Are the lines between translation and interpreting beginning to blur?

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:15
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi . The problem is slightly oversimplified Aug 30, 2013

I don't believe you can produce twice as many words using the dictation method. It is oversimplified. Interpreting is not exactly the same as translation. The average rate of speaking is about 6,000 words an hour, not 600, but it does not really matter in relation to translation. Translation requires different mental processes.


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:15
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The blurry bridge Aug 30, 2013

It is indeed an oversimplification, yet it points to the right direction: video.

People often want me to "translate a video", and when I start asking (the necessary and unavoidable) questions, they sometimes think I'm making too much trouble.

Of course, as the article correctly points out, it means crossing the bridge from spoken to written words (and back! - in the case of dubbing).

So I ask them what do they want me to translate the video for, and those who are not savvy into it react as if I were butting into their privacy. I have to explain that a video may be translated for three purposes:

a) Full script - For instance, if an interview or a lecture will be converted into a "text" article to be printed, displayed on a web site, etc. This may also be the case if they intend to re-shoot or convert a dramatic movie into a theater play, of course, in the target language. Sometimes the full script will be broken into closed captions for the hearing impaired; as they supposedly won't be listening, sound effects will be briefly described, and their brain being free from audio will have more input capacity to read all that.

b) For subtitling - This involves extreme conciseness, so the translation will provide spectators in the target language with as much of the spoken content in as few written characters as possible, so they can watch some of the action after they're done reading each subtitle.

c) For dubbing - This involves developing a translated text that a trained voice artist will be able to sync to the original actor's lip movements, so that target language spectators will get the impression that the actor is indeed speaking "their" language.

The worst of it that I often get requests to "transcribe" a video in EN "into" PT or vice-versa. That's not transcription, for crying out loud!

Transcription (yes, in the same language as the video is spoken) is a good option for case (a) above, if that is to be translated into more than one language. After the script has been turned into text, it will be possible to use CAT tools, MT, PEMT, whatever contemporary cost-cutting contrivances are desirable.

For subtitling, there is ample software to expedite the process, with possibly higher quality, after the proper (i.e. concise) translation has been done by humans. I can't imagine how software would ever be able to ascertain what is most relevant in a phrase, and rewrite that in the most concise manner.

There is some automatic subtitling technology, yet it is unquestionably lame. YouTube is testing some voice recognition software that works terribly, due to each person having their very personal accent and enunciation. The ensuing automatic translation - with all its shortcomings - works on that badly recognized speech, and the result we see is usually hilarious... on top of not having the conciseness that characterizes good subtitling.

Finally, for dubbing, translation requires ART. My pet example appears several times on each and every sales training video: "customer needs" unavoidably becomes the much longer "necessidades do cliente" in PT - there is no other acceptable translation. So the translator for dubbing must, in such cases, dismantle and rebuild the entire phrase into something that embodies the same meaning. I can't imagine a way to automate that.

Now the article focuses on the cost-cutting paraphernalia available, and I can't envision any that might be able to perform these exclusively human jobs with any passable level of quality.

The blurry bridge stems from the lack of a specific term for video-into-text translators. These work like interpreters on the input side, and as translators (and copy writers/editors) on the output side.

Were that not enough, there is a subdivision there. On one side of the bridge, there is video. On the other, it splits threefold. Case (a) is simple, it is handled by a half-interpreter + half-translator.

Cases (b) and (c) are two separate specialties. I do both, however I began translating for dubbing in 1987, and only ventured into translation for subtitling in 2004. Some translators developed in the opposite way, they grew from subtitling into dubbing. And yet I know many valiant colleagues who stick to only one of these specialties.

Is either (dub/sub) translation more difficult than the other?

The Brazilian Translators Syndicate (down, close to the bottom of the table) seems to think so, as they suggest charging translation for dubbing 2x the rates suggested for subtitling (translation only).

Well, I charge exactly the same. The tools I use are the same, however the frame of mind is completely different. Nevertheless, the time/effort it takes me to do either (again, translation only) is about the same. The syndicate (or its members) who had this 2x idea probably has good reasons for that, I wouldn't know. Yet this differences makes matters fuzzier when that bridge splits.

So that's the blurry bridge. One lane on the input side, three lanes out, and an indeterminate quantity of "human art" in the middle.


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