memoQ blog

Interview with Valentina Stagnaro, AV translator and subtitler - by Angela Starkmann

Angela Starkmann
Angela Starkmann

7 minute read

audiovisual translation

Let’s talk shop…

About translation technology, chicken wing machines, and what advice to give young translators.

…with Valentina Stagnaro


Angela: I'm talking with Valentina Stagnaro today. I am visiting her near Rome, and we are talking about the audiovisual translation industry, including technological and other aspects of it. Maybe you could introduce yourself to us, Valentina?

Valentina: Hi, I'm Valentina. I'm a professor and an audiovisual translator. When I began translating, I started with medical translation, and it’s still one of my fields of specialization. This led me to audiovisual translation, because I started translating medical dramas. First, I proofread translations done by colleagues, then I also got into this business.

Angela: Tell us about the sort of material you're working on today.

Valentina: Most of the time I basically do a "regular" translation, which can then be used by a dubber or adaptor. Right now, I'm working on subtitles for a series of psychology conferences. I take the audio, do a rough transcription, and then make subtitles from that. I also work on YouTube videos. Plus, I also teach Subtitling at Tor Vergata University.

Angela: Do you actually like your job? Do you enjoy your work?

Valentina: Of course I do, mostly because I’ve shaped it in a way that suits me. I don’t accept every single job offer. I do exactly what I'm good at. So, I enjoy it.

Angela: You're a freelance translator, right?

Valentina: Yes. I mainly work for direct clients: dubbing adaptors, dubbing writers, or directors. I don’t work directly with Italian companies. Very few of us have direct contact with dubbing organizations. I also work with museums and companies that create audiovisual material and content forms.

I am part of the team, but I mainly work as a freelancer. I have had some short-term contracts in the past, but now I only freelance.

Angela: When you look at the audiovisual translation industry, you see that it has changed a lot. How do you see the development of audiovisual translation in the past? And for the future?

Valentina: The audiovisual translation industry exploded so quickly that we haven’t had time to set proper rules. I don't mean to be impolite, but too many people got involved. So many translations were needed and so many people were eager to do them, but they were without proper training.

Now it's time to set some rules and understand what audiovisual translation is. It's not really clear, in part because the roles are confusing: Are we just doing a simple translation? Or do we provide linguistic consultancy (for example for the dubbing director) during the dubbing process? Are we translator-consultants or are we translators only, producing a basic translation to be used for dubbing? The future will probably bring more new things to do, too, so we should take time now to work on our skills because a lot of technology will be involved going forward.

I'm glad that I already work with technology. The QA/QC work now involves a lot of technology. We need to work more and more quickly and make the most of our time. Otherwise we really can't afford to work in this sector. I am speaking about Italy. I don't know how it works in other countries.

You asked me whether I enjoy my work and my job: I enjoy it because it allows me to earn money doing it. I'm not a volunteer. So now it's time to train and prepare for the future.

Angela: When you look at developments in the industry, what technologies and features do you use already? And where do you think it will go in the future?

Valentina: I use technology for both translation and subtitling. I use memoQ for translation and am so happy with it because it improves my work in wonderful ways and is easy to use.

Every project I work on is processed and translated with CAT tools because I need translation memories and term bases. I mentioned earlier that we work on extremely tight deadlines—CAT tools are the best way I know to meet these deadlines. I have never missed a deadline. I always keep an eye on terminology, consistency, and things like that. I also use machine translation and do some post editing. Sorry! I said machine translation and audiovisual translation in the same conversation. It really is a time saver and sometimes a blessing. There are repetitions. You sometimes find dull, repetitive content, because people sometimes say dull, repetitive things in videos, tutorials, or whatever audiovisual product you are translating. Let's give the machines the boring jobs to do. We then have more time to do the clever ones. For example, there's no need for me to type "OK." Let the machine type it.

Sometimes I also use speech recognition tools. For certain projects I find it very helpful, at least after a lot of training.

Angela: When you talk about technology and the usability of memoQ, what exactly does memoQ do for your work? How do you like to use it?

Valentina: I always use memoQ. It is an investment I'm making in my work, my term bases and my TMs.

The process starts with the video and goes through the video script. We translate the script with the video. Sometimes the script is badly written. Sometimes there are mistakes, too. Sometimes the format doesn't allow me to import it directly into memoQ and begin translation right away. In those cases, I use Regex in memoQ to create a new template, a new video transcript that suits my needs, and I import that into memoQ instead. This is basically paradise.

I also use the memoQ's DeepL plugin for pre-translation. This populates the English template with machine translation.

