Subtitles should compliment the tonal nature of language—the sounds, pauses and stresses of an actors’ on-screen performance. Viewers can hear and see the original. They need subtitles that capture the nuances of repetition, sound combinations and the emotional impact of the original dialogue. This tonal quality is as much a part of the aural experience of a film as its visual impact. Indeed, with many actors, it is the primary concern. Subtitlers must be equally concerned.
Translators do everything possible to replicate the original film. The actor’s delivery, the source language, the screenplay—all must find their way into the subtitles. Viewers rely on subtitles to clarify which sounds, if any, play a role in the dialogue’s intent. In this way, a subtitler translates the whole meaning of an auditory expression—its literal phrasing, tonal quality and emotive relevance to the original audience. Linguist Robert Henry Robins: