Malayalam Timed Text Style Guide
This document covers the language specific requirements for Malayalam. Please make sure to also review the General Requirements section and related guidelines for comprehensive instructions surrounding timed text deliveries to Netflix.
1. Abbreviations and Special Characters
- Mr. - മിസ്റ്റർ/ശ്രീ
- Mrs. - മിസ്സിസ്/ ശ്രീമതി
- Miss - മിസ്സ്
- Ms. - മിസ്.
- Dr. - ഡോ.
- Prof. - പ്രൊഫ.
- OK - ശരി
- etc. - മുതലായവ / തുടങ്ങിയവ
- i.e. - അതായത്
- e.g. - ഉദാഹരണത്തിന്
- a.m. - രാവിലെ
- p.m. - രാത്രി
- BC - ബിസി
- AD - എഡി
- Special characters should be spelled out:
- # - നമ്പർ / ഹാഷ്
- % - ശതമാനം
- + - കൂടി
- x - ഗുണനം
- - - കുറഞ്ഞ
- = - തുല്യം
2. Character Limitation
- 42 characters per line
3. Character Names
- Do not translate proper names (e.g. Peter, Suzanne), unless Netflix provides approved translations.
- If no approved translations are provided, please transliterate character names.
- Nicknames should only be translated if they convey a specific meaning.
- Do not use ellipses when a sentence is split between two continuous subtitles:
വിശ്വസിച്ചാലും ഇല്ലെങ്കിലും ബിരുദധാരിയാകാൻ
ഞങ്ങള്ക് രണ്ട് ക്ലാസുകൾ കൂടി വിജയിക്കുക മാത്രമാണ്.
- Use ellipses to indicate a pause (2 seconds or more) or an abrupt interruption. In the case of a pause (2 seconds or more), if the sentence continues in the next subtitle, use an ellipsis at the beginning of the second subtitle.
- ഒരുപക്ഷേ മറ്റെന്തെങ്കിലും മാർഗമുണ്ട്.
- Use ellipsis without a space to indicate that a subtitle is starting mid-sentence:
- ഒരു കൺവെൻഷൻ ഒപ്പുവച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്.
- Only translate a speaker’s title once, the first time the speaker appears.
- When ongoing dialogue is interrupted by a speaker’s title, use an ellipsis at the end of the sentence in the subtitle that precedes it and at the beginning of the sentence that follows it.
- Dialogue in TV/movie clips should only be subtitled if plot-pertinent and if the rights have been granted.
- News tickers/banners from archive clips do not require subtitles unless plot-pertinent.
6. Dual Speakers
- Use a hyphen with a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker per line.
- Text in each line in a dual speaker subtitle must be a contained sentence and should not carry into the preceding or subsequent subtitle. Creating shorter sentences and timing appropriately helps to accommodate this.
7. Font Information
- Font style: Karthika or Nirmala.
- Font size: relative to video resolution and ability to fit 42 characters across the screen.
- Font color: White.
8. On-screen Text
- Forced narrative titles for on-screen text should only be included if plot-pertinent.
- When on-screen text and dialogue overlap, precedence should be given to the most plot-pertinent message. Avoid over truncating or severely reducing reading speed in order to include both dialogue and on-screen text.
- The duration of the FN subtitle should as much as possible mimic the duration of the on-screen text, except for cases where reading speed and/or surrounding dialogue takes precedence.
- Forced narratives that are redundant (e.g. identical to on-screen text or covered in the dialogue) must be deleted.
- Never combine a forced narrative with dialogue in the same subtitle.
- When a forced narrative interrupts dialogue, use an ellipsis at the end of the sentence in the subtitle that precedes it and at the beginning of the sentence that follows it.
9. Foreign Dialogue
- Foreign dialogue should only be translated if the viewer was meant to understand it (i.e. if it was subtitled in the original version).
- Do not use italics.
- Use quotes instead for album, book, film and program titles.
- I went to see Hamilton in the theater today.
- ഇന്ന് ഞാൻ തിയേറ്ററിൽ "ഹാമിൽട്ടൺ" കാണാൻ പോയി.
