Working on subtitles for deaf hard of hearing people (SDH or HoH) is, obviously, very different (and much more challenging) than making “normal” subtitles. And I don’t mean the technical differences only, we have to learn how people without the ability of hearing perceive the world.
In that case the subtitler must put himself in the position of a person who doesn’t hear anything. A good practice might be to watch a movie on mute, but with normal subtitles. At that moment we come to realize that it is impossible to understand everything, that one gets sometimes confused about what happened in the movie, that one is missing something. For instance: a dialogue between two people, a conversation that we understand since we turned on the”normal” subtitles. And suddenly they turn around, look at something or someone who wasn’t on screen just seconds before. What just happened? Did that third person say something? Did he make a noise? Yell?
Then, of course, there is music. We often don’t realize how big the role of music in movies is. Someone says, for example: “I don’t know what to do now”, without smiling or crying, just a neutral, maybe indifferent facial expression. A slow, sad song allows us to understand that the character is in a sad mood or that something sad is happening or about to happen. Similarly, a joyful, fast music makes us understand in a fraction of second that something good is about to happen. Without hearing that music, we as spectators, just don’t know how to react, what we were supposed to feel. Was the intention of the director to make us cry, smile, burst of laugh, or feel scared?
How to describe that music? “Slow music” doesn’t mean much – it can still be either sad or joyful. As a subtitler I must remember, though, that I have to describe it with as little characters as possible. And that’s often a big challenge because there is no time, something else is happening onscreen. Music can announce threat, consternation, terror and as a subtitler for hard of hearing people it is my role to describe it correctly, as close as possible to what is heard.
Then, there are subtitles themselves. Rule number 1 is that I am not allowed to spoil any kind of surprise, element that a “normal” viewer wouldn’t know about either. My subtitles can’t expose facts that are not known to the viewer yet.
I can’t forget to mention things that are happening onscreen but a deaf viewer might not understand – a woman hiding her face in her hands could be crying, laughing, sobbing, breathing hardly, taking deep breath, mumble something, she can be speaking normally, loudly or whispering. It is the subtitler’s role to make the distinction between those noises and describe them correctly.
There are also the technical rules: in particular the use of colours. The common practice is that subtitles are white for DVD’s and that they have colours in teletext (TV). In subtitles for TV the most important characters are given colours: green, yellow, red, clear blue, or purple. Studios might use different colours and also, in some cases, they always give a given colour to the most important character, let’s say that green always goes to the leading character, yellow to the second more important, etc.
When a character (especially one of the leading ones) appears the first time on screen, his or her name must precede the subtitle:
Margaret: Hello!
It is good practice to, where possible, add people’s names. Instead of saying: “Hello!”, the character could say: “Hello, John!”. In common subtitles we skip all noises like: ah, ugh, eh, etc. In SDH subtitles, at the contrary, we must write it - if we don’t do that, then the character opened his mouth, there is no subtitle and the viewer might think that something was said, maybe something important. The viewer gets confused.
The speed of reading for hard of hearing people is also lower than usual. And the guidelines for the speed should be provided by the studio.
It has been a challenge for me to make those subtitles, mostly in the beginning. But I got used to the rules, and I always hope that given that I did my best, the viewer will be satisfied. For me, making that kind of subtitles is also very rewarding, I feel that my job has more meaning and that fact makes my job even more important to me.




English into Polish
9th - 27th July 2012

In this age of rapid changes, audiovisual materials have become central to global communication and audiovisual translation (AVT) has become one of the most dynamically developing areas within Translation Studies. From a professional perspective, the volume of translation for the DVD, TV, cinema and internet markets has experienced a sharp increase in recent years.

The complexity of each of the different AVT modes – namely subtitling, voiceover, dubbing, subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and audio description for the blind and partially sighted – calls for the professional training of translators, who must be familiar with the latest developments in the field as well as versatile and flexible enough to respond to market requirements.

