Japanese logogram for subtitles

We also transcribe audio and video files and translate subtitles from/into Japanese or Italian

Audio/video transcription and subtitle translation are an extension of our Japanese/Italian translation service. Unlike dubbing, subtitle translation requires the special ability to adapt the original content to the limited space available on screen, a difficult task if both source and target languages are not mastered.

“Transcription and Subtitle Translation” — Contents

Aliseo Japan™ (we are a team of two freelance translators) offers also audio-video transcription and the translation of existing subtitles into and from Japanese or Italian especially for small and medium-sized companies that target the Japanese and Italian markets.

Presentation of our audio transcription and subtitle translation services to or from Japanese or Italian

In addition to subtitle creation, or simply subtitling—which is a service we don't provide—video/audio transcription and subtitle translation are in particularly high demand in both the entertainment industry (movies, animation, etc.) and the industrial and business sectors.

Audio-video transcription

Our transcription service is the process of creating a written version of audio or video content. The source file is often generated during conferences, seminars, interviews, or corporate meetings but can also be content that is used to provide technical instructions or serve other functions.

Our transcription languages

  • Italian
  • Japanese

This transformation of speech to text requires mastery of the source language (Italian and Japanese in our case) and must be highly accurate so that the content remains intact after it has been freed from the idiosyncrasies of spoken language, i.e. the hesitations, interjections, sudden variations in verb tense, fragmentation or suspension of predicates, and so forth. Other grammatical corrections are also made where necessary.

Given the possible uses of audio transcriptions, maintaining fidelity to the original content is crucial to ensure that the written text can be used without problems, for instance if it needs to be translated into another language. But, the quality of the transcription process can be hampered by:

  • Background noise
  • Insufficient vocal clarity on the part of the speaker
  • Dialects or dialectal forms
  • Incorrect or poor pronunciation of foreign words or names
  • Unfamiliar or poorly pronounced acronyms
  • Any other factor that hinders comprehension of what is said

Finally, it is worth noting that a quality audio or video transcription can be an essential prerequisite for what is often the next step: the creation of subtitles. We do not deal with subtitle creation, but with their translation into and from Italian and Japanese.

Translation of existing subtitles

This service is exactly what it sounds like—existing subtitles are translated into another language. This service is offered alongside that of the general Italian-Japanese translation, but with different requirements and a different concept of translation quality.

Our subtitle translation language pairs

  • Italian to Japanese
  • Japanese to Italian
  • English to Italian
  • English to Japanese

The translation of existing subtitles carries different—and additional—requirements than the translation of a full text. In practice, it involves a sort of information synthesis of the spoken language and is therefore a more laborious process. This is because it is not always desirable or feasible to reflect the spontaneity of spoken language in the subtitles, making it necessary to abandon the oral communication style so that the dialogue can be expressed in much fewer words while substantially preserving a high level of accuracy. It goes without sating that, even more than general translation and technical translation, the subtitle translation's worst enemy is the excessively literal, or word for word translation.

subtitle translation

For example, it is often advisable to ignore any sudden transitions between past and present, off-the-cuff or indirect remarks, unusual singular-plural agreement, odd phrasing, and similar peculiarities. Subtitle translation is a transition from oral to written language rather than a conversion between two written languages, which makes it a very complex and creative form of synthetic translation that requires special skills and a lot of experience. And since it's a synthesis and translation work together, it also takes more time than a normal translation.

For these reasons, it is essential that the existing subtitles are an accurate representation of the information expressed in the original dialogue. But this is not sufficient, because when attempting to translate concisely a text which on its turn is already a concise rendition of another text it might be difficult to reproduce faithfully the nuances of the original speech. Thus, making the original audio-video file available to the translator is indispensable so that it can be viewed/listened to while reading the existing subtitles.

The subtitle translation process

Some clients ask their translators to translate existing subtitles using a bilingual word processing document or spreadsheet that includes the time codes and the source and target languages in tabular format, while others prefer that they work directly with the .srt file (for YouTube videos too), the most common file format, but not the only one, that usually accompanies the video. Working with a subtitle file is the easiest way to translate subtitles and the least prone to speech-to-text synchronization errors.

Purpose and peculiarities of subtitles

Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco

Writer, semiotician, and occasional translator

Of a translation often we shouldn't stop at what it says, but what it meant to say.

Setting aside the distinction between subtitles for hearing-impaired users (closed captions) and those created for users who do not speak the language of the original audio, there are essentially two categories of subtitling: technical or specialized subtitles for professionals and generic subtitles for the general public.

With technical subtitling, it is important to faithfully convey the basic message of the audio, which is typically intended for a small but expert audience. Generic subtitling covers a far broader scope linguistically and often requires one to “pull out all the stops” in order to represent the finer nuances and colloquialisms of the source.