- Are you watching Love Story?
- നി "ലവ് സ്റ്റോറി" എന്ന സിനിമ ആണോ കാണുന്നത്?
11. Line Treatment
- Maximum two lines.
- Text should usually be kept to one line, unless it exceeds the character limitation.
- Prefer a bottom-heavy pyramid shape for subtitles when multiple line break options present themselves, but avoid having just one or two words on the top line.
- Numbers from 1 to 10 should be written out.
- Numbers above 10 should be written numerically: 11, 12, 13, etc.
- When a number begins a sentence, it should always be spelled out.
- Note that the above rules may be broken due to space limitations or reading speed concerns, as well as for consistency when listing multiple quantities, for example.
- For ordinal numbers, 1st - 9th are spelled out: ഒന്നാമത്, രണ്ടാമത്, ഒമ്പതാമത്
- From 10th, ordinal numbers are written out numerically, followed by -ാം:10 -ാം, 12 -ാം
- To express decades, the number is kept as a numeral and the word "decade" is translated as ദശകം: 20-ാം ദശകം, 30-ാം ദശകം, 40-ാം ദശകം.
- For decimals, use periods: 16.8
- For large numbers, use commas: 50,000
- For clock time, use colon: 8:30 / 20:30
- For currency, do not use symbols. Instead, transliterate the word (dollar, pound, cent, rupee etc.): $10, 20 പൗണ്ട് / പൗണ്ട്, 25 സെന്റ്, $ 3.25, $ 20 മില്യൺ
- There should be no space between text and punctuation marks.
- Use quotation marks at the start of the quotation and after the last line of the quotation, marking the beginning and end of the quotation (rather than the beginning and end of every subtitle within the quotation), e.g.
Subtitle 1: “എന്റെ മുന്നിൽ കാണുന്നത് ഒരു കഠാരയാണോ?
Subtitle 2: എന്റെ കൈയ്ക്ക് നേരെയുള്ള ഹാൻഡിൽ.
Subtitle 3: വരൂ, ഞാൻ നിന്നെ കെട്ടിപ്പിടിക്കട്ടെ.”
- Use double quotation marks (" ") without spaces for regular quotations.
- Use single quotation marks (' ') for quotes within quotes.
- Direct speech is introduced by a comma.
- Use quotation marks when a character is seen to be reading aloud.
- If an on-screen character does “air quotes” when speaking, please apply quotation marks to the equivalent word in the target language in order to retain creative intent and to help ensure clarity about which word or part of the sentence the air quotes apply to.
- Closing quotes follow the full stop:
ഇനി ഞാൻ പറയുന്നത് സങ്കൽപ്പിക്കൂ,
15. Reading Speed Limits
- Adult programs: Up to 22 characters per second
- Children’s programs: Up to 18 characters per second
- Do not translate words or phrases repeated more than once by the same speaker.
- If the repeated word or phrase is said twice in a row, time subtitle to the audio but translate only once.
- Only subtitle plot-pertinent songs if the rights have been granted.
- Opening and ending theme songs should only be subtitled if clearly plot-pertinent (e.g. for children’s content when the lyrics tell a story) or if instructed by Netflix. Normally, adult programs should not have the opening songs subtitled, except for SDH.
- Use ellipsis when a song continues in the background, but is no longer subtitled to give precedence to dialogue.
- Punctuation: only question marks and exclamation marks should be used at the end of a line – no commas or periods. Commas can be used within the lyric line, if necessary.
- Follow this approach for poetry
- Main titles: do not subtitle the main title.
- Episode titles: do not subtitle episode titles if they do not appear on screen/are not voiced-over. If on-screen (either as part of the principal photography or burned into video) or voiced-over, please reference the KNP tool for approved translations.
- Titles of published works, existing movies and TV shows: use official or well-known translations. If none are available, transliterate the original title.
19. Special Instructions
- Modern Standard Malayalm should be used for translation. Please refrain from using dialectal words.
- Always use plot/genre pertinent language.
- Always match the tone of the original content, while remaining relevant to the target audience (e.g. replicate tone, register, class, formality, etc. in the target language in an equivalent way).
