Subtitles for the deaf

Subtitles for the deaf

Subtitles for the deaf
A subtitled text is the re-formulation of a spoken text.

This procedure takes place in two phases: listening to the sound and transcription of subtitled text(a subtitle can be a sound put into words).

This text takes the following into consideration:
the situation, the action, the screen, with which it establishes an overall relationship for its completion. From a language point of view, it is important to note the necessity of referring to the actual situation. It is not enough to read a subtitle, one has to see it. In writing the text, the subtitler deals with information coming from different sources:
written text, sound, visual aspect.

Before writing the text, it is of primary importance to have an idea of the overall idea of the program to subtitle. One must envision the program in its whole, to be able to evaluate the solutions for its completion. One also must identify the typical viewer, the genre, the time slot, the general style of the story, locate the principal characters for assigning guide-colors. The subtitler must take into consideration the many “non-written regulations”. He will have priorities, needs and certain rules to follow.
The work of the subtitler obviously has a margin of discretion that entails a great sense of responsibility, having as his goal, easy reading of the text for a specific range of viewers.

In brief, here are certain points involving subtitling work for the deaf, that the subtitler must bear in mind.


Reducing text can intervene on vocabulary, on the structure, on the syntax. One prefers simple brief words, a moderate use of pronouns and prepositions, simple phrases, brief periods, order of elements.


Considering the time it takes to say a phrase, the time allotted to read it, is usually less. Therefore, subtitling means putting a limit to a text, and usually reducing it. The first step is to identify the primary and secondary aspects of what is said.

There are many available instruments. Along with the language reformulation of the text, we can intervene on the length and/or the duration of a subtitle. Length and duration are interactive.

Language .

To create a text, just as understanding a text, involves various phases of difficulty:
language, grammar, structure, syntax, capacity of creating connections, content.

Until we move around in the field of non-specialized languages, it is generally possible to adequately substitute one word with another (this will not take place in documentaries, in debates, in talk shows with specialized and specific topics). And again, we must bear in mind:


Spontaneity in the spoken language has a precise explanation in absence of a text. At times the predicate is missing, words are left hanging, time is reduced, words are repeated, and frequently a character speaks through gestures to indicate objects and or meanings. In this case, the subtitler must integrate or complete what is not written or improperly pronounced to avoid misunderstanding.


When information is not given verbally, the subtitle needs some action as support and is only completed through vision. The subtitler must take into consideration many other aspects like sound, punctuation, intonation, dialect, slang, incomplete sentences, volume, citations, songs, poems, colloquial forms, repetition, humor, text-image relationship.

Part of above mentioned text is taken from:

SCRIPTA VOLANT_la rai per i sordi_

Rai Eri

Studio Calabria contributed to creation of the book.