Audiovisual translation involves turning the parts of audiovisual products spoken in one language into another one. The wide range of audiovisual products which need to be translated so they can be seen, heard and understood anywhere in the world includes feature films, television programmes, plays, musicals, operas and videogames.

The main feature of this type of translation is the close connection between visual and verbal codes. Audiovisual products are produced to be heard and seen at the same time so the translation is heavily dependent on the pictures. This leads to the accuracy of a good audiovisual translation, unlike other types such as sworn translation.

Audiovisual translation is one of the youngest fields of study and application in professional translation. A Dialnet study says that the first film to use intertitles (the onscreen words placed between frames in order to convey dialogue or descriptions in silent films) was Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1903. Sometimes there were also narrators in the movie theatre who told the story to the audience while the pictures were shown on the screen.

Although academics distinguish between more than ten types of audiovisual translation, we want to talk about four of the main ones which are most in demand at AADIMATIQ:

  • Dubbing: the original dialogue is replaced by dialogue translated into the target language. This means the voices of the original actors are replaced.
  • Subtitling: in this case as much spoken material as possible is translated and added to the pictures as subtitles. This type of translation is usually crucial for people who are deaf or hearing impaired.
  • Voiceover: unlike dubbing this does not completely replace the original dialogue. The volume of the audio track with that dialogue is lowered and the translation is played over it.
  • Simultaneous translation: this is usually critical for live events. Simultaneous translation also includes sign language translation.

Finally, it is very important in audiovisual translation to use professionals who are trained and specialised in the audiovisual field to make sure the message is conveyed as accurately as possible. It is a field which has evolved very quickly and will continue to adapt to new technological advances and so we are sure that new forms of audiovisual translation will continue to emerge.