How to make subtitles

Hey, guys! I have just subtitled my first episode ever on Viki. I would like to give you guys some tips on how to subtitle, because sometimes I see some absurd subs and I can’t understand anything! D: So, here’s a few tips that I thought would help you guys so we can have more fun while subbing and also while watching! <3

So, for starters, you need to be fluent on both languages (the one you’re subtitling from and the one you’re subtitling to), and also, if possible, understand at least a little of the language being spoken on the show. With that in mind, let’s pretend we’re subtitling a K-drama from English to Portuguese (which is what I did).

I am a native Portuguese speaker and an English teacher. I also understand a basic level of Korean. So, what did I do? Okay: first, I listened to what was being said on the show. Then, I read the subtitles in English and after that I based my translation on what I heard and what I read in English. There are a lot of expressions and they change from one language to another. You mustn’t do your translation word-by-word. Otherwise, it could sound confusing. You need to check which expression is being used and then look for what that expression means, so that you can find that meaning in an expression of your own language! In my case, it was Portuguese.

Let me give you guys an example.

Let’s say the son likes to listen to the same kind of music as his father. In English, we would use the expression “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, in that situation, to mean that the child seems like his father. However, I could not say “A maçã não cai longe a árvore” in Portuguese, because for brazilians it would not make sense. But, in Portuguese, we use the expression “Tal pai, tal filho (Like father, like son)” for that kind of situation.

So, do you see what I mean? You can’t just use an online translator and randomly put words on the subtitles box. It takes time and thinking to do a good job. It’s a harmonisation, not just a translation.

I hope I’ve been helpful, guys! I hope we can all have a lot of fun making lots of great subtitles in all languages! :smile:


Hahaha! So, you have also had one of those experiences where you’re appalled by the most ridiculous and meaningless translations?

Well, the following thread I started in one of those moments of crisis and the feedback I got from the community was really enlightening - a person always has more to learn than they believe.


@bozoli It just amazes me how lazy people can get! If you just use your brain a little, you can make great subtitles! But people volunteer just to get recognition, I think. They don’t put much effort in what they’re doing. That upsets me a little. Specially Portuguese subtitles. Sometimes, I want to watch a drama with my father or my mother (they don’t speak English), and they get mad because they can’t understand anything on the subtitles! So they give up watching the show. And that makes me really sad because I want to share this “Korean World” of mine witth my parents.


I know right? There’s so many people that uses Google translator, makes me wonder why they are subtitling when they don’t understand a thing. Mostly subtitles by this people don’t make any sense. That’s why editors are so important in the picture. I hope they learn

1 Like

I have the same situation at home, where my Mom, an avid k-drama viewer, cannot understand a word of English and also, very often, cannot understand a word of her mother language because someone perhaps just wanted to get a QC status.

The worst is when you check just how many of these rotten subtitles this person has made. And that’s just one person out of many.

And, as a small consolation, you see those people in every language.

My best advice to you is, if you see anywhere such a blatant disregard to any subtitling principles, report this to the channel manager. She/he will be very, VERY glad you told her.

My warmest personal advice is to take a deep breath, because more of this is coming. And hang in there. We can beat them :wink:


About Google Translate, it’s against Viki guidelines along with using 3rd party subs. Of course you are allowed to look up certain words you don’t know but copy paste sentences from Google Translate directly is forbidden. If you see that and have proof (screencaps or whatever works for you to proof it) report it too Viki. They won’t be the first people who had their accounts suspended because of this. Oh and inform the CM or the language mod.
Next to that there are people who are learning a language and decide to subtitle here but don’t know enough to make good subs.


Editors are a great solution. However, in languages other than English or Spanish, they are very rare. In those cases it’s the moderator that presumes the role of the editor in his/her own team.

The real problem occurs when a moderator of a channel is the exact person who doesn’t know how to subtitle. Channel managers are always happy to get offers from others who wish to be moderators on their channel. But I have a great respect for those CMs that check the stats of the subtitler and ask around if the subtitler is good or not, before giving the moderator position. Because the stats one has can be highly deceiving! I’ve seen people with 20.000 subtitles writing crap and I’ve seen people with 2.000 subtitles writing almost professionally.


I think checking sub quality of people can be really hard specially if you don’t know the language. For my native language I always check of course but even then it can happen. A person can have 500 good ones and 2000 bad ones. And if they are bad how do you say no to that person?

When I was a CM of a Kdrama I asked others who knew Korean to help with recruiting subbers because there is no way I could check if someone was good. And I don’t see the difference between Portuguese and Spanish so unless someone tells me a person ads subs in the wrong language I don’t know…


I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again: Viki needs to create a quick and easy way of appraising the quality of subs. Whether that’s a few older and more experienced subbers checking a few random subs per wannabe moderator, or a network designed just for CMs to submit examples and ask for feedback from the entire community. In any case, it is a doable project. Not all use Volunteer finder and not everybody goes there to rate subtitles in their own language.


