Subtitles for wonderful TED videos - subtitlers needed
Thread poster: Craig Meulen

Craig Meulen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:49
German to English
+ ...
May 15, 2009

Dear fellow ProZians

A great opportunity to practice your subtitling - volunteer translators are being sought to help translate wonderfully informative talks about all sorts of subjects.

If you haven't yet discovered TED, take a look. Informative, lively talks by a wide range of speakers.

Previously only available in English, they are using innovative technology and a 'crowd-sourcing' community to make these talks available in different languages.

Translation Project Information

News Post with background information:

And tell your non-English speaking friends that they can now take advantage of TED!




José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:49
English to Portuguese
+ ...
This is very interesting! May 15, 2009

About 1-1/2 year ago, someone contacted me with a project that involved translating and subtitling about ten 60-min TED (yes, that was the link they gave me) videos every month. I googled that individual, and apparently he was a big shot in the local Microsoft subsidiary. My standard rates were accepted, but the project was successively postponed for miscellaneous reasons, until I never heard from him again.

Now I see that TED chose crowdsourcing instead of outsourcing, which is a clever way of keeping sponsors' money, instead of squandering it with translators. Please note that I'm not questioning the value of the enterprise (TED) itself, just their business strategy. If the idea gets widespread, it will become impossible to earn a living from subtitling. You'll see the Megabucks Corp. institutional video boldly acknowledging that it was translated and subtitled for free by John Doe "for worldwide spectators' convenience". You, and maybe a few million other spectators, will be thankful to John for his generous contribution. John will get maybe a hundred requests for free subtitling every single day, but he'll probably starve, if his intention was to make a living from subtitling work.

On the other hand, it's an excellent place to showcase any translator/subtitler's skill. A prospect might see a sample there and say, "This is the kind of subtitling I want for my video!". So it's really worth the effort for any subtitling translator to do it once, or maybe a few more times, and offer the links as samples on their CV/applications.

Then there is the quality issue. I watched no more than 2-3 subtitled videos there, subbed by colleagues in my pair. I haven't gone deep to check the TED guidelines, and I'm not criticizing these translators' work, as I don't know exactly what was requested from them, nor what instructions they were given. I saw no comments on how spotting should be done, and the result in this aspect may be considered quite bad; it's often out of sync.

The translations I saw apparently were done directly from the transcript, as text, and no specific subbing concern seems to have been raised. The result is abusively long subs, often spanning from one edge to the other of the wide (16x9) screen, with a few words overfowing to the second line. I don't know if their subbing system has a linebreak feature within a subtitle.

Translations I saw were done verbatim, i.e. not condensed to the bare essentials, as it is customary in subtitles. So, if the speaker says "It is my deephearted and strongly held belief that...", the verborrhage is fully preserved in the target language, instead of being translated as "I really think that...", which would be a normal translation for subtitles.

The rationale for the above is that one of the foremost goals of the subtitling translator is to convey to the spectator the idea of what's being said while allowing them as much time as possible to watch the action. So subtitles must be as brief as possible without losing content. As most of TED videos are what's known in the trade as talking heads, there is seldom any action to watch. Actually, in many cases, sending the spectator a picture of the lecturer and a translated transcript would work the same. The point here is that Generation Y comprises typically "watchers", not readers.

The translations I saw there are my worst nightmare when I'm only requested to spot someone else's translation for subtitling. They seldom care about compressing the content into shorter phrases. They want me to make a 2-line x 32-char sub to flash on the screen for just a few frames, maybe for slightly over a whole second! I advocate for the spectator, always, regardless of the job being subtitling or lip-sync dubbing. So it's not a spotting job, but almost a re-translation.

So I wonder what this TED project will lead to, from the subtitlers' stance. It may promote a much lower standard for subtitlers. On a large screen, spectators' eyeballs will undergo severe strain from scanning end-to-end subs. On the other hand, it may promote the better subtitling translators, however as these grow in number, it may become difficult for subbing prospects to separate the wheat from the chaff.

If I were asked for a suggestion, I'd let the volunteer translators to rate their peers' work there (being precluded to rate their own), and have the average score appear online. This would draw the real pros to show their work at least once, so they could set the bar high enough.

My 2¢ on the matter.


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Subtitles for wonderful TED videos - subtitlers needed

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