Subtitle Chats Recap – What subtitlers do when they’re not subtitling

We had another Subtitle Chat on Friday 20 October. This time, we talked about what we do when we are not working, either on subtitling or on research. The chat participants’ hobbies included: 

  • Learning languages and maintaining language skills, often by watching many kinds of shows and by reading 
  • Board games, card games – a good way to socialise and relax, to take your mind off work 
  • Exercise: swimming, cycling etc. – but it’s not always easy to stay consistent 
  • Reading 
  • Knitting 
  • Gardening 
  • Work-related activities: work with translators’ associations, volunteer subtitling 
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Many of us also mentioned watching films and television, and especially watching subtitled content. We had a long conversation about whether it is possible to unwind by watching subtitled programmes, or is it too close to work. Would it be better to avoid subtitles on your free time? We acknowledged that we do tend to pay close attention to subtitles, and that subtitlers may even end up contaminating family and friends by making everyone aware of the subtitles (and our frustrations with them). 

We also discussed what we do with unwelcome free time. What should we do when there is too much free time and not enough work? Writers’ and actors’ strikes seem to be having an effect on subtitlers, and especially work from English has been drying up. However, some felt the strikes may not be the only reason for this, if new AI and MT tools are doing some of the subtitlers’ work. So, they asked that we do a bit of brainstorming about alternative career options for subtitlers. How can subtitlers put their skills to good use? What else can they do? We talked about teaching, and whether it is a good option. The problem is that not everyone enjoys teaching. However, there are many different kinds of teaching, and people might be able to find their own niche and a suitable audience (different ages, different skill levels etc.). There are certainly other language jobs out there as well, so if teaching does not seem like the best option, it might be possible to try to find work in areas such as proofreading, copywriting, or different kinds of translation-related tasks, such as transcreation. 

Photo by 2H Media on Unsplash

If you want to continue as a subtitler, perhaps it would be possible to try to diversify your client base and find different types of subtitling work. One question we asked is how subtitlers should and could market themselves and look for new clients. This might even be an interesting topic for a future SubComm event, so we will keep this question in mind. Subtitlers would also benefit from good negotiation skills and the willingness to turn down jobs if they are not a good fit and seem too stressful. For example, we talked about tight deadlines and how it is sometimes better to turn down a job than to overburden yourself.

Our conversation also covered some other topics besides our free time. For example, we talked about exposing children to subtitles, and how to convince children to choose subtitling over dubbing. It is interesting to note how subtitles can improve children’s reading skills and how attitudes towards subtitling can become more positive quite quickly, as children learn to follow them (there has been interesting research done on subtitles for literacy, including the PlanetRead project). Finally, we talked a bit about our opinions on localising translation strategies in subtitling (e.g. changing a food to something from the target culture, even if we can see the original food in the picture). Is it an acceptable translation strategy or is it a mistranslation? Can something be a mistranslation if it is an intentional choice? We did not come up with an answer to that, but this would be an interesting conversation to continue at a different time. 

SubComm Updates 

We have scheduled our next Subtitle Chat for Friday 24 November. We haven’t settled on a topic yet, so suggestions are very welcome! We are also moving forward with our infographics project. We are currently looking for graphic designers for four infographics. We hope to be able to publish them fairly soon and promote them widely.

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