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Translation industry role offers everything a film buff needs

Published on Thursday, 24 Feb 2011

Die-hard movie fans will likely find the work of a subtitle translator attractive. "The best thing about my job is I get to watch movies before everyone else," says Chris Ling, who owns a translation service company.

"We translate the subtitles [or scripts] in Hollywood movies, and in Japanese and Korean television programmes.

"For a 45-minute episode of a Korean soap, the subtitles have to be done in a day. We usually have three to four subtitle translators handling the dialogue of the main characters."

When the translation is done, the scripts will be proofread, then keyed in to match the movement of the lips of those speaking.

Subtitle translation requires a knowledge of foreign cultures and usage of words. Familiarity with the local culture is also necessary. "When we translate a local production into other languages, we need to know the local slang and language to be able to express their meaning to the fullest," Ling says.

He says the influx of Japanese and Korean movies and television programmes, and the demand for subtitles for local movies to be shown on the mainland, have sustained the need for subtitle translators.

In Hong Kong, there isn't any degree programme offered in subtitle translation. Ling says young people with a degree in translation are welcome to join the profession and advises them to take short courses to brush up their skills.

The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts offers a three-month course in film and television subtitle translation which costs about HK$1,800.

The career of a subtitle translator typically starts as a translation trainee, who will do simple work such as translating letters and makes HK$8,000 to HK$10,000 a month. After two years, they will become a translator or senior translator, translating subtitles and earning HK$13,000 to HK$25,000. A subtitle editor, in charge of proofreading the final product, usually has more than five years' experience and makes more than HK$30,000.Wong Yat-hei


  • They should love movies
  • Interested in other cultures
  • Should be able to do short, precise translations


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