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Subtitles are a textual representation of the dialogue in a video programme and the main medium for language transfer in audiovisual programming. Subtitling can be intralingual (in the same language as spoken in the programme) or interlingual (in another language), but in neither case is the textual representation a verbatim transcription or translation of the spoken words. If the entire dialogue were reproduced textually, even an extremely fast reader would miss vital parts of the visual action. The viewing experience would be like reading a script at a forced pace - not much fun. Subtitling necessarily involves a certain omission of spoken dialogue. The subtitler has to convey the dramatic essence in a shortened form that enhances the viewing experience of the audience. Working within strict spatio-temporal parameters, the subtitles are formulated and time-cued in accordance with:
  • The visual rhythm of the film as defined by shot changes

  • The auditive rhythm of the actors' speech

  • The audience's reading rhythm.
When transmitting content from one language to another, the subtitler has to (1) render it into the target language and (2) adapt it to the cultural requirements of that language community. The skills involved in audiovisual translation are therefore those of a monolingual subtitler plus those of a translator.
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