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Subtitling as an Ethical Issue - How to Subtitle Caribbean Patois?

Hello! Here I am, once again, asking for advice.

For the last year or so I've been working on a documentary that my co-director and I shot in the Caribbean. We are now approaching the end of the edit, and we are thinking about subtitling.

Our main issue is that we are not sure of what to do with patois. When contributors talk to us, they mainly speak in a very standard English. However, in natural conversations that occur among themselves, they often speak patois. The instances are not many, but it happens a few times throughout the film.

So here's our dilemma: on one hand, subtitles need to be immediate and easy to understand, so often subtitles (I'm referring to Netflix for example, or even the BBC) take the liberty to make adjustments to the language. On the other hand, changing the words of our participants to conform them to the British English we are used to hear seems to us extremely patronising. Not to say that it might be confusing to read something that doesn't quite match what it's being said.

What is your experience in this regard?

Thank you!

2 years ago