Ever wonder who writes the subtitles and how it works? Guy La Roche is happy to tell you:
First of all, people process spoken information faster than written information. Subtitles follow the pace of spoken language. The amount of text used in subtitles therefore needs to be reduced so that the reading speed matches the speed of the dialogue. The faster a character speaks, the more the translator needs to reduce his text. Most of the time it is simply impossible to do a word for word translation. You, the people who watch tv and movies, simply cannot read fast enough….
Lots of interesting stuff, including a long disquisition on the surprising problems of translating porn (“In this case the story was about some bimbo trying to make it through college…. to my great horror, she mentioned a 15th century Spanish book. And she gave the title in Spanish. … I was so upset that I made it a point of honour to find that book. And I did. After several hours trawling the internet I found exactly ONE webpage that mentioned the book and its Spanish title. That one subtitle alone, invoice value seventy eurocents, cost me hours of work and precious time”). Thanks for the link go to frequent commenter Kári Tulinius.