even elderly people. Taking into consideration your target audience will also help you to choose the type of audiovisual translation which is the most appropriate.

This process involves a large number of professionals including actors or dubbers, dubbing directors, sound engineers, etc, and it is therefore complex and expensive. On the other hand, translators are more limited in their choices because of the imperative lip synchronization with the translated text. That being said, there is no good or bad choice as to your prefered form of audiovisual translation because several criteria must be considered, including your budget or the purpose of the video.


Subtitling is a much cheaper option than dubbing, because it does not require the intervention of an actor or the use of a recording room. Subtitling consists in incorporating a written text to the screen (subtitles once translated into the target language), to match them approximately with the dialog of actors, and match only to what is said in the video in a synthetic manner which makes the reading easier. It is very present today, even if there are many middlemen between the translator and the channel. Research also shows that subtitles prove to be beneficial for language learning.

On the other hand, subtitles almost gain the entire attention of the viewer, who focuses on the text instead of the film and sometimes can lose some important elements, like for example the movements of the characters. Subtitling must meet some specific technical characteristics as well as certain language rules. Subtitles should usually appear at the bottom of the screen, on two lines maximum, with a specific number of characters by lines, and for a preset period of time. Our reading speed differs from person to person. The subtitles must therefore remain sufficiently visible on the screen so as to allow their reading, but they must also disappear as naturally as possible, alternatively words and images might overlap. Ideally, the viewer must not realize that he/she is  reading. Subtitles are sometimes adapted to a particular audience (as the deaf and hard of hearing people). And their use is also subject to some general language rules, such as capital letters (for titles, for instance, or for a written text which appears on the screen…), the use of italics (the voice of a character who does not appear on screen, for example, or songs…), the use of dashes for the dialogs, etc… They are subject to two major constraints (the space occupied on screen, as well as time), and they must comply, in any case, with a number of codes and best practice manual.

The translation of an audiovisual content is a highly complex task, and some errors can have irredeemable consequences, particularly with uncontrolled sub-contracting as is much the case, unfortunately today, in the film industry.

Hence the importance – as for any other type of translation, of entrusting a professional with the work.

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