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Thread poster: Merab Dekano

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 4, 2016

I was watching a documentary, kind of relaxing after some work. The guy said "we were airlifted from the mountain". The Spanish subtitles followed "habíamos sido sordos en la montaña" (we had been deaf on the mountain)???

Now, the way the guy pronounced "air..." in the word "airlifted" did resemble "ear" (heavy Eastern European accent), but I do not believe any half-decent human translator/interpreter/transcriber could have possibly missed the point so blatantly.

If we just put aside the obvious irresponsibility and lack of professionalism of not only the "linguists", but also that of the producers, the questions remains: is it a software?


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not the translator's fault Jan 5, 2016

The quality of subtitles and voiceovers in most documentaries aired in Spain (and probably in other Spanish-speaking countries) is generally very poor, and it has been like this for two decades. Clearly the producers need to spend more money on translations. If they use poor translators, translate it themselves, or use automated software, the result is going to be appalling as in most productions.

 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:26
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
no more checks... Jan 5, 2016

It could be a lot of things, quick and urgent translation, forgotten to do a spell check, bizzare spell check correction even... but the main point is probably there are very few correctors checking subtitles nowadays, the agencies and broadcasting corporations no longer check what they receive, so yes, sometimes when the right translator / subtitler is not available (who is usually quite good), or when the translator hasn't had his or her cup of coffee ... errors appear -- and they are imediately obvious to other professionals...

I doubt that any agency would risk putting any automated subtitles in there (even in the same language as the speaker) and automated translation of subtitles (or speech in general) would likely be something for the future... but development has come a long way...

---
Ed


 

Tony M
France
Local time: 07:26
Member
French to English
+ ...
It IS the translator's fault! Jan 5, 2016

I'm sorry, but whatever the rush or pressure, no translator with any self-esteem will simply write blatant nonsense!

I realize the translator may not have had the visuals, or indeed the actual soundtrack in front of them (if it had been transcribed by someone else), but even so, the expression used is SO improbable (espeically, no doubt, with more of the surrounding context) that EVEN if there had been a transcription error, they ought at least to have flagged up a doubt. After all, EVEN if the transcriber had misheard it as 'earlift', how does that get turned into 'deaf' in Spanish? At best, perhaps, it might have been rendered as 'prick up your ears'.


 

Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 07:26
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Portuguese as well Jan 5, 2016

I watch a lot of documentaries with Portuguese subtitles and find a lot of translation errors there, as well. Price is clearly valued more than quality in the subtitles world, and it is well known that prices for subtitling fall under the category "So much fun - you should pay us for letting you do it!"

 

cranium
French to English
+ ...
Akin to shoplifting? Jan 5, 2016

Tony M wrote:

EVEN if the transcriber had misheard it as 'earlift', how does that get turned into 'deaf' in Spanish?


As in, "when I was in Madrid, someone trying to lift my purse lifted my ears instead". That would leave one deaf.

Joke aside, this is just classic machine translation from faulty speech recognition software. It also happens with closed captioning, which my Mom uses frequently. We often guffaw at the ludicrous sentences that get churned out, but at least she can guess what the real word was. No such luck in translation.


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes. And bubbibg too... Jan 5, 2016

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

The quality of subtitles and voiceovers in most documentaries aired in Spain (and probably in other Spanish-speaking countries) is generally very poor, and it has been like this for two decades. Clearly the producers need to spend more money on translations. If they use poor translators, translate it themselves, or use automated software, the result is going to be appalling as in most productions.


It's hilarious to hear: "hemos ordenado unas hamburguesas" (we've ordered some hamburgers) instead of saying "hemos pedido unas hamburguesas". The former simply means "we've arranged [in sequential order] some hamburgers", which is utterly ridiculous.


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agree Jan 5, 2016

Tony M wrote:

I'm sorry, but whatever the rush or pressure, no translator with any self-esteem will simply write blatant nonsense!

I realize the translator may not have had the visuals, or indeed the actual soundtrack in front of them (if it had been transcribed by someone else), but even so, the expression used is SO improbable (espeically, no doubt, with more of the surrounding context) that EVEN if there had been a transcription error, they ought at least to have flagged up a doubt. After all, EVEN if the transcriber had misheard it as 'earlift', how does that get turned into 'deaf' in Spanish? At best, perhaps, it might have been rendered as 'prick up your ears'.


