Personality Traits Of A Good Subtitler

All professions have a particular set of skills that employers go looking for before they employ anyone. Apart from the skill set, they also look at things like personality. An individual’s personality determines how they would relate with their work and other colleagues. The same applies in the subtitling profession and yes there are personality traits that one must possess if they want to make a wonderful career out of subtitling.

So, what is subtitling and what do we call a person who works in the subtitling profession?

  • Subtitling is a localization process that involves creating translated texts that appear at the bottom of the screen on a movie that narrates the original audio. Subtitling is a process that specifically transforms audio into text and the texts appear at the bottom of the screen on a movie.
  • A Subtitler is any individual who works in the subtitling profession to create subtitles on a movie. Normally, subtitlers would only work on creating the subtitles on the movie but if one is working on the translation bit too, they are known as translator subtitler. These are individuals whose work is to transform video or audio to written words and it can be for the same language or from one language to another.

Before we go further and get to learn on what personality traits a subtitler should possess, we will look at the difference between transcription and subtitling. Both are film production processes but people confuse them from time to time. It is very important to note that these two processes are very different in their formulation and usage.

  • Transcription is the process where scribes jot down every detail presented in a meeting or a forum or court proceedings. They usually record every single word said in an event.
  • Subtitling is a summary script of all the information on any film without losing the intended meaning and context. It can be from one language to a totally different one.

In transcription and subtitling there are two other terms that get confused and the sooner, we get to learn about them, the sooner we can move on to what exactly brought us here.

Intralingual: This is when an audio is first transcribed as text then turned into subtitles.

Interlingual: This is when an audio is first transcribed, then translated before turning the written words into subtitles.

With that said, below we will look at the unique personality traits that will help catapult your subtitling career to the next level and have you staying relevant and consistent.

  1. Punctuality: In film, people work with time because time is money, and no one loves his or her time and money wasted. You need to be a very punctual person if you want to survive in a subtitling career. You cannot be someone who saunters to work late when you had a target to hit an hour ago. If you are a person who isn’t punctual, I would advise you to work on it because the film industry is one that is very fast-paced and you need to keep it moving to make things work and get to your targets on time.
  2. Incredible language skills: This is a really important trait that you must really work on if you don’t possess it. It would be extremely catastrophic working as someone who deals with writing scripts and translating them and yet you don’t have any form of language skills let alone incredible ones. You must know where capital letters go, where to put your commas, exclamation, and question marks. You don’t want to be the person whose work always has major errors time and time again. It is very easy to acquire incredible language skills; you just need to be someone who is ready to learn. I will tell you this for free, being a subtitler without incredible language skills will have you moving from company to company because no one wants to keep you employed if you can’t come correct.
  3. Resilience: Subtitling is a career choice that is very fascinating and interesting for everyone else looking from the outside. What people do not know is that it can get super frustrating and daunting from time to time. The profession itself is amazing and enjoyable but the process itself can have you anxious for days trying to perfect your work and yet you are running out of time and the deadlines are fast approaching. You must be resilient for you to handle all these pressures and still stay sane. Live translation is usually the part where you will be tested and you need to possess this personality trait lest you throw in the towel. 
  4. Attentive to detail: You need to be someone who is extremely attentive to detail because one mistake during subtitling can throw the entire process off. The mere fact that you will be working with software is more reason to be very attentive. Being a subtitler doesn’t need an individual who’s always in a rush to finish something so that they can get on to the next one. If you are someone who is not attentive to detail be sure to work on it if subtitling is a profession you want to take on.
  5. Native/ fluent speaker: This is a personality trait that is important for translator subtitlers who also do translation from one language to another before they create subtitles. It is very important to either be a native speaker of the target language or at the very least be fluent. You cannot take on a language that you learned for 3 months at a local school and expect to deliver how a fluent or native speaker would. If you have specific languages that you would love to work with within your subtitling career, it is important to make sure you invest in learning them in depth.
  6. Screen spatial awareness:  You should be able to have a screen spatial awareness; this will help you in determining where subtitles sit on the screen when creating them and have an overview of how they would appear on the screen when the audience is viewing them. This is a skill that one develops over a period of working in the profession. You shouldn’t be pressured to have this trait though because you can always confirm all this before you hand in your project.
  7. Grammar oriented: Above, I mentioned that one should have incredible language skills and this point goes hand in hand with that. If you are going to work with different languages, you should be able to prioritize the grammar of all the language pairs that you want to work with. It can get really confusing because different languages have different grammatical styles. This is why a lot of subtitle translators have specific language pairs that they work with and they prioritize their grammatic entities.

There are many other traits that you should possess not only while working in a subtitling profession but in all other professions. The few I outlined on this article are the main ones that you should at least possess in order to have a steady subtitling career.



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