How do you edit foreign-language dialogue in a documentary?
July 8, 2015 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm working on a documentary project where much of the dialogue is in Bengali and we plan to subtitle it in English. We have transcripts of everything but the editing process is still challenging: we don't know exactly how to cut the clips we need so that the dialogue still makes sense in the native language (respecting grammatical structure, etc.) Is there a standard way this is done?

The transcripts we have come from our original interpreter, and they're time-coded, but of course translating messes up the word order and we don't have time codes for every sentence. So we are planning to hire a translator during the editing process. If there's someone who's done this before: how does that interaction generally work? Do we send them tapes and say "pick out the exact clips where people say xyz"? Should we make sure to hire a translator with particular expertise in this area? I want to make sure we're efficient with everyone's time (and our money!) Thanks!
posted by goingonit to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I used to translate tv scripts from Japanese to English. Generally the workflow was:

- A native speaker transcribed the spoken Japanese, and added timecodes to sync everything up.
- I translated the Japanese into English so that it matched the timecodes.
- If there were certain parts of the source that I did not have to translate, I was given timecodes.

The video source had timestamps, as did the transcription. I listened to the source while reading the transcription.

I translated for meaning - I didn't do a direct translation, because idiomatic speech cannot be directly translated. My job was to communicate the personality, tone and so on of what people were actually saying.

Later on my English script was sold to an American tv production company. They typically took 30% of what I wrote and used it for their own titles.

However, for a documentary it's imperative to capture and broadcast everything.

I currently work with Bengali translators, in case you're looking for someone.
posted by Nevin at 6:43 PM on July 8, 2015

Oh yeah, the timecodes don't have to be for every sentence. The timecodes should just be for manageable chunks of time, like every ten seconds.

But getting a Bengali transcription is going to be key. You'll also need an editor who understands Bengali and English to check for accuracy.
posted by Nevin at 6:44 PM on July 8, 2015

Response by poster: Yes, I'd love recommendations of Bengali translators, please PM me if you have some!

It sounds like you were translating and subbing an entire show that had been shot in Japanese, which is a bit different than what we're trying to do, which is insert clips of Bengali-language interviews into an English-language documentary, but it sounds like having someone with us during the edit who speaks both languages will be key.
posted by goingonit at 6:53 PM on July 8, 2015

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