One of my very experienced colleagues once told me: "in translation business if something sounds wrong, it is wrong..."

If you read "we'd been deaf on the mountain" when the context clearly shows that some chaps were just rescued by a helicopter, I presume you would not just think the rotor blade noise just deafened them and that's what they were warring about in that particular moment (unless you're translating one of Yasunari Kawabata's novels).

It's funny for us, but bear in mind that some (most) of the members of the audience do not actually speak English (beyond English speaking countries, obviously) and will have to rely entirely on the subtitles. How do they even follow the story?


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:26
Chinese to English
Does any of it matter... Jan 5, 2016

Merab Dekano wrote:

How do they even follow the story?

Where I live, it's all pirate downloads and fansubbing, and often you can see that for extended periods in a show the fans couldn't actually understand it and we're just making up a story that they think matches the images. Sometimes it's a lot of fun! And these shows still seem to be avidly consumed, so does the quality of our work actually count for anything? Sometimes I wonder...

You a Kawabata reader, too? I'm not sure I've ever got all the way through one of his. I love the eerie mountain settings, but can something please happen now?

On the subject of speech recognition, though, I'm starting to wonder if it's one of those things that computers just won't be able to do very well. Might it be the case that even to hear speech properly you have to be understanding it as you go, and computers just can't do that (yet)?


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Need huge imagination. Jan 5, 2016

Phil Hand wrote:

Merab Dekano wrote:

How do they even follow the story?

Where I live, it's all pirate downloads and fansubbing, and often you can see that for extended periods in a show the fans couldn't actually understand it and we're just making up a story that they think matches the images. Sometimes it's a lot of fun! And these shows still seem to be avidly consumed, so does the quality of our work actually count for anything? Sometimes I wonder...

You a Kawabata reader, too? I'm not sure I've ever got all the way through one of his. I love the eerie mountain settings, but can something please happen now?

On the subject of speech recognition, though, I'm starting to wonder if it's one of those things that computers just won't be able to do very well. Might it be the case that even to hear speech properly you have to be understanding it as you go, and computers just can't do that (yet)?


Was Kawabata's big fan, quite some years ago. Read it in a Russian translation (very good, by the way). The "problem" was the endless description of each passage. They drank tea for centuries, it seemed to me. I knew the colour of every single hair on each person's head. In this respect, probably the only writer who can actually "beat" Kawabata is Émil Zola (both, in "length" and "volume"). In either case, you need huge imagination to stay on track.

I tried speech recognition software to dictate translation or to transcribe some files. I, particularly I, failed. Not saying it's a bad idea, but it did not work for me. The output was poor and it took me more time than it would have without it. I just realised I love typing. It's like as if I were playing music, which I otherwise cannot do.

Shame on those who do not take languages seriously.


 

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:26
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
they already can! Jan 5, 2016

Phil Hand wrote:

On the subject of speech recognition, though, I'm starting to wonder if it's one of those things that computers just won't be able to do very well. Might it be the case that even to hear speech properly you have to be understanding it as you go, and computers just can't do that (yet)?


Nope. I am getting near perfect results here (around 98%, if I had to give a number), with Dragon Professional 14, usually with my very good mic, but even with my laptop's mic. I dictate pretty much everything these days, including this post.

Michael

[This post was dictated using Dragon Professional 14. Please excuse any typos!]


 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 14:26
Japanese to English
+ ...
A caveat Jan 7, 2016

Michael Beijer wrote:

Phil Hand wrote:

On the subject of speech recognition, though, I'm starting to wonder if it's one of those things that computers just won't be able to do very well. Might it be the case that even to hear speech properly you have to be understanding it as you go, and computers just can't do that (yet)?


Nope. I am getting near perfect results here (around 98%, if I had to give a number), with Dragon Professional 14, usually with my very good mic, but even with my laptop's mic. I dictate pretty much everything these days, including this post.

