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2 minutes to read Posted on Friday October 29, 2021

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Aisha Villegas

Aisha Villegas

Outreach and Communications Coordinator , Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision

portrait of Maria Drabczyk

Maria Drabczyk

Head of policy and advocacy, Board member , Centrum Cyfrowe

Engaging students with audiovisual heritage through Subtitle-a-thons

A Subtitle-a-thon is a crowdsourcing initiative which invites the public to create and add subtitles to archival audiovisual clips from European heritage collections available on the Europeana website. We share how this tool can be used by educators to help students engage with and explore audiovisual heritage. 

A group of children in a cooking class
Eine Kochklasse mit lauter Burschen, die einen Fisch-Auflauf machen
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek - Austrian National Library

Subtitle-a-thons for education

Subtitle-a-thons are sprint-like, onsite or online events that aim to make multilingual audiovisual cultural heritage accessible to broader audiences. During the events, people with different language levels work together to create and add subtitles to archival media clips provided by various European collections available on the Europeana website and These events can take place in person or online and are facilitated through the platform, which was created as part of the Europeana XX - Century of Change project and uses technology from the Europeana Media and Europeana Subtitled projects.

For cultural heritage professionals and language teachers working in formal or non-formal education, Subtitle-a-thons can be a fun and participatory way to engage students with audiovisual heritage. Find out more about how Europeana and EUscreen are working together to make audiovisual content fit for education through this video, and follow the steps to run a Subtitle-a-thon below!

How to set up a Subtitle-a-thon - a guide for educators 

  1. Contact the Subtitle-a-thon platform. If you’re an educator wanting to set up a Subtitle-a-thon, the first step is to contact Subtitle-a-thon partners at  [email protected]. They can offer support, answer questions and help plan your event. Setting up your challenge is free, and you can also find more information from platform administrators Noterik or the Subtitle-a-thon website

  2. Plan the challenge. When planning a Subtitle-a-thon challenge as an educator, keep in mind your learning goals and the age of your audiences. This will help you to have an engaging event with a rewarding outcome.

  3. Curate your own audiovisual collection for participants to work with. Depending on your goals, you will have to select the clips that you want to be subtitled during your Subtitle-a-thon challenge. You can curate your collection by creating your own Europeana account and using the gallery feature. 

  4. Choose your clips and languages for the challenge. Don’t forget to select clips in the languages that you and your participants will be able to translate. From French to English, Dutch to German, Turkish to English -  make sure you decide on the languages of subtitles. You or someone from your team needs to be able to check the quality of the new subtitles in order to select a winner.

  5. Keep it sweet and short. We advise you to select short videos to be subtitled (five minutes at maximum). Keep in mind that short and entertaining videos are also more fun to work with! Try to avoid clips with literary texts like poems or songs - these tend to be trickier to translate. Make sure you have at least five clips available per person.

  6. Set up the event. Whether the Subtitle-a-thon takes place online or in-person, we recommend having up to 40 participants per challenge. Hosting shorter online events is also advisable, from two days up to one week.  For onsite challenges, we recommend a one day event. The Europeana Events Toolkit offers tips on how to run an online event. Whether you are setting up an online or in person event, you will use the platform which offers a specialised AV player for participants to add subtitles to. 

  7. Set the rules. Set clear and concise rules and remember to share these with all the participants at the start of the event. Be clear about the duration of the event, eligible languages, registration rules and timeline and who can take part. Have an open communication channel - email or messenger -  throughout the event in case participants have questions or comments. 

  8. Set up a review procedure. In your group there should be a team of language experts willing and able to verify the quality of the subtitles. That’s why it is so important to select the languages of the subtitles beforehand. You want to make sure you have the right knowledge at the organisers’ table.

  9. Hold an opening session. Start your Subtitle-a-thon with a bang! An opening session serves to clarify any questions or comments. Preparing an agenda with the following points: introduction to the subtitle-a-thon format; explanation of the rules (including gamification, copyright, etc); live tutorial on the use of the website; some subtitling tips, Q&A session. 

  10. Gamification. Not all Subtitle-a-thons challenges have to be competitions but having rewards will incentivise the participants. Provide certificates of participation for every participant and a certificate of recognition to winners of the event. Awarding a prize - no matter how small - to participants who subtitled more content is also a nice touch when possible. 

  11. Have fun! The Subtitle-a-thons challenges are meant to raise awareness about the value of multilingual access to audiovisual archival footage and improve your language skills in a fun and innovative way. The events are not intended to compete with or replace professional level translation. So don’t forget to enjoy yourself and have fun!

  12. Review the submissions. You’ve already set up a group of reviewers (see step eight) and now is their turn to validate the subtitles. This may take a while, depending on the number of participants involved in the challenge, so give yourself and your team space for this work. Once ready, please get back in touch with Noterik, the platform administrators.

  13. Announce the winners. All the hard work should be acknowledged and rewarded. This is the moment to announce those who contributed most to the challenge. Make sure you let them shine!

Keen to get started? Visit the Subtitle-a-thon platform to find out more. You can also download the infographic below which walks you through the steps!

Subtitle-a-thon for educators infographic (see text above)
Subtitle-a-thon for educators infographic
Magdalena Arażny
Subtitle-a-thon for educators infographic (see text above)