Why Is Subtitle Translation Needed?

April 26, 2024
Why Is Subtitle Translation Needed?

Translating subtitles for movies, YouTube videos, and other media makes any content accessible to new audiences. Such accessibility allows for greater chances of generating revenue and following. For these reasons, high-quality subtitle translation is important for producers looking to share their content with audiences who speak other languages. By translating subtitles, you deliver an enhanced user experience. This ultimately leads to a higher streaming time and engagement, both important metrics on any streaming platform’s algorithm.

On the other hand, businesses regularly look for the best way to translate subtitles for marketing videos, product demonstrations, online training courses, webinars, presentations, speeches, interviews, and much more. In any corporate context, translated subtitles allow companies to communicate better with their stakeholders and/or constituents.

These days, the question of how to translate a subtitle is easy to answer; many online subtitle translation companies are available to help. These businesses let you upload your subtitles file (usually a .srt or .vtt file) and then translate the content before sending it back to you in the same format. Let's explore the practice of translating subtitles further. 

Understanding the Importance of Context When You Translate Subtitles 

Context is everything when translating, which is especially true when it comes to translating subtitles. According to professional subtitler Iury Volpi, the main challenge of the practice is needing to say a great deal with limited space. Maintaining the essence of any dialogue while taking into account the natural syntax of the target language may sound easy, but even seasoned translators find this aspect challenging from time to time.

Volpi uses movie translation as an example of this. His advice is to dive into the translation without watching the whole film. That way, the translator can stay in context and convey the emotion of the dialogue as it unfolds, without being influenced by anything later in the movie.

Translating subtitles also requires an awareness of cultural nuances, for a translator does more than just bridge the language gap. They are also responsible for accurately and appropriately conveying every relevant cultural detail of the source medium to the target audience. This means the subtitler needs to consider their work's linguistic and contextual elements; how to translate subtitles in a way that resonates from a cultural perspective.

From a linguistic perspective, mastery of both the original and target languages is essential. The subtitler must be able to comprehend every subtlety of the dialogue they are translating to convey it with the utmost accuracy in the target language. A lack of dialogue comprehension on the subtitler’s part would mean much of the finesse of the original language would be lost – something that no business wondering how to translate subtitles on a video can afford to suffer.  

Principles and Challenges 

When it comes to translation, language mastery we mentioned above is at the heart of the process - may it be direct, semantic, faithful, idiomatic, free, communicative, or adaptation that suits the needs of a particular audience. Apart from colloquial knowledge, translators often find themselves needing some technical knowledge depending on the scope of the medium they are working on: a movie about doctors would definitely need some sort of familiarity with medical terms, one way or another.

Another good example comes form Mariano Carrasco, another professional translator and subtitler. He points out that when you translate subtitles, you may need to deal with anything from symbols to specific historical and cultural references. This needs to be done in a way that both stays true to the original content and resonates with the target audience, despite the gulf in cultural knowledge between the two.

Understanding how to translate video subtitles in a way that balances the needs of different audiences can also be a challenge. Between closed captions, subtitles, and dubbed audio, businesses have different options for presenting their content in other languages. Which to use requires careful consideration. For larger translation jobs, managing the translation and localization process can be challenging, with a team of linguists working on different elements of a project. This is where engaging a professional translation team can ease the pain of the process.

One other element of translating movie subtitles that overcomes some of the challenges has a robust quality assurance process in place to check the translated text. The same goes for subtitles for all other kinds of media. Checking the quality of the translated subtitles ensures that every single one contributes to a top-notch user experience.  