Michael

[This post was dictated using Dragon Professional 14. Please excuse any typos!]


But your voice is always the same (more or less). There's a big difference between designing a program that can recognize words spoken by a consistent voice and one that can accurately recognize any random dialect, accent, slang, audio quality (this is a big one!), etc.

Dragon is nice though, I use it myself whenever possible.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:26
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Similar blunders Jan 7, 2016

Merab Dekano wrote:
I was watching a documentary, kind of relaxing after some work. The guy said "we were airlifted from the mountain". The Spanish subtitles followed "habíamos sido sordos en la montaña" (we had been deaf on the mountain). ... Now, the way the guy pronounced "air..." in the word "airlifted" did resemble "ear" (heavy Eastern European accent), but I do not believe any half-decent human translator/interpreter/transcriber could have possibly missed the point so blatantly.


It happens, even in professionally subbed shows. I don't see it very regularly, but I've definitely seen it quite a few times while watching English shows on Dutch television. Usually the mistranslation does not affect the enjoyment of the show for non-speakers of the spoken language, however.

And there is one school of translation that says that such a translation is perfectly okay. Is the mistranslated line essential to understanding the story or one of the subplots? Will a non-speaker of the spoken language experience the mistranslated segment as something quite odd, i.e. something that the actor is unlikely to have said? If not, then (so some say) it is not a mistranslation.

Merab Dekano wrote:
It's hilarious to hear: "hemos ordenado unas hamburguesas" (we've ordered some hamburgers) instead of saying "hemos pedido unas hamburguesas". The former simply means "we've arranged [in sequential order] some hamburgers", which is utterly ridiculous.


Well, that is just a terrible translation.

Samuel

[Edited at 2016-01-07 19:36 GMT]


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Pushing the envelope... Jan 7, 2016

And there is one school of translation that says that such a translation is perfectly okay. Is the mistranslated line essential to understanding the story or one of the subplots? Will a non-speaker of the spoken language experience the mistranslated segment as something quite odd, i.e. something that the actor is unlikely to have said? If not, then (so some say) it is not a mistranslation.


If saying "we'd been deaf on the mountain" instead of "we've been airlifted from the mountain" is not a mistranslation, I actually feel better now, since I'm struggling with a translation test for a very nice project and It looks like I can write "the Roman Empire suggest that fictional intruders are singing on the lawn" instead of "empirical evidence suggest that financial institutions are bound by law". Will it alter the "essential understanding of the story"? Oh, yes, it will. The guys on the mountain were not deaf (snow-blind they were, perhaps).

In any case, I just was wondering if the job was done by translators who did not have a clue of the source language (which seems to be highly unlikely) or a software was involved. I'm more and more convinced that the latter is the case.


 

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:26
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
yes, it seems quite likely that software was involved here Jan 7, 2016

Merab Dekano wrote:

And there is one school of translation that says that such a translation is perfectly okay. Is the mistranslated line essential to understanding the story or one of the subplots? Will a non-speaker of the spoken language experience the mistranslated segment as something quite odd, i.e. something that the actor is unlikely to have said? If not, then (so some say) it is not a mistranslation.


If saying "we'd been deaf on the mountain" instead of "we've been airlifted from the mountain" is not a mistranslation, I actually feel better now, since I'm struggling with a translation test for a very nice project and It looks like I can write "the Roman Empire suggest that fictional intruders are singing on the lawn" instead of "empirical evidence suggest that financial institutions are bound by law". Will it alter the "essential understanding of the story"? Oh, yes, it will. The guys on the mountain were not deaf (snow-blind they were, perhaps).

In any case, I just was wondering if the job was done by translators who did not have a clue of the source language (which seems to be highly unlikely) or a software was involved. I'm more and more convinced that the latter is the case.




Sounds very likely. Automatic transcription/subbing is already available in a number of programs/places:

1. YouTube has a feature for automatically adding subtitles to uploaded videos.
2. Adobe Premiere (a video editor) has a similar feature.
3. Dragon NaturallySpeaking has a transcription feature: you feed it audio (preferably your own voice), and it will try to transcribe it automatically.

So, yes, it seems quite likely that software was involved here.


 
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