module specification

TR7057 - Subtitling (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Subtitling
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School Guildhall School of Business and Law
Total study hours 200
50 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
150 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
In-Course Test 60%   Subtitling translation
Coursework 40%   Commentary
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Wednesday Evening

Module summary

The module focuses on one particular audiovisual translation mode: Subtitling. Students are introduced to the main translation-related issues peculiar to subtitling, including methods of dealing with linguistic and non-linguistic elements within the audiovisual text, and taught the basic, transferable practical skills necessary to develop further experience in a professional subtitling environment. Theoretical and example-based instructions in the basic principles of the various issues will be coupled with practical and technically-oriented exercises relating to these principles.

Prior learning requirements

None but students are recommended to be IT literate

Module aims

The aims of the module are:
1. To provide an understanding of the particular problems posed by the complex semiotic mix of linguistic and non-linguistic elements inherent in audiovisual texts.
2. To provide knowledge of the specific challenges faced by professionals when they subtitle audiovisual programmes, with regards not only to translation but also to key aspects such as dealing with space and time constraints, with overalapping of dialogues, with shot changes.
3. To develop basic instrumental skills necessary to work in the subtitling industry, namely using a professional subtitling software.
4. To develop critical awareness of the need to devise strategies such as abridgment, omission and condensation and of the impact of these strategies on the target audience’s perception of the programme.
5. To provide awareness of the nature and structure of the subtitling industry, as well as of the opportunities for translators wishing to work in this field.


The module focuses on one particular modality within the sphere of audiovisual translation, that of subtitling, although much of the material covered will also be relevant to other modalities such as dubbing and voiceover. The module has a dual aim: to provide students with an awareness of translational issues peculiar to subtitling, and to give them the basic practical skills necessary to develop further experience in a professional subtitling environment. Students will be expected to combine their theoretical and practical knowledge in producing a short piece of subtitled work for one of the assessment components (the CST). Only one software package will be taught, but the skills learned are expected to be transferable to other programmes. Students will also gain experience of working with other members of a subtitling team and co-ordinating their work for a successful outcome.

Learning and teaching

The module involves a combination of face-to-face and blended learning delivery for the cohort of students who will take the module on campus, whereas it is entirely based on   a blended learning approach for the students who will take it in distance learning mode. In both cases students get knowledge about the specificities of audiovisual translation (and more specifically of subtitling) through the tutor’s presentations, hands-on exercises which entail the regular use of the subtitling software, quizzes, individual and group tasks. All these activities are aimed at recreating the scenarios in which professional subtitlers work and, at the same time, at developing different skills in students: time management while working to set deadlines, invidual and team work, self-reflection on  their own and their peers’ work and more widely on the whole process. The assessment strategy reflects this multiple goal as the class test reflects a realistic setting in which students need to produce their own piece of subtitled work under pressure, whereas the coursework gives them the opportunity to reflect upon the challenges that the subtitling process poses.

Learning outcomes

This module aims to enable students to:

  1. Understand the particular problems faced by translators working with audiovisual material, namely the complex semiotic mix of linguistic (dialogue and other verbal cues) and non-linguistic elements (e.g. movements and expressions, setting, mood, sound, character, cultural knowledge);
  2. Study the characteristics of the spoken form as typically represented in cinema and TV and their relationship with the subtitled text, appreciating the different aspects at work in the shift from the spoken to the written form (e.g. spoken signals such as intonation, tone, emphasis, irony, accent/dialect);
  3. Develop translation strategies for dealing with these issues as appropriate to subtitled material, in particular reduction, condensation and omission;
  4. Understand the limitations of subtitling within the context of the target audience and develop the art of successful compromise in the subtitled work;
  5. Learn the key practical techniques of subtitling.

Assessment strategy

The assessment aims to test both the students' practical skills in producing a piece of subtitled work and their understanding of the theoretical issues at play in subtitling.

The assessment has therefore two components: one practical and one evaluative. For the practical component, students will be given a short clip from a film or other audiovisual source to subtitle in class using the designated software programme. This translation will take place in Week 9.
For the evaluative component, students will have to write a commentary on an audiovisual programme chosen by themselves which has already been subtitled by the industry. This commentary will highlight a set number of issues encompassing an appropriate range of linguistic and extra-linguistic considerations as covered during the taught sessions. This commentary will be submitted in Week 13.


Díaz-Cintas, Jorge and Remael, Aline: (2007) Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling (Translation Practices Explained), St Jerome Publishing.
De Linde, Zoe and Kay, Neil: (1999), The Semiotics of Subtitling, Manchester : St Jerome.
Ivarsson, Jan & Caroll, Mary : (1998) Subtitling, Transedit, Sweden.

The Beginners’s guide to subtitling