Negotiating the Boundaries of Professional Subtitling. The Case of Finnish Subtitlers and Their Online Community

  • Tiina Tuominen University of Glasgow
Keywords: Subtitling; professional project; working conditions; professional community; translators’ workplace studies; online community



 In recent years, the Finnish subtitling field has undergone significant changes, which have caused instability in subtitlers’ working conditions. Subtitlers have responded to these changes by working together towards a more unified professional community. One important means in these efforts has been an active online presence consisting of, among other things, a website and a blog. The subtitlers’ online presence could be characterised as an element of a “professional project” (Tyulenev 2014: 68–69), an attempt to institutionalise the profession and to search for social recognition. One aspect of a professional project is to draw the boundaries of the profession and to determine criteria for acceptance into the professional community. The definition of professional boundaries is a recurrent theme on the Finnish subtitlers’ website and blog. The subtitlers’ case therefore provides an enlightening example of how a heterogeneous professional field can attempt to improve its standing by determining its own boundaries. This article will explore how Finnish subtitlers define the boundaries of their profession on their website and blog, what criteria they present for inclusion in their professional community, and how exclusion from the community is expressed. The analysis will demonstrate that a number of professional practices, such as adherence to local subtitling traditions, are used as a way of determining the behaviour of a professional subtitler. As a consequence, the definition of professional boundaries emerges as a central argument in the subtitlers’ professional project, becoming a strategy for unifying the subtitlers’ community and advocating for a more stable status.


