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When captioning/subtitling goals differ

There has been an interesting off-Amara discussion between participants of the Music Captioning team about differences between:
  1. same language captioning towards making a video accessible to Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons
  2. same language subtitling for people who are learning a language.

In the first case, you also write non verbal but relevant audio info, but in the 2nd case, this non verbal info can be too much for people who are learning a language, and therefore cannot yet read it very well.


Some DVDs have different tracks for these two cases, whereas online captioning/subtitling platforms - like Amara, DotSUB etc. - don't. Maybe it's better so, otherwise, you'd need to foresee two tracks for each supported language (as online videos come in many languages), and that would be unwieldy.


So for the video where it was not possible to implement these different goals in the same set of English captions/subtitles, which was the starting point of the mentioned off-Amara discussion:

  • the captions for accessibility, which had been started first, were left in the "English" track
  • the subtitles for English learners (an edited version of the former) were moved to the "English, British" track

It's not terribly elegant, but it works: should some Briton edit the "English, British" track to make it really "English, British", we'd save their subs for them and revert to the present version, adding an explanatory comment kindly asking them to make do with the existing "English" subs. But that's unlikely, as the video is in American English.


Of course, there are also videos in other languages: for some, there are also separate tracks for local variations that could be used in the same way. And for languages where only one track is foreseen, then one of the multiple tracks of a language that has them can be used: in this case, the explanatory comment had better be done immediately.


Now actually, online subtitling/captioning platforms might perhaps offer another, more elegant solution: allowing users to label their subs as they wish, if none of the options of the drop list fits what they are doing.

I mean something like the possibility offered by YouTube, where you can relabel the subs you are uploading. See e.g. the three relabeled sets of subs in Android 4.0 Accessibility Demo: Turning on Accessibility (framed in yellow in the attached screen shot):

  • English (transcribed)
  • English - captions only
  • English - audio description and captions


But there's no hurry for that, especially not in Amara, where developers presently have more urgent things to do.


Woops! That is not quite how I had interpreted the meaning of English British.  I have usually selected this option for subtitling music videos in the music captioning team.  The reason - British English has different spelling of certain words. That is why I selected and so far most of the music I have subtitled are British artists so that spelling is correct for the music source. Mine are also with audio description since the aim is to provide access to music for deaf and hard of hearing.
Dawn, your interpretation of English, British is correct. What I was describing is the  squatting of the English, British track, as  the only option Amara presently leaves us when different subtitle tracks are needed different purposes: 1 for viewing within the video, 1 as a source for translations. Formerly, when we were able to create several subtitle tracks for one language, there was no need to go squat one of the languages like "English, British" for that. But Amara has made this creation of multiple tracks for 1 language impossible.
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