Being a subtitle translator is an exciting career. It’s one of the most flexible jobs in the world, and it gives one an opportunity to meet other people from all over the world. With these, you are given a chance to learn valuable information on different cultures. Most importantly, this career pays well for a high percentage of subtitle translators.
Working in this industry comes with perks. If you dream of becoming one of the most successful subtitle translators someday, here are some steps you can take to kick-start your career.
Develop Passion for a Language
Translating subtitles requires in-depth knowledge of a specific language. Speaking and understanding the language is only a portion of this career. If you want to be successful in this job, you should be able to play with words and convey messages without losing the original meaning of the materials you are translating. To do this, you need to have a deep understanding of the complexity of the language.
Mastering a language takes time, but if you are passionate about it, you’ll succeed eventually and fulfill the first step in becoming a professional subtitle translator. Be sure to enroll in a language class and complete the course to gain the needed skills and experience for the job.
Take a Course on Theory of Translation
Learning the theory of translation gives you the upper hand if you are to compete against other aspiring subtitle translators. Translation, in itself, involves studying grammatical structure, cultural context, communication situation, and lexicon of the target language. It is a complex discipline that involves various concepts. The basics of these concepts are outlined in Étienne Dolet’s work, La Manière de Bien Traduire d’une Langue en Aultre. To this day, these principles are still used in his theory of document translation, but have evolved into the following rules:
Diagram from Larson 1998, p. 4
- The translator must have a perfect understanding of the source language
- The translator must have a superb knowledge of the target language
- The translator must have an exceptional grasp of the subject matter
These rules also apply when translating subtitles in the sense that, to complete the job, one must comprehend the meaning of the source language and convey it to the target language. These are only possible if you have a mastery of both the source and target languages, as well as a clear understanding of the materials you are trying to translate.
Master the Subtitling Software
Aside from mastering the language and learning the theory of translation, another critical skill to acquire is how to use a subtitling software. The best path is to find a course like GoSub, which will get you familiarized with the best subtitling software. However, if this is not possible, you can also do a self-study and learn from free tutorials available online.
Start Small with Internship or Freelancing
Once you have acquired all the required skills, it’s time to gain actual work experience. You can apply for an internship or find freelance works to strengthen your CV. When you build up your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, you attract prospective clients and connect with co-subtitlers. You can also scour marketplaces for jobs, like UpWork, to kick-start your career.
When you have gained enough work experience, you’re now ready to apply for bigger companies as a subtitle translator.