Publication Title
A proposed set of subtitling standards in Europe
Publication Type
Journal article
Translation journal
Year of publication


Translation Studies is nowadays overwhelmed by a number of attempts to discard prescriptive standpoints and adopt new, descriptive directions. As a consequence, the research effort has been shifted from an investigation of things that should be done to an investigation of things that are being done.
Audiovisual/Screen Translation is not left out of the trend. In Europe, current research into subtitling is oriented towards an attempt to describe the various subtitling practices around the countries of the continent rather than to dictate what practices should rather be followed. In other words, the attempt nowadays is rather to describe the various subtitling conventions being followed throughout Europe, rather than to impose new ones. However, there are a few undeniable realistic parameters that cannot pass unnoticed: a) the movement towards a United Europe necessitates the adoption of common practices that would enable the participating countries to operate as a unified body, b) new technological developments in mass media and communication (e.g. digital TV) are bound to overcome the limited physical borders of the participating countries, leading to the creation of a pan-European market audience. In such a unified framework of European mass communication, subtitling—as a means of overcoming linguistic barriers between the nations—will come to play a critical role. Large satellite broadcasting companies around the continent have already stressed the need for a unifying code of subtitling practices, a code that would enable them to reach the various individual country audiences through a unique set of subtitling standards that would not violate the already established conventions within the various countries.
At a first glance, such an attempt or a “desire” looks rather futile. It is impossible to deviate from an already established convention without causing some turbulence amongst the subjects/recipients of the convention. This, however, does not mean that the deviation from the current convention will not be gradually accepted, replacing old practices with new ones and gradually formulating a new ruling convention, provided that the transition is smooth both in quantitative and qualitative aspects. This would mean that a limited number of the new set of suggested practices are initially introduced into a limited number of situations, steadily expanding to cover the whole set of the new suggested practices, as well as all of the applicable situations. Considering the above, I believe that what satellite broadcasting companies demand nowadays is both reasonable and feasible, especially since the already existing number of descriptive studies on human social viewing behaviour, as well as on human physiological eye movement and brain function, are sound enough to provide the basis for such an initial attempt.
The following paper departs from such descriptive studies but goes on to adopt a clearly prescriptive perspective. Its aim is to provide a unifying formula based on thorough scientific research that could bridge the different subtitling conventions currently operating within the various European countries, to cater for the needs of the individual European viewer and address the European audiovisual audience market as a whole.
Submitted by Marta Brescia Zapata on Tue, 07/02/2023 - 16:35