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Subtitling or Dubbing for Multimedia Translations

With the ever-increasing presence and importance of online video content, companies looking to enhance their presentations and appearance need to make important decisions regarding how this video content will be communicated in other languages.

There are two choices for how the translated text will be expressed in an online video, which applies to all video content: subtitled or dubbed. Subtitling involves the placement of the translated text along the bottom of the screen to coincide with what is being spoken on screen. Dubbing is removing the original soundtrack and replacing it with a translated soundtrack. Both of these options have pros and cons:


Pros – all content can be appreciated with the sound off; video can be paused to focus on one sentence as it is displayed on screen; maintains the original stresses and tones of the speakers’ voices.

Cons – additional clutter on the screen, which is especially negative for smaller screens on websites; abridged versions of content and choices of words that are shorter to make them fit on the screen; requires audience be literate; requires audience watch screen at all times.


Pros – content can be appreciated even when not looking at screen (at other parts of a website, for example); word choice is less restrictive; tone of voice can reflect a more natural tone for speakers of the target language.

Cons – cognitive dissonance for the viewer (they see a mouth moving and the words do not match it); voices and ambient noise that were not recorded on location.

There are many more benefits and drawbacks for both, depending on the viewer. Each company and/or production needs to make the right choice for its video before sending it to be translated, as, again, text intended for subtitles will differ greatly from text intended for dubbing.