Hindi-English Audio-Visual Translation in News Media

Dr. Madhu Bala*

In the 21st century, the media is omnipresent to inform, educate and entertain masses. A quick perusal of TV programmes will testify to the growth and importance of the media and the need for audiovisual translation in India. The reasons are many-fold. A large number of TV channels at inter-cultural, national, regional and local levels mean a sharp increase in the quantity and range of programmes to meet the need of the broadcasting schedule. The technological development has seen a record boom in new TV channels. As a result, very dramatic developments in translation studies have been noticed, particularly in the field of audio-video translation.

Audio-video translation is a communication text involving sound and images. Audio-visual translation is not restricted to advertising but films, documentaries and news also require audio-visual translation, particularly in those languages with which the people are not familiar. For instance, the film aired on TV in regional languages need subtitling either in Hindi or English for the viewers of the northern region who are keen to watch movies but do not have knowledge of regional languages.

The number of programmes in the national language would seem to be on the increase and a large volume of audio-video programmes still need to be translated into regional languages. Subjects ranging from cookery to political speech have started to find their way via translation to television sets in the living rooms. Due to rapid development of technology subtitling is seen moving from film to documentary to news to entertainment, from video to DVD to video games, from cinema to opera to computer screen. The present paper is an attempt to find out the strategy being adopted in AV translation of news.

AV Translation

In order to make the audio- visual programmes comprehensible to audience not familiar with the language of the original text, different forms of language transfer on the screen are required. There are two basic approaches to the translation of the spoken language of the original programme- to retain it as spoken or to change it into the written text. When the decision is taken to keep the original sound track and to switch from the spoken to written mode by adding text to the screen, the technique is known as subtitling. It is quicker and a lot cheaper than dubbing. It has become the most important translation mode in the media world and comes hand in hand with globalization.

The following forms of AV translation are usually adopted     

Intra-lingual translation for hard of hearing
Inter-lingual translation for viewers in general
Voice over documentary or interview
Audio description for visually impaired
Bilingual subtitling in two languages simultaneously

Inter-lingual translation is an integral part of the news/ films/songs presented in different languages. As we see in different programmes of DD1, children films and cartoons are translated from Hindi to English.

Subtitles in English language appear on the screen when verbal message is transmitted in Hindi. On the 15th Aug 2014 Prime Minister’s speech in Hindi was translated simultaneously in English with subtitles on the screen.

  • Voice-over is required for documentaries or interviews, as we find in the news.
  • Audio description is audio commentary on the action (in the film) for the visually impaired people. Bilingual subtitles in two languages are also seen both in Hindi and English on the running scroll.

In subtitling, grammar and lexical items are simplified. In writing all the spoken features are not lost. Subtitling focuses on those items that are information-wise most relevant. The language register is appropriate and correspond with the spoken words. There is correlation between spoken words and subtitle content. The subtitles are written keeping in view space and time constraints. They stand up the scrutiny of the audience that may have knowledge of the original language.

Audiovisual text transfer on screen

Audiovisual text is a communication text involving sounds and images. There are four components of audiovisual text.

Audio Visual
Verbal Words heard Words read
Nonverbal Music + special effects The picture/photograph

If we have two types of signs audiovisual and two different channels of communication we get four different types of signs.

Audio verbal (words uttered)
Visual verbal (uttered words written on screen)
Audio nonverbal (musical sound effect)
Visual non-verbal (photograph and pictures)

A combination of verbal, non-verbal, audio and visual element is found to be of equal importance in TV news especially 24-hour channels in which the newsreader and the captions are mutually redundant. The viewers can understand news item either by listening, watching or by reading i.e. each one is separable. In audio-video translation of news, we find the following strategy.

News in Hindi Subtitles in Hindi
News in English Subtitles in English
Dubbing speech of foreign leaders Subtitles in English
Leader’s speech in Hindi/English Subtitles in English/ Hindi

The subtitles do not alter the original text, but something is added to the original text. Not all the features of speech are lost; quite a few may be salvaged in writing. The inter-lingual subtitling depends on the space and time constraints, normally a maximum of two or three line text and duration of six seconds for each caption, besides other constraints of the image on the screen which is normally inviolable.

Language of translated text

News received on news desk from different sources is translated and edited to fit in the package that will eventually be on the air. To the written stories that are to be read by the newsreader are added video and audio tapes, still photographs , maps and art work.

A news translator has to work on the text to modify its phrase order, specifying or adding elements if necessary, so that the text sounds adequate for the target language. While taking certain liberties for translation, the translator has to be careful not to disturb the internal meaning and function of the text.  The translator may change everything except the main idea or theme of the text. Language is the most important element that must reach several audiences.

The ideal translation should be:

Accurate: Reproducing as exactly as possible the meaning of the source text.

Natural: Using natural forms of the receptors’ language in a way that is appropriate to the text being translated.

Communication: Expressing all aspects in a way that is readily understandable to the intended audience.

Analysis of DD News

Television comes closest to putting the audience physically at the scene of the event. There are elements of emotion and involvement in television chemistry. The involvement does not ensure that the viewers will be informed and enlightened by what he or she sees and hears. But it does provide the broadcasting journalists with the potent catalyst for drawing and holding his audience till the end.

The translator needs not only linguistic abilities but also technical and cultural sensibility. Coherence between lines and images/ action must be one of the main dominants. The best translation combines careful choice of words and images which capture the audiences/ viewers. The visuals of the news reader and other images are hardly altered in the target text. So it is easier to focus on the written words. DD News presents sub-titles on monitor following the strategy given below;

Title/Headline The Maha Tangle
Sub-title Hectic rounds of meetings held across parties
Breaking News/Scroll koyla sector ko punerjivit karne ka prayas kiya gya

The sub-title is the portion of the script that consists of five to eight words including spaces, punctuation and technical indications. Lines will be faster to read if they contain more words in limited space.

The newsreader reads the details; titles and subtitles coincide with the details. New technologies install new genre. As technology changes, the combined skill and working methods change with them.

The screen is also split into two parts to quote the text. On the one side picture/ photograph of the leader is given and on the other side the text appear on the screen which is read by the news reader. Reduction which is the most important and frequent strategy in subtitling is generally applied on the basis of three functions of language i.e ideational, interpersonal and contextual as suggested by Halliday(1973). The task of the subtitler involves continuous decision making to ensure that audiovisual programme is not bereft of its style, personality and clarity. The final aim is to retain and reflect in the subtitles the equilibrium between the image, sound and text of the original. Subtitles are based on target oriented approach; their function is to help audience to understand the news or movie at the expense of source text specialties. Subtitles are nonetheless a versatile and useful means of learning a second language. The learner has all languages involved under control at the same time and can immediately check their functioning and widening his or her lexical knowledge in a faster and more diversified way.

To sum up, from an inter-lingual perspective audiovisual translation entails linguistic features to facilitate its distribution. The media translator understands the non- literary text in order to ensure that translation contains not only what you want, but also how you want to convey your message.


  1. Cronin, Michael(2003) Translation and Globalization.London and New York; Routledge.
  2. Diaz Cintas, Jorge and Aline Ramel ( 2007) Audio Visual Translation:Sub-titling, Manchester: St Jerome.
  3. Hartley,A(2009) Technology and Translation; in Jeremy , Munday(ed)The Routledge,pp 106-27.
  4. Chiaro, Delia(2009) Issues in Audio video Translation, In Jereme Munday(ed)The Routledge companion to translation studies.
  5. Chaume , Fredric (2004) Film Studies And Translation Studies: Two Disciplines at Stake in Audio video Translation, Meta 49:1:12-24.

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