Languages & The Media 2018, the 12th international conference on language transfer in audiovisual media was held in Berlin at the beginning of October. This is the second article and covers the wider conference and the themes presented.
Between the 3rd and 5th of October, the Languages & The Media conference was held under the theme of ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’. The conference looked at the effect of this revolution on media, on the use of language, and asked if technical innovation could lead to change that is empowering. Below I have picked out a selection of the talks and topics covered. Some I attended in person and others were recommended.
The big news two years ago at the conference was the announcement from Netflix that they were introducing a translator test called Hermes. Netflix would test translators and give them a score and an ID number. Hermes was to be rolled out across all of the Netflix language markets. This year Allison Smith updated everyone with the news that the project had been concluded as Netflix were going to continue to work directly with Language Vendors who would manage the relationship with the translators while Netflix focused on its core competencies. For more detail on this see here
The changing nature of audiences and the way in which they are measured and categorised was looked at by David Orrego-Carmona, (Aston University, UK) when he presented a paper entitled ‘What Are We Talking about When We Talk about ‘Audiences’. He put forward the idea that today’s audiences are transnational thanks to media distribution players such as Netflix and Amazon and therefore the concept of the nation-bound, homogenous audience no longer has meaning. The digital revolution means that it is no longer helpful to assume, for example, that the majority of people in a given territory are more used to dubbing or subtitling. The consequence of this is that viewers’ preferences become another variable that needs to be measured. This echoed what Allison Smith from Netflix had said in her presentation. ‘Choice is more important than a particular preference’ Smith said, adding that the Netflix model is not based on the long held belief that particular countries like dubbing or subtitling.
The cultural phenomenon of ‘Fundubbing’ and its origins in the 30s and 40s was presented by Rocio Baños Piñero (University College London, UK) in her paper ‘Fundubbing Across Time and Space’. Also known as parodic dubbing, it has enjoyed a recent revival with its association with online media. This presentation, however, showed that ‘Fundubbing’ has been used for decades, both to entertain and amuse, but also as a form of subversion. Nowadays, any user can add subtitles or an audio track to a video, and upload it form their phone to share around the world in an instant.
Eva Duran Eppler, University of Roehampton, UK and Lucia Briechle, (SDL plc, Germany) presented their talk entitled ‘The Effect of Swearwords in Subtitled & Dubbed Films’. Subtitling guidelines usually mandate the toning down, neutralisation or omission of swearwords on the grounds that obscene language is more shocking when written than when spoken. The researchers conducted an online reception study showing viewers swearing in both dubbed and subtitled version and asked them to rate the strength of the swearwords. The results clearly showed that the dubbed swearing was rated higher on a strength scale than subtitled swearing, with the conclusion that guidelines for the treatment of obscene language in subtitling need to be re-examined.
At the ever popular ‘Language Café’ session, Lindsay Bywood (University of Westminster, UK) and Kristijan Nikolić (University of Zagreb, Croatia) revisited the predictions from the conference two years ago and chaired some lively debate with regards to what had and hadn’t transpired in the intervening time around working practices, the demise (or not!) of language vendors, technology and market forces. Once again attendees participated in a collaborative and exciting round table workshop before presenting their findings to the packed room.
Overall the conference provided a great deal of insight and inspiration as well as being an opportunity to meet and talk with some of the industry’s leading stakeholders. With the global language services industry reported to be worth $46 billion this year and expected to grow to $56 billion by 2021 it will be interesting to see where we are at the next Languages & The Media conference in 2020.