skip to Main Content

ELENA SANDU •• Starting Out as a Translator – Romanian Subtitles

Romanian Subtitles. My Journey in Subtitling: Beginnings

Openness to new things and an on-going research are both essential in order to succeed in the translation industry, and especially in that of Romanian subtitles. So many changes take place while you are reading this article. As a translator, linguist or a philologist, you must always be curious, ready for new challenges and open to new research. Generally speaking, this field is a progressive one, in which you can always feel as a beginner when it comes to words. And if you really are one, any field can rise difficulties and challenges at first, and even if it sounds like some sort of a cliché, it is important to figure out what it is that defines you, and to try to do that something with passion.

If you are on the lookout for a creative and exciting translation field or if you think that translating subtitles represents a path you might want to follow in the future, here is some information you could use to start your own journey in the field.

As for myself, as I also started my journey with subtitles recently, I thought it would be useful to share it with you, in hopes of spreading some details and inspiration for those who might need it. In my case, it came as a pleasant surprise. Being enthusiastic about foreign languages and everything concerning visual arts, the process of subtitling gave me exactly the experience I needed: a creative and versatile space, which turned from a hobby into a full-time job of which I am extremely proud.

Why do we need subtitles?

Being an industry in which curiosity is key, you must ask yourself “why?”. Why do we need subtitles? We need them because they represent one of means for cultural accessibility, they offer an improved viewing experience, a way to learn a foreign language, by understanding various accents and learning new vocabularies.

Subtitles help those who have trouble focusing or who suffer of hearing impairment to better understand the narrative. Not only that you contribute to a cultural flexibility, but you also help others less fortunate than you have the same experience and gain access to information and entertainment.

Conclusion? When you do your job passionately and you see the bigger picture, you are able to discover how important it is what you do.

But what’s the use of theory without practice?

What do you need to start a Romanian subtitling project?

Here are the three most important things:

  1. A list of specific rules for subtitles (and their translation): this will be either supplied by the client or you can decide to use the general rules (along with the client’s specifications), drafted by Disney (timed text style guide for Romanian subtitles), Netflix (timed text style guide for Romanian subtitles) or others. Like in many other fields, in subtitling as well, rules are meant to be followed; you need to consider the industry standards to supply subtitles that are easy to follow, high-quality and consistent.
  2. A subtitling tool: today, technology is our best friend, offering thousands of possibilities for our daily lives, something that also happens when it comes to subtitles. There are many intuitive and user-friendly subtitling programs, even for those with limited IT knowledge. Let’s just name a few: EZTitles, Sfera, Ooona, Subtitle Edit, Happy Scribe, Matesub and the subtitling plugin of SDL Trados Studio. To make your own work easier, it is important to find the tool that best suits your needs and to research everything it may offer, including shortcuts, functionalities and many more.
  3. Try this out – put yourself in the shoes of the viewer: offer the experience that you would like to have. I highly encourage you to research to whom the video material is addressed to, who the target audience is. Only after you figured this out, are you able to see the real contribution of a translator. You might as well be the voice that accompanies the viewers in a special journey. So, keep in mind the age group, area of interest, context and style of the material. It’s all in the details.

The basics when it comes to Romanian subtitles

If the aim is to translate the material from a foreign language into your native language, you need to have a SubRip (.srt) file, which is a simple format used by most of the translators, being compatible with many video editing software. You will either receive this from the client or you will have to make it from scratch (maybe using an automated transcription program) – a subsequent article will detail what to do when you don’t receive a source file from the client or if this is not adequately synchronized with the video.

However, be careful, as not all free versions ensure the confidentiality of the material. Without being aware, you might find yourself in a case of transferring the content, or even the confidential information of the client, to a third party platform, which may further share your work.

If you are to translate the material into a foreign language, my advice would be to turn to a native speaker of that language for the localization and final revision of the subtitling file. Cultural adjustment is an important detail, and it provides added value, which you could certainly use in order to get „“closer” to your audience.

Before starting a project, you must read the instructions provided by the client, or if you have not received any, you can find below a few.

Five of most important standard rules that have to be followed for a high-quality result when it comes to Romanian subtitles

1. Each subtitle must have a maximum number of two lines in the lower part of the screen. This will be positioned in the upper part of the screen only if there is already on-screen text in the lower part which the subtitle might cover. Preferably, keep the text on one line. If not possible, in case of two line events, make sure you keep a correct and logical line break, maintaining the second line longer, just like a pyramid.

For example:

Went to the library and bought a

book for you.

Correct version would’ve been:

Went to the library

and bought a book for you.

2. The recommended font style is Arial, and the font size depends on the video resolution and ability to fit 42 characters across the screen.

3. The subtitle line must not exceed 42 characters, including punctuations and spaces. Most of the subtitling tools warn you if you have exceeded the pre-set limit, just make sure to check out the settings and adjust them according to your requirements. Another important aspect, concerning the reading speed, is that a subtitle should not exceed 17-20 characters per second for adult programs, and 13-15 for children’s programs.

4. To indicate two speakers, use a hyphen.

For example:

Speaker 1: – Glad to see you.

Speaker 2: – Me too.

5. Do not use ellipsis when breaking the subtitle into two lines.

For example:

Line 1:  I have talked to her yesterday

Line 2: and decided it’s better like this.

An ellipsis should be used only in case of interruptions by another speaker.

For example:

– I wanted to say that…

– Doesn’t matter!

– …you are pretty.

– Thank you.

And, in the end, the most important ingredient – creativity. Use it and enjoy the process.

Now that you read the theory, I hope this article will be the needed push for you to start working on Romanian subtitles. You will never know if you are good at something unless you try that thing, so I hope I managed to stir your interest, and who know, maybe one day, you will see your words on the big screens.

For more information and rules about high-quality Romanian subtitles, read the following article: Audiovisual Localization: A Short Guideline for Subtitle Translations.

[Elena Sandu has graduated from the University of Bucharest, the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and became a member of the The Department team in 2021, first with an internship, and then with a full-time job as an internal translator.]


You can find a few more blogposts here – we seized the opportunity, and took a short break from the daily to-do lists and translations tools.
Date of publication: 11.11.2022


Back To Top