Are you a potential subtitle superstar? Becoming a volunteer translator or captioner can introduce you to new people and communities, find interesting content creators to follow, and make a real difference in global accessibility along the way!

People all around the world need access to online video through subtitles. Linguists of many skill levels are needed to create a more accessible media ecosystem. Read on to learn the benefits of becoming a subtitling superstar, whatever your current language skills are!

Only speak one language?

Even if you are only fluent in one language, you can make a huge difference by creating same-language subtitles (sometimes called captions) for videos. Same-language subtitles make video accessible for disabled viewers, language learners, and for future subtitle translators.

Learning how to create quality subtitles will give you new skills in editing, research, and attention to detail. Great subtitlers can synchronize their subtitles accurately so they follow the video smoothly. Splitting, joining, or shifting subtitles can make this job go faster. And along the way, you can gain confidence in your editing skills. Great subtitlers also have a keen eye when it comes to little details and practice careful research to make sure the subtitles they create are correct. Overall, with enough subtitling experience, you will learn to look at content from the perspective of a potential audience which can be valuable beyond your volunteer work.

Subtitles for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Audiences

If you are creating subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing audiences (SDH), think about what their experience is watching the video. The key to capturing meaningful sounds is to imagine watching the video on mute. What would you miss? How does removing the sound change your experience watching it? For example, imagine that you are watching a scary movie. Offscreen, a door creaks open. There are footsteps behind the main character, but they don’t notice until it’s too late! With no subtitles, someone could miss the anticipation before the fright, and that’s most of the fun!

Plot-important sounds in a video are part of the experience intended by the creator. Representing those sounds in subtitles can help deaf and hard of hearing audiences as well as audiences with other sound-related disabilities. Many people with ADHD, autism, and other auditory processing related issues can use subtitles to make content more accessible for them. By creating subtitles, you are making sure that the intended experience reaches the intended audience. 

How Same-Language Subtitles Help Around the World

Even if you don’t know another language, your subtitles can help people who speak other languages. When someone is learning a language, same-language subtitles can help them increase their vocabulary, learn spelling and grammar, and help alleviate listening issues. 

Your captions also help make translation easier. After you create captions, someone else can come along and use your captions as a reference in the Amara Editor. Having two language references, spoken and written, can be great if there is unclear audio, local cultural references, or any other audio issue in the video.

Get started now with some quick tips in Amara’s same-language subtitling guide.

Are you multilingual?

If you have native fluency in two or more languages, your knowledge can help local audiences access new content! You can create captions in your fluent languages as described above, or start translating subtitles for videos. Both of these volunteer activities make video content more globally accessible. 

Share Content Across Language Barriers

As a multilingual person, you have a unique opportunity to make content more accessible across language barriers by becoming a volunteer translator. Maybe you have a favorite YouTube series or TV show that you want to share with your friends and family, but they don’t understand the original language. Translated subtitles can bridge the language barrier and help you share the content you like with the people you love! 

Learn How to Localize

Volunteering can also help you learn new language skills. For some languages with multiple regional dialects (like German or Spanish), you can boost accessibility by learning some localization skills. Localization is a type of translation that keeps a specific dialect or variant of a language in mind. This includes honoring language customs form local communities: spelling, grammar, measurements, formality, and social cues. Localizing content means taking an empathetic look at the target audience and making sure that they will understand your subtitles. Ask yourselves some questions as you are localizing:

Whether you are doing general translation or localizing for specific dialects, you will be making a huge difference in making our media landscape more accessible around the world. After creating translated subtitles on Amara, share the URL on Amara so other people in your language community can enjoy your handiwork! Check out our translation tips and then head over to our volunteer page to find your community.

Do you know an endangered language?

What about language customs that are disappearing? How do we use captions and translations to preserve and hopefully revitalize endangered languages? If you are a native speaker of an endangered language, we encourage you to use your valuable knowledge to caption and translate online video content in that language.

You can contribute the knowledge you have right now by becoming a volunteer translator. Translating subtitles can help preserve or revitalize your native tongue or dialect. The more access that people have to this language and the more people who take advantage of that access, the more hope there is of an endangered language gaining a foothold in our busy media landscape.

Check out our language revitalization post to learn more about endangered languages, their status, and why we care about supporting native speakers’ efforts at revitalization.

Add a Language to Amara

Here is a list of languages currently supported on Amara. If your language is not on this list, submit a quick support ticket with the name, ISO language code, and reading direction of your language. Our engineers will work to add your language so you can get started subtitling. A quick way to submit a ticket is by clicking No in the Did you find it helpful? prompt at the bottom of the support article.

Find or Add Videos to Amara

If you can find videos in the endangered language, add them to Amara and start creating captions on your profile. Captioning content in endangered languages helps preservation by supplementing the audio recording of the endangered language with a written version. 

If you cannot find videos in the endangered language, you can find other videos on Amara and translate the subtitles into the endangered language. Translating content into endangered languages can expand the range of content for speakers of your language to engage with.

Help Share Vital Information in Your Language Community

Amplifying Voices is a brand new initiative of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the non-profit behind Amara. Amplifying Voices is a volunteer team on Amara’s site. It is aimed at promoting civic engagement, centering diverse viewpoints, and advancing discussion around pressing global issues, such as climate change, racial justice, and human rights. If you are interested in contributing subtitles in your language, consider joining Amplifying Voices!

No matter which language you speak or how many, you can be a part of Amara’s mission of using captions and translation to facilitate a diverse and healthy media ecosystem. Go check out our volunteer page to find a team to contribute to.

Happy subtitling, superstars!

About the author

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I am a Product Specialist and Recruiter for Amara. I am passionate about making online content accessible to global audiences!

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