11 Essential Qualities You Need From Professional Subtitlers

Published on July 7th, 2022

professional subtitlers

When hiring subtitlers to translate video content, you need to choose language experts with the right set of skills. Professional subtitlers don’t simply translate text from one language to another; they create viewing experiences that every target audience can understand and enjoy.

In this article, we discuss the key qualities you need from professional subtitlers to help you hire the right language experts for your video project and understand more about the work that goes into producing quality subtitles.

What skills & qualities do professional subtitlers need?

We have narrowed down the list of essential qualities you need from a professional subtitler into eleven key points. By and large, these include the same characteristics that you look for in any professional (transparency, timekeeping, productivity, etc.), but here we’re focusing on the skills and qualities specific to subtitle production.


The more precise a subtitler is with everything they do, the faster they can produce finished subtitles with no errors.

Spelling & grammar:

Subtitlers need to have an expert level of linguistic knowledge for all of the languages they work in.

Typing skills:

Fast, precise typing skills are one of the most important qualities for a productive subtitler.


The ability to listen to audio and skilfully transcribe it into text.


The skills to translate transcribed text from one language into another.


Knowledge of cultural references, linguistic expressions, etc.

Critical thinking:

Subtitlers are often required to make editorial decisions. This includes simplifying long or complex sentences to make them readable and understandable in one line of text for example.

Spatial awareness:

Understanding of how text takes up space on the screen and impacts readability for audiences.

IT literacy:

Expert knowledge of the hardware and software used to produce subtitles.

The right setup:

A dedicated workspace with a powerful computer system and professional subtitling software.

Quality assurance:

A system for reviewing and ensuring the quality of subtitles they produce.

Many people are surprised by how much work goes into subtitle production, such as the transcription process that initially types spoken audio into text – in the same language as the original video.

This transcription acts as the source text for translating dialogue into each target language and then these translations are converted into subtitle files.

Another aspect that can be underestimated when it comes to their work is how much editorial freedom subtitlers may need on a project. With limited screen space to work with, subtitlers cannot always transcribe every word of dialogue, especially when it comes to fast speakers, complex language, long words or fast-paced discussions.

A professional subtitler’s priority is to help audiences understand what’s being said in the most effective way while maintaining the quality of the viewing experience. Therefore, some words may be replaced with shorter alternatives or certain sentences may be shortened to make them more readable or allow enough space between lines.

Professional subtitlers also have to deal with text expansion, which describes how written text tends to take up more physical space on the screen when translated from English – by an average of around 20%. This means subtitles translated from English often take up more screen space, require more reading from the viewers and shorten the gap between lines, which increases the amount of editorial freedom subtitlers may need to keep everything readable.

Also read: Six Reasons Why You Should Subtitle Your Videos

How to hire the best subtitler for your next project

Hiring a subtitler can be more challenging than many expect, but when you consider the skills and qualities listed above, it becomes obvious how valued professional subtitlers are. It is not simply the case of hiring someone to scribble some text together; it is about hiring an expert who is a professional transcriber, translator, creative editor and media expert all the same time (among other things).

This requires finding translators with the right set of language skills. At the moment, there’s no such thing as a subtitler – or anyone else – who’s fluent in every language although many are fluent in more than one. So the selection process is based on finding subtitlers who are fluent in your source language and at least one of your target languages.

If your company currently needs to translate video into several languages for different purposes, you may need to hire a team of subtitlers to cover everything.

Finding the right team of subtitlers can be a challenging process. Working with a language agency that specialises in subtitling services though can make this process easier and help you deliver multiple projects faster. This is because agencies that specialise in subtitling have their own network of subtitlers covering a wide range of languages. With a network of professional subtitlers and solid translation processes in place, a language agency can be your perfect partner, helping you find the right team and talent for all your video projects – no matter how complex these may be.

If you need professional subtitlers for your video translation projects, you can speak to our team of experts by filling out the form on our contact page.

Posted on: July 7th, 2022