  • Subtitle translation is more involved than other types of translation because it requires a technical transformation that considerably reduces the number of words while still ensuring that the source will be fully understood. Even more than general translation, (too) literal translation should be avoided.
  • The translator must adapt or eliminate many elements from the original text but also maintain the speaker's individual forms of expression, hesitations, intentional circumlocutions, uses of irony, and so on.
  • Depending on the nature of the subject, the number of words might need to be reduced by as much as 50%, or even higher in some cases—all while presenting a clear and complete message. This is an incredible feat of compression which is exceedingly rare in spoken language.
  • Because they are a written form of language, subtitles hold more power of communication than their spoken counterparts. They must therefore be considered very carefully, a process for which a perfect understanding of the source language and a great expressive ability in the target language are mandatory.

How we do Italian and Japanese subtitle translation

Every translator has his or her own work flow. This is ours:

  1. We receive the file in the way agreed with the customer.
  2. We review the entire video a few times to fully grasp its basic nature as well as to check the density of words; from this, we can estimate the time required to transcribe the audio or translate subtitles (or both). If the text is technical, we make sure to look up translations for any specialized terms that we are not familiar with.
  3. Instead of diving directly into translating the source from its beginning, we first attempt to identify key sections or scenes that can be treated as separate units, arriving at a sort of modular overview of the entire file.
  4. Once the subtitles have been translated, they are checked independently by both the Italian-native translator and the Japanese-native translator to identify any points which may need additional clarification. This phase ensures that the dialogue will be as natural as possible, placing particular emphasis on the correct translation of idiomatic expressions and avoiding interpretations that are too literal.
  5. We conduct a series of translation quality checks before submitting the subtitle file to the client.
  6. If required, we also review the video file once the translated subtitles have been integrated to give our final approval to the client.

Notes on subtitle translation into Japanese

For Japanese subtitles too, the general rule is to not exceed two lines of on-screen text. But given the graphic complexity of logograms, which for readability purposes should be displayed with a larger size than roman characters (normally 50% more), each line should not exceed 13-14 characters (against 40-42 in case of roman characters). In certain cases, for example not to hide particularly important video parts at the bottom of the screen, to display a contextual speech (uncommon) or to provide additional information, it is also possible - but with great moderation - to complement horizontal subtitles with vertical subtitles, usually from the the top right side of the screen.

Written Japanese makes use of three different scripts: kanji characters (the logograms adopted from from the Chinese characters) plus the hiragana and katakana syllabaries, all three expressed using double-byte fonts in the digital realm, which means they take up more screen space. If it were possible to use only logograms, even in a larger size they would require less on-screen space, which is not the case with the two syllabaries that can be either vowels or consonants. Moreover, in certain cases it may also be necessary to indicate the readings for unusual logograms or logogram combinations using small hiragana or katakana characters directly over them (a system known as furigana), which can further eat up screen real estate and compel the translator to further reduce the overall number of characters withing the already limited space available and may require to resort to alternative expressive formulas which, however, put the Japanese translator's synthesis skills to the test even more.

That is probably the greatest difficulty that a translator will encounter when translating subtitles into Japanese and is something which makes a mastery of both languages essential to the task: the source language in order to fully understand the meaning and nuance of every expression, and the Japanese language in order to faithfully translate that meaning despite the limitations described above.

In any case, as explained in the Italian-Japanese translation quality page, our subtitle translation service also relies on the linguistic cooperation of two freelance translators, a Japanese mother tongue and an Italian mother tongue.

Transcription and subtitle translation rates

Language Rate
IT/JP From USD 9 video/min
(From .srt or Word files)
Languages Rates
IT to JP USD 0.10~/word
JP to IT USD 0.08~/Char
EN to JP USD 0.10~/word
EN to IT USD 0.10~/word

Service terms

  • The rates shown here apply to standard translation jobs. Special rates may apply for specialized texts or jobs that will require extended periods of time.
  • The minimum rate per job for direct clients is USD 40.
  • Unless different terms are agreed upon in advance, all payments are due within 30 days of the invoice date. (Payment in advance for private individuals)
  • Payment method: WISE,Payoneer or credit card via the free PayPal service (account registration not required) or IBAN/SEPA bank transfer.

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Please note:

    The price of audio or video transcription will vary according to the speed of the speech, the sound quality, and the number of unclear passages which require repeated listening. It takes about 10 minutes on average to transcribe 1 minute of video and in 1 minute an average of 150-250 words can be transcribed (or 100-150 Japanese characters). The total transcription time can only be estimated once we have viewed the entire video or audio file in question. Therefore, providing a fixed rate in advance is not possible as each work is different from any other.