Note: This blog post was originally written in Japanese for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate it and post-edit the content in English. The original Japanese post can be found here.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, many academic conferences and industry events that used to invite participants to a venue switched to online during the pandemic. Along with that, it became common to record the workshops and sessions held at these events. Subtitles are added to the videos and published so that they can be delivered to as many people as possible.

In recent years, there has also been a growing trend for universities and other educational institutions to record lectures, add subtitles, and share the videos to a worldwide audience.

If you want to do something similar with video subtitles, what kind of things should you pay attention to? In our blog, we share tips on how to work with translation companies like us to answer questions like this. In this post, we will discuss some points to keep in mind when translating video subtitles for seminars and talks.

Is your script suited for translation?

Audio translation is based on a script (i.e., a transcription of the audio), and this script is essential for subtitle translation. For marketing videos for businesses, a narrator will read a prepared manuscript, so in most cases there is a script in advance.

On the other hand, for seminars and talks, a script is created based on the audio of the recorded video. When scripting seminars and talks, you need to pay attention to the following points that are different from marketing videos.

  • Slurred and inaudible speech
  • Occurrence of rephrasing
  • Speech error (e.g., getting the names wrong)
  • Overlapping voices (frequently occurs in talks)
  • Meaningless utterances (i.e., sounds like it's in context but do not make sense when written down)

In particular, speech error can cause fatal mistakes. For example, what would happen if a presenter accidentally said the figure on the “left" instead of the figure on the “right"? After the audio is transcribed, a translator might translate it without noticing the mistake. It is not a mistranslation, but it will be contrary to the intention of the speech.

If you're going to create the script on your own, make sure to read over to look for any speech errors and also see if it makes sense in writing.

We can create one for you If you don't have time or are not sure about the process. Fees related to creating a script will be charged as engineering fees.

When creating a script for our clients, we usually ask the clients to check the transcribed script before starting the translation. This is because when there are unclear utterances or restatements, we corrected them for the transcribed script. But it is possible that they become sentences with a different meaning than the speaker's intentions.

In addition, since speech errors are hard to notice unless you're the speaker yourself, they will most likely be translated as they are. Therefore, it is necessary to have the client or the presenter who is familiar with the content to confirm it.

Do you have materials related to the event?

Whether you are handing over the script that you created or requesting us to create one for you, for better translation quality, try to provide any kind of materials that you have. These include presentation slides, handouts, and event poster. By doing so, there will be some benefits such as:

  • Noticing speech errors that the speaker did not notice at the time of the presentation.
  • Enabling a more accurate transcription and translation even with unclear audio.
  • Preventing mistranslation due to not knowing the background.

In particular, since some presenters wore masks for these events during the pandemic, their speech tends to be unclear. In our experience, transcribing a script for a seminar or lecture like this is very difficult. Of course, this is not the presenter's fault. However, due to the muffled voice caused by wearing a mask as well as the sound being distorted by a microphone, it is often difficult to accurately hear what is being said.

But the good news is if you have materials such as we mentioned above, it's possible to transcribe even those unclear parts by referring to the materials and interpreting the content. In addition, if you can provide information about the presenters, e.g., name and affiliation, we will use that to research past presentations and materials that might be helpful when translating.

What kind of tone do you prefer for the translation?

In talks and seminars, the speech and remarks tend to be casual. Therefore, it is important to specify your preference for the tone when translating. For example, we get requests such as:

  • Nice and friendly for internal training materials.
  • A casual tone in order to convey the relaxed atmosphere of the talks.
  • Concise and clear to make sure the content is understood since it is a lecture, rather than keeping the original colloquial tone.

In particular, oral explanations in lectures and seminars tend to be long and verbose when written out. By requesting a specific tone of the translation, we can prioritize the readability of the subtitles or simplify phrases by breaking up long sentences into multiple sentences.


Subtitling videos for seminars and talks is not a simple matter of just transcribing and translating the audio file. Also, these videos are often long, which inevitably increases the cost of creating subtitles and translating them.

If you're spending the money, why not create subtitled videos that are worth the cost? When adding subtitles to your videos, keep in mind the points that we covered in this post. You'll be able to deliver higher quality subtitled videos to your audience.

Kawamura's localization services

Kawamura International provides localization services to support businesses creating digital content not only with translation but also with the technical aspects. From marketing videos and e-learning videos that require high quality localization to low-cost videos that utilize AI, we can suggest different and flexible plans to meet your request. Even if you don't know where to start from, we can show you some options. Feel free to contact us to start the conversation.