I prepare the document and sometimes lock some segments when I know that they are already okay (character names for example). Sometimes I customize the segmentation rules so I can have my text segmented exactly how I want. That can help me use translation memories from previous projects. Am l getting too technical? I think people who are familiar with CAT tools will understand this.

Afterwards, I can export not only to the job I'm working on, but also to my translation memory. And during the translation, I can refer to my term base or create a new one, depending on the project. Sometimes I also find useful material and term bases on the internet.

memoQ is part of my workflow now. Sometimes I feel like I'm not really a good teammate to my colleagues because I'm not willing to create glossaries. I'm not paid to do that. I know, I get asked to do that, but I already have translation memories and they are my glossaries. memoQ does it for you. It is already there. So again, this is a huge help.

Probably the main issue I find is that most of my colleagues aren't "translators." Also, the terminologist is often not a linguist and sometimes uses the wrong terminology. You usually can't even contact them to say: "Look, I do not agree with your choice."

Angela: So, after you said all that about using technology, maybe you can try to answer the question that many people are discussing in audiovisual translation: Are you an artist or an artisan?

Valentina: Definitely not an artist. I'm a worker. I see myself as someone who has certain skills that are used to transfer art. This is a good compromise. The artist is the one who creates the project, the one who has an idea. Sometimes it would feel good to call what I do art, but it's not that at all. I wouldn't call a documentary “art,” unless it's truly special, and we rarely get to work on something like that. Sometimes I work on mundane projects, but I still love and enjoy the work. Every project has its challenges and each is interesting in some way.

For example, I translated documentation for a machine that makes chicken wings. It was fascinating. I'm not going to buy chicken wings anymore, because it was also disgusting, but it was really quite interesting. Am I an artist for that? I don't think so. My translation needed to be useful, needed to be precise, and needed to be completed as quickly as I could because they needed it badly. This does not make me an artist, I think. It makes me a good translator, but not an artist.

Angela: You make your point. Something different now: When I'm talking with young colleagues, I often get the impression that they're a little bit clueless as to how to get started as audiovisual translators. Not only how to start learning what they need to learn, but also how to break into the industry. Do you have a tip or maybe several for young translators in audiovisual translation?

Valentina: The first step is definitely to specialize. You don’t need to train specifically for audiovisual translation, but you at least need to specialize in translation per se. You need to know how translation is done, how a translation process works from the very beginning, including project management, even if it doesn't apply to the translation process in the audiovisual sector. You need to know the basics. Then you can apply the basics to audiovisual translation.

I would also suggest that you specialize in different subject matter fields. Audiovisual translation is not only Netflix. It is not only Amazon Prime or the fancy things you see on TV.

Audiovisual translation is also needed for museums and tutorials, for broadcasts, marketing, and corporate material, to name a few.

There are a lot of things in your life you can draw on for audiovisual translation. For example, I know a lot about crocheting, and I subtitle crochet tutorials. I am probably the most suitable translator to do that. You can easily find a way to get in a new sector. YouTube channels discuss almost any topic. You can volunteer for an organization that interests you—volunteers are welcome almost everywhere— and start building a corpus of your own knowledge. Give yourself time to develop knowledge and understand how to use your skills. It's not just what’s on your resume. It's all the skills, contacts, and specific knowledge you have that can help your clients. I may know nothing about your sector, but I can research and learn. Perhaps you have friends who work in different areas than you that you can ask to help you out.

Angela: Learning about the technology and other resources through the internet, for instance, can also help young translators.

Valentina: Of course! On the internet you can find and share things! We have Google. Google things!

If we can talk about CAT tools again: There are free demo versions, if you want to challenge yourself. It takes 30 seconds, if you have a good Wi-Fi connection. I don't have good Wi-Fi, but I still use CAT tools. So, there is no excuse for not learning. There are tutorials, so you can basically learn anything through the internet. There is academia. You can download papers. If you're skeptical about something, if you don't know something, if you need terminology, if you need consistency, you can find anything on the internet. This should become part of your training and integrated into your work. And your training doesn't stop when you get your degree—that is probably the moment when it really begins.

Angela: This is a good place to end our conversation for today. Thank you very much. It has been very interesting. And I hope that we will hear more from you, because I know you have a couple of clever ways to use memoQ for your projects. Thank you very much!


Learn about current AV challenges and how memoQ can support your audiovisual translation processes. 


Get the free eBook now!



Angela Starkmann

Angela Starkmann

Linguist, editor, PM and communication specialist with broad experience in software and documentation localization, translation of marketing material.

Browse all posts