Yeah that’s true I never use volunteer finder since last time I checked for fun it wasn’t helpful at all (I mean placing someone who isn’t active for more then 4 months almost on top, it might be more useful to sort based on last activity) and the ratings are based on one liners, not everyone does that and we all know how one liners work…LOL


One liners is definitely not the solution…


I as a subber and a moderator of a channel, whenever I don’t understand a word, I may sometimes ask someone from my family or sometimes searching for that certain word in the internet. Because believe me,you know that word in your own language but you forgot it. But I do not TRANSLATE the whole sentences because the words from ex. google translator are very gibberish and not right. Also before I move from that part of the tv drama, I always go back to the start to check every subtitles if I have typo errors or to reconstruct a sentence to the extent of my capabilities to translate it.

But in my defensive it is okay to search for that word, ONLY THAT WORD. But I think translating the whole sentences is a very lazy move don’t you guys think? I, as a subber too, experience subbing one part for 2 hours because there are some words in English that can’t be translated to tagalog. I don’t want to skip a subtitle box too, so I directly translate it myself and try my best to reconstruct it. I do agree with gwyiominnie, at least do your best to sub it correctly. To luzevedo1, well… I think that one liners is not a solution either. :smile:


@nahyeni_7771 Yes, I agree with you! If there is one or two words in the middle of the sentence that you don’t understand, you must look it up online. However, an online translator is not able to translate an entire sentence correctly. As I said, I think there are a lot of people who want to subtitle just to have a cool status on the website, so they sub everything recklessly. I think that when you volunteer for something, like subtitling here, what you want to do is to help others have as much fun as you do! Like when I watch a drama with english subs, I have fun. But my best friend doesn’t understand english, so I want to make the best portuguese subtitles for her to have as much fun as I do when watching this drama! I think that’s what volunteering is all about. Wanting to give others quality, just because it would make you feel good to see others feel good.


That is very sweet of you! :smiley:

I always get some sermon from my parents whenever I volunteer here, they don’t understand that I enjoy Volunteering. I also understand them because education first right? It is hard to keep up your grades while volunteering, but Viki is like my family now even though I started to volunteer several months ago.

Up to date, I Have a tons of projects and I only had a chance once a week that is why even though I want to finish that episode quickly… I can’t because I want the subtitles to be perfect. even though I can’t get any recognitions from doing both subbing and moderating ( because I am late :frowning:) , I am still happy because I am able to help the channel. (There are few Filipino subbers out there though that is why I, sometimes, the only one to sub and at the same time moderate that channel.)


I understand what you’re going through. Right now I’m on vacation, so I have time. But I’m already planning to fit some time just for Viki on my schedule when I get back to my routine. I have been watching dramas on Viki for three years now, but only this month I became a part of the community. That is because I only joined K-drama groups on Facebook, until they banned me heartlessly from a group because I complained about a spoiler that had no spoiler alert. The person who did de spoiling, however, was not banned from the group. (I cursed at her. I might have been wrong on my word choices, but still, I was not wrong about what I was saying.) So, that made me very disappointed and that was when I noticed that Viki had a community! So I decided to join. I am very happy here. Everyone is polite and sweet, even when they dislike something! So I feel comfortable here. Like there is no need for me to curse at anyone anymore, no need for me to be mad at anyone. Everyone I met here is amazing. And also, I can help make a great show for everyone by volunteering! So Viki is really an amazing place. I’m happy to be here, and I will always make some time on my schedule to be here.


That sounds great :smiley:
I am happy that you are comfortable here :smiley:
Remember, we are your family now :D. If you need something tell us :smiley:
Viki Family is indeed a happy place to be :smiley:


@nahyeni_7771, you are absolutely right, but I don’t want you or anybody else to be afraid to use all the resources available online, including Google Translate. When @Dudie said this:

I believe she only meant you shouldn’t put up entire sentences in. However, searching up a phrase should be allowed. After all, “come up with” and “come onto” are two phrases with a completely different meaning, so in my book they classify as that “one word” that you mention.

I would also draw your attention to a free online thesaurus (a “dictionary” of synonyms, so to speak), which can help you identify the finesse of the actual meaning in the English subtitle:

And, of course, Wikipedia for all the specific vocabularies such as medical, economical, political, technical etc.

That is very well put and the essence of my work here.


As an English editor, I sometimes agonize over the subtitles. I was a viewer first! I always say that I edit first for the viewers and never for the egos of subtitlers or anyone else, including myself. The end result should be a cohesive, smooth dialogue on screen that can be easily understood in the few seconds that a viewer has to glance down and see the sub.

We walk a fine line between wanting to make things understandable and relatable to our audience, while maintaining the flavor of the original language and the intent of the writers. I think that any work, volunteer or otherwise, is of little value if the work was not done with integrity.


That too, you have a point :smile:

but with translating it literaly. sometimes… i think it’s an opportunity for viewers to learn how other countries express a similar expression…
maybe we could write it like…
“A maçã não cai longe a árvore (like farther like son)”
i not understand the words, just copy paste from your post :smile:

i want a feature that make me could give those kind of volunters some reputations or stars… it;s hard for me to recornize great volunteer now