How to use automatic translation and subtitles for YouTube videos

Language or volume should not prevent you from enjoying videos on YouTube. By using closed captions, you can see the words in real time and hear them. With the automatic translation function, you can translate the subtitles into the language of your choice.

On the YouTube website and in the YouTube mobile app, you can enable and use these handy features. Also, if you use the YouTube site, you can customize the appearance of the captions.

Subtitles and translations on the YouTube site

Since automatic translation is part of the subtitle feature on YouTube, let’s start by enabling and customizing subtitles.

Enable captions on the web

Visit the YouTube site and select the video you want to watch. When it starts playing, select the Subtitles (CC) at the bottom of the video.

You will see a red line appear below the icon when live captions are on. You should also see the words displayed at the bottom of the video.

To turn off subtitles later, simply select the Subtitles icon. This removes the red line below it and the caption window should disappear from the video.

Customize subtitles

YouTube gives you several ways to customize the appearance of captions. This lets you choose the colors and adjust the opacity to suit your preferences or the video at the time.

  1. Open the equipment to the right of the caption icon at the bottom of the video.
  2. Select Subtitles/CC in the small pop-up window.
  1. At the top of the pop-up window, choose Choice.
  1. You will then see the following customizations. Select one to adjust it and then use the top left arrow to go back.
  • Font family: Choose a serif, casual, cursive, or small caps font.
  • Font color: Choose from basic colors like white, red, or blue, or a more vibrant color like cyan or magenta.
  • Font size: Adjust the font size from 50 to 400%.
  • Background color: Choose from the same colors as the font options for the background. This is the area directly behind the caption words.
  • Background opacity: Adjust the background opacity from zero to 100%.
  • window color: As for the background, you can change the color of the window, i.e. the whole caption area. Choose from the same color options as the font and background.
  • Window opacity: Adjust the opacity of the legend window from zero to 100%.
  • Character edge style: Choose a style like shadow, raised, depression or outline for the edges of the font.
  • Font Opacity: Adjust the font opacity from 25% to 100%.
  • Reset: Restores all appearance settings to default values.

You should immediately see any updates you make to the captions. This allows you to cancel the change or choose another option.

  1. In each of the above settings, you will see a Video replacement option at the top of the pop-up window. If you want to override the caption or subtitle settings specified by the video with your own selections, choose Stopped.
  1. Select the equipment icon to close settings when you’re done.

Enable machine translation on the web

Once you have enabled the subtitles, you can enable the video translation feature and choose the language.

  1. Open the equipment icon at the bottom of the video to the right of the closed caption icon.
  2. Select Subtitles/CC in the small pop-up window.
  3. Picking out Automatic translation.
  1. Then select the language.

You can then use the arrow at the top left of the pop-up window to go back or the equipment icon to close settings.

Subtitles and translations in the YouTube app

You can enable subtitles and automatic translations just as easily in the YouTube mobile app on Android and iPhone.

Enable subtitles in the mobile app

Open the YouTube app and select a video. When playback begins, select the Subtitles (CC) top right. This icon is displayed in portrait and landscape mode.

You will see the icon highlighted in white and a brief message at the bottom of the screen indicating that you have enabled subtitles.

To disable YouTube subtitles, simply select the Subtitles icon again. This returns the icon to its original state and you will see a short message that you have disabled subtitles.

Enable machine translation in the mobile app

After enabling video subtitles, you can enable YouTube’s automatic translation feature.

  1. Select the equipment icon at the top of the video.
  2. Take Legends in the small pop-up window.
  3. Picking out Automatic translation and select the language.

You will see a brief message indicating that you have enabled subtitles/subtitles in the language you have selected. This setting also shows up when you tap the gear icon and tells you which language you’ve chosen, such as English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

You can then enjoy the video with real-time caption translations through the portrait or landscape captioning feature.

Useful and Convenient YouTube Features

If you want to watch videos but don’t have headphones and don’t want to disturb your surroundings or if you have hearing impairment, just enable these automatic subtitles on YouTube.

Now, instead of skipping videos because they’re in a foreign language, you can use YouTube’s automatic translation feature.

Keep these useful and practical features in mind when watching your next YouTube video.

To learn more, check out tips for using Google Translate or how to edit a video for your own YouTube channel.

Raymond T. Helms