Choosing the Right Tools and Software for Subtitle Translation

Whether you need to translate subtitles to English from another language or take your English subtitles and reach out to audiences overseas, there are plenty of tools to help. Note that you will need to look for tools that don’t just enable you to edit subtitles but translate them too. Some of the most popular tools that can translate movie subtitles – and, indeed, translate any subtitles. We have listed some tools that tools you can use to translate your subtitles:

1. Rev.com: This is a paid service that offers human-generated subtitles and transcriptions. It is a good option if you need high accuracy and fast turnaround times.
2. Subly (Paid): This AI translator is designed specifically for video or audio content. It supports over 100 languages for quick and easy translation.
3. SubtitleBee: This is a paid service that offers both human and machine-generated subtitles and transcriptions. It has a free plan with limited features, as well as paid plans that offer more features and higher accuracy.
4. Notta: This is a paid service that offers automatic transcription, translation, and summarization. It is a good option for those who need to translate subtitles quickly and easily.
5. VEED.IO: This is a paid platform that allows you to automatically translate and render subtitles in up to 22 languages. It also allows you to edit, trim, and clip your media.
6. Media.io: This is a free online subtitle translator that supports dozens of languages and various video file formats. It allows you to upload your file and translate it in just a few clicks.
7. Kapwing: This is a free online subtitle translator with a paid option. It allows you to add subtitles in multiple languages to your videos. The free version has a watermark.
8. Redokun: It is a free online subtitle translation tool that allows you to upload your subtitle files (SRT format) and translate them into various languages using either Google Translate or DeepL. It also offers a built-in web editor for you to review and edit the machine translations before downloading the final version.
9. Translatesubtitles.co: It is another free online subtitle translation tool similar to Redokun. It supports various subtitle file formats (SRT, SUB, SBV, ASS, VTT, STL) and allows you to translate them using a drag-and-drop interface. You can choose your target language and download the translated subtitles once complete.
10. Subtitles Translator: It is a complimentary online utility designed to convert subtitles between languages. This platform allows for the swift translation of multiple subtitle files, supporting six different file formats. 

5 AI-Powered Subtitle Translator Tools

1. MachineTranslation.com: It is an AI-powered aggregator that evaluates, compares, and analyzes machine translation engines to provide the most accurate translations and offers post-editing assessment. It can support 240+ languages and you can upload files like SRT, PDF, DOCX, TXT, CSV, & XLSX as long as you have an internet connection.
2. Subly: It is an AI subtitle translator & editor that allows you to translate video or audio automatically. It supports over 100 languages and offers a quick and easy way to translate your content.
3. EditingTools.io: It uses the world's best neural network for translation according to their website. It supports various subtitle formats and allows bulk processing for multiple subtitle files.
4. Smartcat: It offers AI translation for SRT files. You can simply upload your files, and choose your language pairs, and Smartcat will translate them in seconds. It also has an editor for you to refine the translations.
5. Maestra AI: It offers an AI subtitle translator that supports over 125 languages. It also integrates with YouTube and has other features like AI dubbing.

Some individual translators will also provide transcription, captioning, and subtitling, so engaging someone through a freelancing platform is also an option. Then there are applications such as Subtitle Workshop, Subtitle Edit, and Aegisub – such a tool could be useful for editing subtitles.

Choosing the right tool for your needs depends on various factors, from your pricing requirements to how quickly you need the translated subtitles. Most leading services work with all common subtitle file formats, so it shouldn’t matter too much whether you want to translate .srt subtitles or another format. Shop around and read reviews online before committing to a particular tool, service, or software, just as you would when buying in other business resources. 

Subtitle Translation: A Step-by-Step Guide

Practically speaking, there is a clear process to follow, whether you need to translate online video subtitles or any other sort. This starts with transcribing the original dialogue from your video. You’ll need to timestamp it as you transcribe so that you know the time codes for applying the translated subtitles. Many subtitle translation companies will provide the transcription for you if needed.

With the written text taken care of, it’s time to translate the dialogue. As we’ve outlined above, you can use multiple tools and companies for this.

As part of this process, it’s important to remember that different languages use different volumes of words to convey the same meaning. As such, you may need to adjust the subtitled dialogue for timing and readability. After all, subtitles won’t deliver a decent user experience if the viewer doesn’t have time to read them.  Besides this, we have written here seven easy steps that you can do when translating subtitles or SRT files:    

Step 1: Select a Reliable Online SRT Translation Tool

Begin by choosing a reputable online tool that specializes in SRT file translations. Ensure the tool is well-reviewed and supports the file formats you require.

