Interviews, round 6

Manel Tinoco de Faria
3 min readDec 14, 2022
Sara David Lopes, subtitling 🐐?

I had the pleasure of emailing Sara David Lopes, an absolute legend of the Portuguese translation and subtitling scene, so I’ll be sharing the rough cut version of our email exchange, in our beloved 3Qs format, does that sound okay to you?

1) What led you to the subtitling realm?

I grew fond of languages and translation since I was a child. It started when I was 15, when I translated my first book. Then, I got offered a pilot project for an European TV channel, based in Holland, to which I translated many shows to be broadcasted in Portugal.

Then, I got a job at RTP. Then came the movie distributors and the Portuguese production companies… I just couldn’t stop typing and translating!

When I first dove into subtitling waters I realized I had to keep going and I left my other translation gigs to focus on subtitling, exclusively.

About the subs, one can say I had an interesting career, because when the broadcasting menu sort of ‘exploded’ (when I started, there was RTP and the end, right?), with the cable networks and now the streaming wars… as well as the tech evolution that came with it… one can say I’m versatile, experienced and, more importantly, pretty pleased with what I’ve done so far.

2) What movies or shows challenged you the most?

What a cliché, I’m always lost for words when it comes to lame questions like these, because when in doubt, I already solved the ‘problem’ and moved along, right? 😊

I can go on about movies that have loads of word associations and/or puns, movies/shows inspired by works of literature (a more delicate source material and tone), movies with strong dialects or based around a specific slang… perhaps flicks filmed in specific locations can be a bit trickier, in terms of SDH and CC subtitling.

Also, today you can surf the web to find out a lot of what’s being said or expressed but just imagine for a sec if you could only surf… a blank and offline page!

no such thing in 1994!

3) What’s your take on subtitling typos?

There are many types of… typos. Sure, you can screw up one word that basically compromises the entire movie, that’s just how it goes.

Even so, when I spot one I try to interpret it: “was it a distraction typo?”, “was the subtitler totally ignorant of this specific subject?”, anyway, I analyze it in terms of quantity and/or of it was just the one, the one that got away, right?

Sadly, there’s a lack of revision in audiovisual subtitling and that’s never a good sign, because everybody makes mistakes and because we’re so swamped with projects and deadlines, some ‘worde’ may escape us, we just can’t cope with it.

There’s an increasing number of noobs working in subtitling industry, they haven’t got a clue about general guidelines, shot changes, dialogue etiquette… companies must be aware of this and adapt in terms of HR. Even if they hire the inexperienced subtitler, they must have a mentor working with him/her.

Is this alright?

Would you like me to elaborate on something else?

Send me the final product!



2.5) What’s your take on subtitling typos?

Okay, so I might talk about the 347 different (and very organized!) ways to say penis in the Austin Powers movies

or how I struggled with the accent and some words of Bem-Vindo Ao Norte

and what about translating and subtitling the whole Black Adder series?

Or the Peter Greenaway movies?

Gomorra and its proper Neapolitan?

Obviously there are tons of challenging movies, whether it’s the accent or something else but I follow and favor a very colloquial and freeform style of subtitling.

My motto is

“avoid the brain freezes!”

many thanks to Sara for her kind words and contributions!