Research material
Holopainen, Tiina [no date]: Av-kääntäjän asiantuntijuudesta. [On the expertise of a subtitler.] (accessed 20 January 2018).
Ihander, Anna-Maija/Sorsa, Jukka 2010: Av-käännösalalla tuulee. [The stormy subtitling industry.] (accessed 20 January 2018).
Mäkelä, Lauri 2012a: Työ ei ole harrastus. [A job is not a hobby.] (accessed 20 January 2018).
Mäkelä, Lauri 2012b: Vastine BTI:n tuoreimpiin väitteisiin. [A response to BTI’s latest claims.] (accessed 20 January 2018).
Mäkelä, Lauri 2013: Minkä puolesta suomalaiset av-kääntäjät taistelevat? [What are Finnish subtitlers fighting for?] (accessed 20 January 2018).
U 2013a: Kenelle haluaisit tehdä av-käännöstöitä? [Who would you want to subtitle for?] (accessed 20 January 2018).
U 2013b: Ulkoistetut uusinnat. [Outsourced reruns.] (accessed 20 January 2018).
Vitikainen, Kaisa 2013: Miksi käännösala vaatii muutosta? [Why are translators calling for change?] (accessed 20 January 2018).
Research literature
Abdallah, Kristiina 2011: Quality problems in AVT production networks: Reconstructing an actor-network in the subtitling industry. In Şerban, Adriana/Matamala, Anna/Lavaur, Jean-Marc (eds.), Audiovisual Translation in Close-up: Practical and Theoretical Approaches. Berne, IN, USA: Peter Lang, 173–186.
Abdallah, Kristiina 2012: Translators in Production Networks: Reflections on Agency, Quality and Ethics. PhD Thesis. Joensuu: Publications of the University of Eastern Finland [online]. (accessed 31 May 2017).
Dam, Helle V./Zethsen, Karen Korning 2016: “I think it is a wonderful job:” On the solidity of the translation profession. In JoSTrans, The Journal of Specialised Translation 25 [online], 174–187. (accessed 20 January 2018).
Georgakopoulou, Panayota 2006: Subtitling and Globalisation. In JoSTrans, The Journal of Specialised Translation 06 [online], 115–120. (accessed 20 January 2018).
Gottlieb, Henrik 1995: Establishing a Framework for a Typology of Subtitle Reading Strategies: Viewer Reactions to Deviations from Subtitling Standards. In Translatio (Nouvelles de la FIT/FIT Newsletter) 14 (3-4), Audiovisual Communication and Language Transfer, International Forum, Strasbourg 22-24.6.1995, 388–409.
Holopainen, Tiina 2015: Audiovisuaalisen kääntämisen asiantuntijuus. Nuoren alan kasvukipuja. [Expertise in audiovisual translation. Growing pains of a young field.] In Aaltonen, Sirkku/Siponkoski, Nestori/Abdallah, Kristiina (eds.), Käännetyt maailmat. Johdatus käännösviestintään. Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 77–95.
Ihander, Anna-Maija 2012: Outsourcing Gone Awry - A Campaign to Save Professional Audiovisual Translation in Finland. [online]. (accessed 20 January 2018).
Jankowska, Anna 2012: ‘I do what I like, and I don’t have to go to work every day’: The status quo of audiovisual translators in Poland. In Bruti, Silvia/Di Giovanni, Elena (eds.), Audiovisual Translation across Europe: An Ever-changing Landscape. Bern: Peter Lang, 35–56.
Katan, David 2009: Translation Theory and Professional Practice: A Global Survey of the Great Divide. In Hermes – Journal of Language and Communication Studies 42, 111–153.
Koskinen, Kaisa/Dam, Helle V. 2016: Academic boundary work and the translation profession: insiders, outsiders and (assumed) boundaries. In JoSTrans, The Journal of Specialised Translation 25 [online], 254–267. (accessed 20 January 2018).
Kuo, Arista Szu-Yu 2015: Professional Realities of the Subtitling Industry: The Subtitlers’ Perspective. In Baños Piñero, Rocío/Díaz Cintas, Jorge (eds.), Audiovisual Translation in a Global Context: Mapping an Ever-changing Landscape. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 163–191.
Laine, Kai 2007: Käännöstoimistojen rooli markkinoilla ja kääntäjän asema. [Translation agencies’ role on the market and the translator’s position.] In Oittinen, Riitta/Tuominen, Tiina (eds.), Olennaisen äärellä. Johdatus audiovisuaaliseen kääntämiseen. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 265–271.
Lång, Juha/Mäkisalo, Jukka/Gowases, Tersia/Pietinen, Sami 2013: Using Eye Tracking to Study the Effect of Badly Synchronized Subtitles on the Gaze Paths of Television Viewers. In New Voices in Translation Studies 10 [online]. 72-86. (accessed 20 January 2018).
McDonough Dolmaya, Julie 2015: A place for oral history within Translation Studies? In Target 27(2), 192–214.
MTV Media 2012: MTV MEDIA sells its translation operations. In MTV yritysinfo [online]. (accessed 20 January 2018).
Pérez-González, Luis 2014: Audiovisual Translation: Theories, Methods and Issues. London: Routledge.
Pym, Anthony/Orrego-Carmona, David/Torres-Simón, Esther 2016: Status and technology in the professionalisation of translators. Market disorder and the return of hierarchy. In JoSTrans, The Journal of Specialised Translation 25 [online], 33–53. (accessed 20 January 2018).
Salmi, Leena 2010: ’Translations Around Us’ – The Amount of Translated Text in Everyday Life. In Hekkanen, Raila/Penttilä, Esa/Siponkoski, Nestori (eds.), MikaEL - Electronic proceedings of the KäTu symposium on translation and interpreting studies Vol. 4 [online]. (accessed 20 January 2018).
Tuominen, Tiina 2012: The art of accidental reading and incidental listening: An empirical study on the viewing of subtitled films. PhD Thesis. Tampere: University of Tampere [online]. (accessed 20 January 2018).
Tuominen, Tiina 2016: Subtitlers Going Professional: The Professional Project and Virtual Community of Finnish Subtitlers. In mTm, A Translation Journal Vol. 7: Special issue Translation goes Professional. Contributions from the Tampere School on the occasion of the 80th birthday of Justa Holz-Mänttäri, 103–126.
Tyulenev, Sergey 2014: Translation and Society: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
How to Cite
Tuominen, T. (2018). Negotiating the Boundaries of Professional Subtitling. The Case of Finnish Subtitlers and Their Online Community. HERMES - Journal of Language and Communication in Business, (58), 83-97.