All these translation practices are in use in Poland and some, like voiceover, seem to follow long established standards. Others, however, have also found their way into the Polish market. These translation solutions are in high demand in an ever growing number of products to be distributed via conventional and less conventional devices. The internet and mobile devices are now fertile ground for the distribution of audiovisual materials that are very diverse in nature. Scientific and technical documentaries, educational contents, corporate materials, interviews, news reports, films, TV series, children's materials will necessarily require different approaches when translation is in order.

Course structure

This intensive three-week course provides a theoretical framework for translators and researchers in the area of AVT as well as valuable hands-on training with audiovisual material taken from different authentic contexts.

The first part of the course will focus on interlingual subtitling, and you will be introduced to a number of strategies, techniques and tools that professionals need in order to manage their work efficiently. You will work with professional subtitling software called WinCAPS. Other subtitling software will also be introduced.

Since voiceover is the main translation technique on Polish TV, the course will address selected aspects of this particular method. Translation for dubbing purposes will also be looked at in the sessions.

Finally, the course will address the problem of accessibility services, especially subtitling for the deaf and the hard-of-hearing (SDH) and audio description (AD) for the blind and the partially sighted.

Tuition will take place on Tuesday (full day), Thursday (afternoon) and Friday (afternoon) during 3 weeks (total 36 hours). These group sessions will cover strategies and techniques, standards, examples, software, managing contacts with clients, commissions, employment opportunities, and sample projects. The course will also include a study visit to the world’s leading film translation company located in London as well as a presentation of a professional set of film translation software offered by a major software manufacturer. As part of the course, students will follow various individual assignments in Imperial’s translation labs they will have access to. They will be required to spend a considerable amount of time in the computer lab in order to prepare translations of selected clips and there will be ample opportunities for practice and feedback during the classes.

In addition, students will be offered a 1 hour tutorial over the 3 weeks of the course during which you will be given an opportunity to work on the technical aspects of the different AVT types in more depth.

The course directors, Dr Agnieszka Szarkowska and Ms Renata Mliczak, are established trainers and researchers with close links to the industry and an encompassing knowledge of AVT.

For more information click here.


Art in Translation: International Conference on Language and the Arts

Call Deadline: 31-Jan-2012

Meeting Description:

Art in Translation: International Conference on Language and the Arts
University of Iceland and the Nordic House, Reykjavík, May 24-26, 2012

Art in Translation is a biannual conference to be held for the second time in 2012. Hosted by the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages at the University of Iceland, this three-day event includes keynote speakers, a concert, an exhibition, and other program highlights alongside scholarly papers and artistic presentations. The aim of Art in Translation is to serve as an interdisciplinary forum for academics, artists, and members of the public to explore the connections between language and various art forms.

Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs, as well as a registration fee (60 euros/students 45 euros).

Call for Papers:

The 2012 conference seeks to address new trends in creative writing, particularly in its connections with other art forms and its role in unifying the arts. The conference features several keynote speakers and special guests and also invites proposals from scholars, professionals, and students from a wide range of disciplines (art, music, film, and literary history and theory, as well as linguistics, translation, anthropology, cultural studies, education, and other relevant fields). Equally welcome are proposals for papers or presentations from practitioners in any field in the arts.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

- New currents in creative writing
- Translating creative writing between languages and across cultures
- Alternative methods of text presentation; new textual forms
- Use of text in visual art
- Artists' writing and artist books
- Graphic novels
- Visual adaptations of text through theater or film
- Musical setting of poetry
- Ekphrastic poetry and other writing inspired by art
- Aesthetic challenges in translating one form of art to another
- The 'death of the author' in the digital age
- The role of writers' workshops in contemporary literature
- Experimental readings; performance of text

Submission Guidelines:

Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words. All proposals must clearly state the presenter's name, academic/professional affiliation, mailing address, phone number and email address. Presentations will be 20 minutes in length and will be in English.

Proposals should be sent to artintranslation@hi.is no later than January 31, 2012. Decisions will be announced by February 15, 2012.