Subtitlers’ association launches website redesign amid discussion over the profession’s future


SUBTLE, an association of audiovisual translators (AVT) founded in the United Kingdom, recently re-launched its website and updated its membership benefits, a move which it announced last week on Twitter.

SUBTLE is also associated with AudioVisual Translators Europe (AVTE), which it helped to found in 2011 alongside several other national AVT associations throughout the continent. While it was originally founded in the UK, SUBTLE now claims to be a multinational organization of industry professionals, students, and academics.

“With a new website, new benefits, and lots of new followers, we thought we’d reintroduce ourselves,” the association wrote in a tweet on Feb. 16. “SUBTLE is an association of subtitlers and other independent AVT & accessibility professionals.”

SUBTLE boasts several benefits for membership, with four different levels of membership: Student, Professional, Academic, and Supporter. Each membership level costs £25 or less (supporter memberships are pay-as-you-wish, while student memberships are £15), and allows members to gain access to conferences, networking events, and several other benefits. 

The association’s website redesign and updated benefits come at a particularly interesting crossroads for the AVT and subtitling profession. Recently, subtitling has been identified by a handful of outlets and industry insiders as a profession that may be on the outs — or, at the very least, in decline. For instance, CNET published a report earlier this month identifying subtitling as a “dying art.”

CNET’s piece investigated the exploitative nature of the subtitling workflow, which is often outsourced to third-party vendors. Outsourcing the work, rather than using in-house professionals, can affect the quality of the work while also leading subtitlers to be underpaid and overworked. “The rates have not been increased in around 20 years,” SUBTLE’s chair, Max Deryagin, told CNET.

These issues also made headlines in MultiLingual and other publications last year, when one TikToker brought attention to the English subtitles of Netflix’s Squid Game, which she claimed were not an adequate representation of the original Korean content. Debate around the quality of Squid Game‘s subtitles ensued, however Deryagin told CNET that the show’s English subtitles were actually of an acceptable quality.

Still, SUBTLE remains optimistic and aims to encourage widespread recognition of subtitling as an art form. As subtitling requires translators and subtitlers to take into account several additional factors such as the time and length of each line, the profession can be quite challenging, requiring high levels of creativity and linguistic knowledge.

“Over the years, the state of affairs in our industry has deteriorated: the rates have dwindled, the working conditions have worsened, and the public’s image of the subtitler has become that of a hobbyist rather than of a skilled specialist,” the organization claims. “SUBTLE strives to help stop these downward trends and make subtitling a sustainable, respectable and fulfilling profession.”

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Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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