Subtitle (captioning)

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Synonyms: subs
See also: fansubs, subtitle timing, Subs vs. Dubs, Subtitle (titling)
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You may be looking for subtitles in written works, see Subtitle (titling).

Subtitles refer to text added to a video file, either for translation purposes or for hard-of-hearing viewers. Most subtitles are located at the bottom of the screen and are often limited to translations of verbal information. Transcriptions of sound effects are sometimes referred to as closed captioning or sfx (though the latter term has several meanings), though some refer to these as subtitles as well. Translations of onscreen written material can either be presented as subtitles or as images attached to the translated object, produced by typesetting. Subtitles (often surtitles) are also used in live performances, for example, opera.

Sometimes subtitles are used humorously, as in parody subtitles, which use obviously fake translations to entertain their audiences.

When the term "subtitle" is shortened to "sub" in fandom, it generally refers to professional translations of video that offer captions instead of dubbing, or it refers to fansubs. Some fans view subtitles as providing a more authentic experience or accurate tranlation in comparison to dubs, a debate referred to as Subs vs. Dubs.

While subs are generally acknowledged as the more accurate alternate to dubs, some fans point out the limitations of such translations. AniTuber Digibro in a video titled "The Problem with Anime Subtitles" says:

Translation is a lot more art than science, on account of the fact that different languages don’t necessarily have simple correlations between words, statements, phrases, grammatical quirks, intonations, etc. And since clever writing in any language is going to take advantage of these quirks, translating these aspects into a language with complete different rules leaves you with a ton of different options--none of which exactly recreate the original.

In the early days of online anime fandom, there was a lot of debate over the merits of localization vs. transliteration. Localizing dialog has the advantage of making it more engaging for English listeners and readers, but has the disadvantage of straying farther from the original intentions of the creators--and this can have more of a rippling effect on your perception of the story than you might expect.


Having said that, I still think that there is a ton which subbers could do to better preserve the intentions of the original Japanese dialog simply by doing more to recognize and replicate the emotional intentions of the line in a way that would convey the same feeling in English.

[example is given]

Both the crunchyroll translation and my version mean the same thing and use mostly the same words, but my version better reflects the cadence and intentionality of the original scene. Granted, doing something like this requires not just an understanding of both languages, but also the ability to recognize the artistry in the original, and to replicate that artistry in the other language--and while I don’t know the exact process by which the Crunchy sub team receives and translates their episodes, I can’t imagine that they have a whole ton of time to pore over every single line and make sure that it’s the best possible translation. Just one more way that the factory-line process by which animation is created and brought to consumers damages the intentionality of the art--but hey, that’s the industry!