Language slur, stutter and other speech defects

Hello beautiful subbing community!

I’ve always struggled with depicting slur, whisper, stutter and other language defects and specific features in subtitles. Sometimes it seems quite important for the context, in other situations it can be ignored. I was wandering if anyone have any strong opinions on how it should be done in a proper way, specifically:

  1. Whether we need to use any signs of speech defects or not?
  2. If the answer is yes, what are the guidelines to decide if we should depict this or that speech feature?
  3. What are your preferred ways to show these features (punctuation, etc.)? Would you use different depiction for different speech defects?
  4. Do you know of any language-specific requirements considering this matter?

Don’t hesitate to share your opinion!

Caustic :green_heart:


For English, there is a specific way to depict stuttering:


This differs from the Dutch way, where the capitals disappear:


So it differs from language to language.

We don’t depict whispering or slur.

When something is being said in English, we depict poor language skills by putting what’s missing in brackets:

I (am) not sleep(ing).


In addition to what @mirjam_465 said, when I notice someone is speaking in a dialect other than Seoul (Gyeongi-do) “standard speech of Korea,” usually to be humorous or to show solidarity to the listener who speaks that same provinical dialect, I will note (spoke in a dialect.) You can often recognize that the speaker is speaking in a dialect even if you don’t know Korean because most people speaking the Seoul dialect speak in very even tones while often the provinical dialects the intonation is not as smooth as standard Korean. Very very often, K drama and k movies have gangsters sterotypically use the “Busan” dialect (a subset of Gyongsan-do dialect) because it can often sound rude compared to Seoul speech. I often think if I were a native of Busan I would be very offended!


That’s a good one! I did’t think about dialects, thank you!
Indeed, sometimes it is useful to recognise, that someone speaks a dialect, because otherwise it’s hard to explain misunderstandings happening among those speaking standard speech and those who use “flowery” language.


You already got an answer about stuttering. Which, by the way, is not only due to a speech defect. Sometimes it’s an occasional stutter, due to the person being surprised or fearful or trying to buy time to think of an excuse or cover something that they don’t want to reveal.

Slur and whispering is not something you really need to indicate. Neither do you need to indicate shouting. Subtitles are not a translation of a written text, the viewers listen to the actors, so even if they don’t know the language, they certainly know if someone is whispering!
(This, of course should be indicated in captions for the deaf, but we’re not talking about this here)


There is another one I’ve just thought of. It’s when characters talk through mouthfuls of food. Obviously, viewers know for sure that the lines are distorted, but if there are similar words that can be confused with one another in the original lines, a translator should make an effort to find a similar pair or a pun of some kind, to make the scene work.

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