Automatic Subtitles = Automatic DisappointmentLike so many things when it comes to language technology, automatic subtitling is widely available, commonly promoted, usually free… and very, very premature.
If you’re publishing video content online for a wide audience, you’ve also put a lot of time and care into creating that content, so it hits just right. And subtitles, unlike static text, are fleeting. And in fleeting time, you never want to confuse your audience. If a subtitle isn’t understood immediately, the viewer will not only miss its intended meaning, but they will likely miss whatever appears in the next few seconds as they shake off their confusion.
Automatic subtitles are posed as an alluring idea: automatic speech recognition, with words placed automatically into sentences, which are automatically cut into smaller subtitles, which are automatically translated into the languages of your choosing. But with the current state of technology, it’s simply a recipe for confusion and frustration. We’re still many years from it being a viable option for anyone who truly cares about the quality of their communication.
For all of its progress, think of how unreliable speech recognition is today. A day hardly passes when we aren’t locked in some kind of misunderstanding with Siri or Alexa. Even at its best, an AI-generated transcript still needs significant editing, especially if it’s going to be translated. A native speaker will usually look past grammar and punctuation issues, and our brains are trained to “fix” similar-sounding words that are incorrectly recognized.
This is a critical thing that is made so much worse when automatically translated. What appears to be a typo in one language could be a completely different concept once translated, and you audience will be confused at best, and critically misled at worst. Rough translations are bad enough, but misleading translations can be disastrous.
That’s not to say that technology doesn’t play a role in this process. But each step of the process – transcribing, dividing and timing subtitles, and translation – requires human expertise, human sensibilities, and human judgement in order to reach your very human audience.
Many events that you've already seen have relied on our subtitling services. Learn more here.
Mike Devlin - 2 years ago
Keywords: studio services, subtitling, translation,