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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sub-titles -- the good and the bad and those that are just not there

UPDATE: Wonderful new live sub-titling error on a BBC weather forecast: “Miss Dan Fogg could be found in Scotland yesterday morning."

My wife and I are not deaf, but we have to admit that at our advanced years our hearing is not perfect. The top frequencies don't register very well and consequently we sometimes have to wear our hearing aids at lectures or while watching TV.

We are immensely grateful to the BBC and the main British commercial channels for routinely offering sub-titles. We've never had trouble with sub-titles, having loved watching foreign-language movies in our younger days in Australia. What surprises us is the number of British films that are being offered on DVD without sub-titles. It is now the fashion with television and feature film dramas to have the actors speak "naturally", i.e. not producing and projecting their voices as was the practice in days gone by. All very well, but the directors and producers must accept that there are now more old people than youngsters in Britain and with age comes hearing problems. Therefore, sub-titles are important for a great many people who buy or rent DVDs. Without sub-titles, many DVDs are of little or no use to many potential buyers. So, how about it guys and gals: spend a little more time and money making sure that your DVDs have sub-titles. It will make many of your customers happy and may well result in increased sales.

Going back to the sub-titles offered with programmes transmitted on mainstream television channels in Britain, there is sometimes fun to be had watching the automated sub-titling on live shows. This is usually done with voice recognition software with its inevitable dangers. A friend of mine recently spotted these three amusing mis-translations in just an hour or two of watching a live television programme:

--- A shrug of carriage = Nigel Farage
--- Gaultier a brat on strike = Gaultier Breton stripe
--- Richard had a habitation below the knee = ... an amputation...

But my favourite of recent times concerns the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.
His name came up on the TV news screens one day as "So gay lover of". This is additionally amusing in the light of Russia's difficulty coping with homosexuality.

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