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Subtitling and translating a YouTube video

Various methods of subtitling can be used for your online video content. You can burn subtitles into the video itself but also upload them separately along with your YouTube video. This provides more flexibility and improves the findability of your message. In addition, it facilitates the process of translating the subtitles to the desired languages. How does it work? Read more here.

The role of video

Video and animation play an increasing role in the marketing and communication strategy of many organisations. Are you also using video content to attract your international target audience to your company? Then it is essential to have your video subtitled and possibly translated.

Many people will watch your video without sound, which creates the need for subtitles. By offering subtitles in multiple languages, you will be able to reach multiple nationalities. That will definitely come in handy if you intend to do business abroad.

Different types of subtitles can be used for your video content. It is possible to burn subtitles into your video prior to publication, but various publication platforms also allow you to upload the subtitles as a separate file along with your video. If you want, you can have this subtitle file translated afterwards. You can publish your video in various ways and on various platforms, of which YouTube is currently the best known. YouTube has had the option of subtitling videos for years. Nowadays YouTube even has the option to generate a transcript by means of speech recognition. This transcript can serve as a starting point for optimising your subtitles.

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4 options for subtitling and translating your YouTube video

As previously mentioned, you have the option to burn subtitles into your video so that they are permanently there. However, this will cause trouble when translating your video, as you will have to upload a new video for each language. Moreover, burned subtitles cannot be indexed by Google, whereas this is possible when separate files are used. This, in turn, helps increase your findability!

YouTube offers four different possibilities for separately adding subtitles to your video and translating them:

  • Subtitling the video directly in YouTube
  • Letting YouTube automatically subtitle the video
  • Creating a transcript file and uploading it to YouTube
  • Creating a subtitle file and uploading it to YouTube

Your viewer can then decide for themselves whether they want to watch the video with or without subtitles.

1. Subtitling directly in YouTube

YouTube Studio allows you to directly add subtitles to the video you have uploaded to YouTube. You simply choose the language in which you want to create subtitles and play your video. As soon as you arrive at the point where you want to add text, you can do so by typing the text. You can repeat this until you have typed out all spoken text in the video. After that, you can publish the subtitles and your viewers will be able to select the subtitles for that particular language.

2. Automatic subtitling

YouTube can also automatically subtitle your video by means of speech recognition. For now, automatic subtitles are available in German, English, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Be aware that these automatic subtitles will often be flawed and will usually require some form of post-editing.

3. Using a transcript

A different method is to create a transcript of your video and upload it to YouTube. In a transcript, the spoken text has been written out, but the transcript file does not contain any time codes. YouTube can automatically synchronise this file with the video so that the text appears at the right time. Unfortunately, the result is not always spot-on, so take into account that post-editing may be necessary.

4. Using subtitle files

The fourth option – which we feel is most effective – is to upload a subtitle file along with your video. A subtitle file contains both the spoken text and the time codes that indicate the time at which the subtitles must be displayed. There are multiple types of subtitle files. Well-known formats are:

  • SubRip (SRT)
  • Subviewer (SUB)
  • Web Video Text Tracks (WebVTT)
  • YouTube subtitle file (SBV)

When you subtitle and/or translate videos to be uploaded to YouTube, the SRT format does the job. A regular word processor will suffice in order to create an SRT file, although you can also use a professional program.

Note that in order to achieve precise time codes, it is essential to use a professional program. Also, several general rules of thumb often apply during the creation of professional subtitle files. A subtitle file is easily translated and reuploaded to your video in YouTube in order to make subtitles available in multiple languages. Viewers will be automatically shown the right language based on their language and country settings, but they can also choose the language themselves.

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Subtitle your YouTube video yourself or outsource it?

As we have mentioned, it is possible to subtitle your videos yourself. However, experience shows that subtitling and translating videos in a streamlined manner can be very time-consuming. Making the right text appear at the right time is a true specialism. Moreover, experienced subtitlers will rarely translate text literally from one language to the other. Instead, it involves quite a bit of creativity. Where necessary, professional subtitlers will translate, shorten and time the subtitles in such a way that they perfectly convey your story. In short, by outsourcing this work you will save time, receive the subtitles and/or translations sooner and be sure that they are of professional quality.

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