- The use of transliterations should reflect the formality of the dialogue. For example, formal dialogue should not include colloquial transliterations.
- Dialogue (including expletives) should be rendered as faithfully as possible, without using dialect or words that would otherwise introduce a level of obscenity not implied in the content.
- Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
- Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot-pertinent.
- When brand names or trademarks appear, you may either; use the same name if it is known in the territory you are translating for; adapt to the name that the brand or product is known by that the territory you are translating for; or use a generic name for that product or item. Avoid swapping out names of brands, companies or famous people for other names.
20. Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH) Guidelines
- Include as much of the original content as possible.
- Do not simplify or water down the original dialogue.
- Where content has been dubbed into Malayalam, please refer to the dubbing script or dubbed audio as the basis for the SDH file and ensure that the two match as much as reading speed and timings allow.
- Reading speed limits:
- Adult programs: Up to 22 characters per second
- Children’s programs: Up to 18 characters per second
- Truncating the original dialogue should be limited to instances where reading speed and synchronicity to the audio are an issue.
- For TV/movie clips, all audible lines should be transcribed, if possible. If the audio interferes with dialogue, please give precedence to most plot-pertinent content.
- All same-language audible songs that do not interfere with dialogue should be titled, if the rights have been granted.
- Use song title identifiers when applicable - song titles should be in quotes: [“പൾ പൽ ദിൽ കെ പാസ്" പ്ലേ ചെയ്യുന്നു}
- Song lyrics should be enclosed with a music note (♪) at the beginning and the end of each subtitle.
- Insert double space before the subtitle begins and after the subtitle ends: ♪ പൾ പൽ ദിൽ കെ പാസ് ♪
- Use brackets [ ] to enclose speaker IDs or sound effects.
- Identifiers/sound effects should be all lowercase, except for proper nouns.
- Only use speaker IDs or sound effects when they cannot be visually identified.
- When a speaker ID is required for a character who has yet to be identified by name, use [മനുഷ്യൻ ] or[സ്ത്രീ], or [മനുഷ്യന്റെ ശബ്ദം ] or [സ്ത്രീയുടെ ശബ്ദം], so as not to provide information that is not yet present in the narrative.
- Gender-neutral identifiers like can be used where appropriate. [ന്യൂസ് റീഡർ], [ഡോക്ടർ] or [വ്യാപാരി]
- Use a generic ID to indicate and describe ambient music, e.g. [റോക്ക് സംഗീതം പ്ലേ ചെയ്യുന്നു] or ] ഇളം ജാസ് സംഗീതം റേഡിയോയിൽ പ്ലേ ചെയ്യുന്നു]
- Plot-pertinent sound effects should always be included unless inferred by the visuals.
- Subtitle silence if plot-pertinent. For example, when plot-pertinent music ends abruptly.
- Be detailed and descriptive, use adverbs where appropriate when describing sounds and music, describe voices, speed of speech, volume of sounds.
- Describe the sounds and audio as opposed to visual elements or actions.
- Sound effects that interrupt dialogue should be treated as follows:
Subtitle 1: പക്ഷെ ഇന്ന് ഞാൻ…
Subtitle 2: ... ഞാൻ കുറച്ചു കുടിക്കും.
- Speaker IDs and the corresponding dialogue should ideally be on the same line.
[वॉइसओवर / नरेटर] एक ज़माने की बात है, वहां…
- In instances of foreign dialogue being spoken:
- If foreign dialogue is translated, use [in language], for example [ഫ്രെഞ്ചിൽ]
- If foreign dialogue is not meant to be understood, use [speaking language], for example [ഫ്രെഞ്ചിൽ സംസാരിക്കുന്നു]
- Always research the language being spoken – [ഫോറിൻ ഭാഷയിൽ] should never be used
For all language-related issues not covered in this document, please refer to:
- Revised sections 15 Reading Speed and 20 SDH - sections edited to mention "reading speed limits" and "up to"
- Revised section 18 Titles - "do not subtitle the main title" added, section edited
- Revised section 18 Titles - rules added/edited to include main title translations
- First edition of article published
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