Specialised Vocabulary in Subtitling Science Documentaries


  • Theodoros Vyzas University of Ioannina




audiovisual translation, subtitling, science documentary, terminology, specialised vocabulary, translation strategies


This article describes an exploratory study which tries to shed light on audiovisual translation considered as specialised translation through two English language health-themed documentaries with Greek subtitles. The aim is to highlight the way English specialised vocabulary is translated into Greek.

After a brief overview of the main aspects of interlingual subtitling and the general features of documentaries, the focus moves onto the translation of science documentaries as specialised texts. The methodology is based first on the formal characteristics of the specialised vocabulary identified, and second on a translation strategies model by means of which the translation of the specialised vocabulary is studied. The findings are discussed with emphasis on the specifics of the equivalences provided, in order to proceed to an overall account of the translation.

Lay Summary

Science documentaries make scientific subjects accessible to the general public. They popularise knowledge, so viewers can watch a film easy to understand. However, information on scientific matters is offered to the viewers mostly by means of specialised vocabulary. Things become more complicated when a documentary is on television in a country where people do not speak the language of the film. In such cases, subtitlers create subtitles used in order to make easier for local viewers to understand the scientific information presented in another language.

Although subtitling is widespread all around the world, studies have only focused on subtitling in television series and cinema films. Moreover, researchers have shown little interest in translation of science documentaries from English into Greek. As my mother tongue is Greek, I wanted to study the way that the English specialised vocabulary in such films was translated into Greek.

For this purpose, I studied all kinds of specialised words -medical, economic, legal and administrative terms- that were contained in two English-speaking documentaries investigating health issues. I must point out that subtitlers are hardly ever specialists in the scientific field of the documentaries they translate. By using a specific translation model, I found out that subtitlers had used various ways for the translation of English terms. What is interesting is that even when terms were translated into Greek by means of non-specialised words, the scientific content of both films was transferred into the subtitles, offering a readily comprehensible product without any loss of information.


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Author Biography

Theodoros Vyzas, University of Ioannina

Theodoros Vyzas is adjunct lecturer at the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting at the Ionian University, Greece. He holds a BA in Translation from the Ionian University (1996), a DEA (2000) and a PhD in Specialised Translation (2008) from the Université Paul Valéry-Montpellier III, France.

He has worked as an adjunct lecturer at the Université Paul Valéry-Montpellier III, and the University of Ioannina in Greece. He has taught various undergraduate courses, such as general and specialised translation French-Greek and English-Greek, lexicography, as well as French and English for specific purposes. He also has extensive experience as freelance translator.

His research interests comprise the fields of specialised translation, terminology, lexicography, computer-assisted translation, and interpreting. He has participated in numerous international conferences and has also taken part in European research projects, among which, two projects on Court Interpreting and Community Interpreting.

He is co-author in a book on specialised language and translation for professional purposes, and in a book on linguistic analysis at the service of business information.




How to Cite

Vyzas, T. (2022). Specialised Vocabulary in Subtitling Science Documentaries. Journal of Audiovisual Translation, 5(1), 48–72. https://doi.org/10.47476/jat.v5i1.2022.152



Research articles