Lost in translation? Not any more...

Universities are on course to meet the huge demand for film and TV subtitlers, reports Amy McLellan

Yet the latest must-see mini-series and Hollywood blockbuster need no longer herald frustration and confusion for the blind and partially sighted. Audio-description is a service that, through headphones, provides additional narration to describe the body language, facial expressions, costumes or stunts that help convey what's going on. There is a skill to providing this narration - and that's where the University of Surrey's new Masters programme in monolingual subtitling and audio-description comes in.

This one-year MA programme starts this September and comes hot on the heels of the university's MA in audio-visual translation, which is now approaching the end of its first year. The programme equips students with the skills to work in subtitling.

This is a big growth area due to rising sales of DVDs, which often showcase one film in up to 10 languages. It requires a specialist translator to capture the humour or horror on screen and turn it into a faithful, yet succinct, subtitle. Subtitling has also, like audio-description, been given a boost by government legislation designed to improve the accessibility of media and communications.

"There are quite tough targets for subtitling on TV, which are ratcheted up every two to three years," says Dr Margaret Rogers, the director of the University of Surrey's Centre for Translation Studies. "The audio-description targets are starting much lower, but they, too, are being gradually increased."

The centre also offers an MA in translation studies and students can pick from an expanding range of languages - from Chinese to Norwegian - to pair with English. Students can also opt to specialise in translating legal, science and technology or economic texts. It is believed that the world market in translation is worth up to $15bn (£8.38bn) and is increasing by as much as 25 per cent each year.

You don't have to be a news junkie to understand why a subject that promotes understanding and awareness of different nations and cultures might be growing in popularity. Translation studies started life in the late 1970s and, during the course of three decades, has added student numbers, course options and new approaches with surprising rapidity. The standard text, Translation Studies, now in its third edition, is selling more copies today than when it was first published in the 1980s.

"Interest in the subject has increased massively," says its author Professor Susan Bassnett, who is head of the Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies at Warwick University. "It's driven by the mass movement of people around the world, the opening up of China and the spread of English around the globe, which means more and more people are becoming bi or tri-lingual."

But this growth in popularity is not evident among English speakers. Bassnett says a typical seminar group at Warwick can include students from as far afield as Cameroon, Nepal and Ecuador but just "a minute handful" from the UK.

"People are just not qualified to do translation in the UK, which is deranged when we are talking about more globalisation, closer links with Europe, and particularly in the light of recent events and our failure to understand the Islamic world," says Bassnett. "Language is the heart and body of culture. You cannot separate them."

It's not just a question of transcribing the foreign words into English. The translator has to capture the images, the nuances and the context of the words in order to faithfully reflect the meaning of the original.

Dr Rogers says a good translator must be a good writer and a creative thinker. "You can't just rely on a dictionary because nothing is like for like," says Rogers. "There are all sorts of decisions that go way beyond the dictionary that are to do with interpretation, taste and judgement. The dictionary is just the starting point."

Other institutions to offer Masters programmes in translation studies include University College London, Leeds University (which also offers an MA in screen translation), Heriot Watt and Hull University.

Some useful contacts:

Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies at Warwick University: www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ctccs/

Centre for Translation Studies at Surrey University: www.surrey.ac.uk/lcts/lcts.htm

Institute of Linguistics: www.iol.org.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor