Taking Stock of Subtitling – Jorge Díaz-Cintas (UCL) – Guest Lecture Cardiff University MLANG 18.11.14

Jorge Díaz-Cintas

Sponsored by Tesserae, Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies, this event at Cardiff University brought in world expert in subtitling, Jorge Díaz-Cintas, from UCL, for a guest lecture on ‘Taking Stock In Subtitling’.

Subtitling is a growing area of research and also a growing employment area for Translation graduates. The lecture was well-supported by undergraduate and post-graduate students, many department teachers, the professional translator community and also members of the public.

Jorge led out by defining subtitling as a form of REWRITING as opposed to the REVOICING of dubbing, interpreting, voiceover and narration.

Subtitling has a very significant role in accessibility, with subtitles being made for disabled people, be they hard of hearing / deaf or partially-sighted / blind (Audio description & Audio subtitling)

The rapid development in technology in recent years has seen a huge growth in the need for subtitling. Its diversity and range has multiplied with the advent of new technologies and has moved from television to the internet.

The volunteer community of subtitlers translate and adapt uploaded videos on youtube and other internet video platforms, sometimes, as in the case of new TV series, beating the professional subtitling community in the race for reaching an audience. These new subtitlers can redefine norms in the world of translation, for example, usurping traditional translation methods for Mandarin or Arabic and using trendy vernacular tongues.

Jorge demonstrated some of the professional subtitling computer tools such as Wincaps, and talked of the complexity of organising multiple subtitling in a range of foreign languages. If ‘spotting’ (where subtitles come in and fade out in a video frame) is made uniform across all subtitling languages, what sort of problems can arise? A German translator needs far more space in their translation than other European languages as their words are longer and also the sentences are structured with the verb part-separating to feature at the end of a sentence. A subtitler has to take into account of average reading speeds and faces the challenge of condensing material due to space restraints. Jorge showed how the software aids in these factors.

For those interested in subtitling and getting involved in this profession, a number of websites were mentioned:


Some of these sites are at the cutting edge of subtitling technology, incorporating the latest developments in the field of machine translation.

Jorge left us to ponder of the future of where subtitling will lead in tomorrow’s world. There are Japanese glasses – Powell’s glasses, similar to Google Glass, that enable people to converse directly via automated translation subtitling in the screen of the glasses as two foreigners strike up a real-life conversation.

Jorge Díaz-Cintas delivered an entertaining, passionate and inspiring lecture on a field that at first glance may seem boring and irrelevant. I certainly had my eyes opened to the world of subtitling and can see why it can be an interesting career choice for translation graduates. It combines technology with linguistic transfer and enables culture and ideas to disperse in a globalised world. The world of subtitling will continue to grow and go from strength to strength.



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