Step 2: Upload Your SRT Subtitle File

Access the translation tool’s interface and upload the SRT file you wish to translate. This step typically involves navigating to the upload section and selecting the file from your local storage.

Step 3: Choose the Original and Target Languages

Specify the original language of your subtitles and the language you want them translated into. It ensures the tool applies the correct linguistic rules and vocabulary during the translation.

Step 4: Utilize Advanced Features for Better Accuracy

If the tool offers advanced options, such as maintaining original timing or recognizing speaker changes, enable these features. They can enhance the translation's quality and synchronicity with your video.

Step 5: Initiate the Translation Process

With the settings configured, start the translation process. The tool will convert the text of your subtitles into the chosen language while attempting to preserve the original meaning and context.

Step 6: Download the Translated SRT File

Once the translation is complete, download the translated SRT file. This file will now contain the subtitles in your target language, formatted and ready for use.

Step 7: Review and Edit Your Translated Subtitles

Before using the translated subtitles, review them for accuracy and fluency. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure they align well with the video's timing and context.

Final Step: Implement Your Translated Subtitles

After editing, your translated SRT file is ready to be used with your video content, providing accessibility and understanding to a broader audience.We encourage that you proofread and edit thoroughly to ensure that the final output will be relatable and easier to understand for your non-native English-speaking audience. Whether you need to translate YouTube subtitles, Facebook video subtitles, television show subtitles, or anything else, This stage of proofreading and editing is absolutely essential. You will need to also consider its timing and readability. It’s expected that at this stage, you will   catch typos, correct poor grammar, and flag up any cultural, historical, or other references that have slipped through the net and won’t make sense to the target audience. 

With the editing complete, it’s time for a final review, as part of your quality assurance process, to double-check that the translated subtitles deliver an outstanding user experience. 

Subtitles That Require Creativity: Dealing with Special Cases 

Certain types of content present particular difficulties for those translating subtitles. Slang, idioms, and cultural references can be extremely specific to a single culture and language. As such, subtitlers need to be creative in their approach to translating these while remaining connected to the original dialogue as faithfully as possible.

Humor and sarcasm can be equally problematic. Many jokes don’t directly translate, while sarcasm often relies on tone and the words involved. This means that those who translate any subtitles with humor and sarcasm must do so very carefully to convey the meaning of the dialogue correctly. Songs, poems, and other artistic expressions may also present a problem. In the case of songs, for example, a single music note symbol can be used at the beginning of a subtitle displaying the lyrics, while a double music note can show that the song is over.

Finding the Best Way to Translate Subtitles

Whatever content you are subtitling, and no matter which languages you are using, there are certain best practices to abide by. The first is ensuring that your translated subtitles are accurate and faithful to the meaning of the original content. To achieve this, it’s essential to ensure that your process's transcription and translation elements focus on quality as a top priority.

You must also maintain readability when translating subtitles from one language to another. Whether you plan to translate subtitles for YouTube or any other platform, keeping them simple helps ensure readability. Professional subtitlers will understand this and should focus on delivering simple dialogue that remains faithful to the original as they undertake their translation work.

Finally, prioritizing cultural sensitivity and inclusion is key. By translating subtitles, you are reaching out across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Doing so means you must ensure your content includes your new audience. As every good subtitle translator knows, cultural sensitivity is at the core of that.  


Subtitle translation makes content more accessible to new audiences, which means businesses can use that content to drive more revenue. Meanwhile, the combination of our globalized world, and the general public’s voracious appetite for video content, means that those who translate subtitles aren’t likely to be short of clients anytime soon – great news for both existing and aspiring subtitle translators.

By Louise Taylor

Louise Taylor is a professional freelance writer who has been fascinated by languages since childhood. She holds qualifications in Spanish, French, German and Latin, as well as her native English.



Subscribe to receive all the latest updates from Tomedes.

Post your Comment

I want to receive a notification of new postings under this topic


Need expert language assistance? Inquire now

Do It Yourself

I want a free quote now and I'm ready to order my translations.

Do It For Me

I'd like Tomedes to provide a customized quote based on my specific needs.

Want to be part of our team?