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In some movies, subtitles are used only for characters that speak in a foreign language. For example, in the movie Star Wars Episode VI: A New Hope, generic English language playback only shows subtitles for the parts of the film where the characters Greedo and Jabba speak. This is distinct from the other subtitles, where all dialog, foreign or native, is subtitled.

If I were to refer to that specific subtitle track that is only used to convey foreign languages to a native speaker, how would I do so?

  • I've always seen them as "Subtitles - Non-English" in the listings I've found. Is that what you mean? – Paulie_D Nov 3 '16 at 16:39
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They're called Forced subtitles

From Wikipedia

Forced subtitles are common on movies and only provide subtitles when the characters speak a foreign or alien language, or a sign, flag, or other text in a scene is not translated in the localization and dubbing process. In some cases, foreign dialogue may be left untranslated if the movie is meant to be seen from the point of view of a particular character who does not speak the language in question.

2

In the "scene", they're referred to as "Embedded Subtitles" or "Hardcoded Subtitles". There doesn't appear to be a wiki on either phrase, but a quick google will show it's rather common.

They are burned into the movie itself, there's no way to turn them off. If you ever see any websites where they have currently-in-theater movies, they almost always have Korean hardcoded subtitles (presumably, some group of pirates in Korea is releasing these on DVD as quickly as they hit the theaters). In this case, the subtitles are always present, but in other movies, you may only see them during scenes with foreign language, particularly in America.

  • 1
    Embedded is not the same as forced. Embedded/hardcoded, as you say is actually on the picture itself, usually from dodgy pirate copies/taped off the TV etc. 'Proper' Forced subs are actually from a subtitle file, same as any regular subs, but with a special characteristic to literally force them to show, even if regular subs are off. – disassociated Nov 4 '16 at 11:49
  • Correct, which is why I offered it as a separate answer. You called them forced, I called them embedded. However, one correction to your comment is that there are Hollywood releases with embedded subtitles. It's not only on pirate copies. – Johnny Bones Nov 4 '16 at 12:42
  • There are Hollywood releases with Forced subtitles, whether they're Embedded or not. The distinction is not that they're "printed to the celluloid", but that they will appear whether or not subs are on. – disassociated Nov 4 '16 at 12:48
  • I'll see if I can find a movie, I'm sure one of the Star Wars ones will do, where there is no subtitle file. If there's no subtitle file, it can't be a forced subtitle, can it? – Johnny Bones Nov 4 '16 at 12:51
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    Then we shall have to agree to disagree. Embedding a sub does not make it forced. It does make it compulsory, but for different reasons. If the entire dialog of a movie has embedded subs, that does still not make it forced. Forced has its own definition, as I gave in my answer "when it's to translate dialogue in a foreign language within a native language movie". Embedding has nothing to do with that, except that it may be coincidental. Embedding is one of at least 2 methods that can be employed to show forced subtitles, the other being a subs file with special characteristic. – disassociated Nov 4 '16 at 13:38
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Netflix calls these Forced Narrative (FN) subtitles.

From their instructions for content providers:

FN subtitles are used in the following cases:

1. Short segments of foreign language, intended to be understood by the audience, that differ from the original language of the show.



2. Translation of original language location/person IDs, dates or other labels (e.g. “White House, December 10”). As a creative element, these text graphics are usually burned into image and are therefore represented as FN’s in foreign languages only. [...]
3. Communication that would not otherwise be commonly understood (e.g. sign language, a subtitled dog, Klingons).

4. Transcribed dialogue in the same language, often done for audience clarification (if audio is inaudible or distorted, commonly in documentaries).




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