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Multilingual video

Video with dialogue in multiple languages must be captioned. Such video may take the following forms:

Dominant language with occasional foreign language
Caption the dominant language. If the captioner does not understand the foreign language, indicate its use through non-speech information.
A generic caption similar to [Speaking Japanese] will often be too vague.
Dominant language with foreign-language singing
Covered elsewhere.
Spoken and sign languages
Covered elsewhere.
Equal or nearly-equal multilingual dialogue
In bilingual or multilingual productions (e.g., airplane safety announcements), caption all dialogue.


A warning to captioners against overestimating their own second-language fluency: Only native speakers of a language are qualified to caption it. It is possible that native unilinguals are better suited for captioning because of lower interference from a second language, but that has not been studied.

For very small passages consisting of well-known words or phrases, even a captioner who does not understand the language at all can caption the phrases with confidence, since they may be easily looked up. Nonetheless, for second-language segments longer than a few words inserted in a dominant language, err on the side of caution. It is better to explain the foreign-language dialogue through non-speech information than to misspell the dialogue. Errors are generally worse than omissions or paraphrasing.