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My first Languages & The Media Conference Experience – The Fourth Industrial Revolution reshapin

For three days, 300+ attendees - comprised mainly of translators, academics, researchers, managers, and CEOs - engaged in discussions, learning opportunities, and deep thinking on the role of languages now and in the future. We were invited to ponder our shared responsibility to work together towards a better understanding of current trends and to shape the future of the industry. The conference experience itself was designed in a human-centered manner to be an empowering invitation to reflect on objectives and beliefs.

For the participant, the conference incorporated technology and interactivity through use of Slido as a Q&A and polling platform. The attendees used this channel to ask questions, upvote which questions should be discussed, and answer polls whose results could be shared live. Starting from the opening session, the audience engaged promptly and with enthusiasm, resulting in so many questions that only a portion could be answered in the opening session. The remaining questions and all subsequent submissions were kept alive through the app to be addressed on the last day, through a final Q&A panel handpicked to respond to the topics.

Keynote address:

With David Padmore, the keynote speaker, we discussed four emerging trends that impact our industries: exponential growth in content; ubiquity of technology in our lives through artificial intelligence, Internet of things, machine learning; new distribution models; and the future of work. He challenged each attendee to consider how we cope with these changes individually and collectively.

Padmore identified the key stakeholders in our industry (freelancers, academics, technology providers, service providers, regulators) and current conditions of low prices in the market, short contracts, and high-quality expectations. He suggests that all stakeholders are trying to find solutions for these same problems and they will have to rely on adaptation, continuous learning, communication, and collaboration to succeed. What will be asked of each type of stakeholder highlights a different facet. For service providers, for example, there will be an emphasis on addressing the need to manage remote workforces. Trust is essential and soft skills are vital to create relationships, assemble and reassemble teams. In turn, workforces will need to be responsible for their own learning. The individual knowledge workers need to have autonomy to train and reinvent themselves in a fast-paced era of changes. Automation is essential to meet the simultaneous demands of high quality and speed. It is not a conflict of humans versus machines, rather, the challenge is having humans and machines work together, with a focus on boosting productivity.

My journey through the conference

It was impossible to attend all the session, as there were 94 speakers presenting research results, insights, best practices, language tools and technologies. I selected sessions focused on quality standards in subtitling, platforms, workflows, and tools. I regret missing some sessions dedicated to audio description, dubbing, live subtitling, or respeaking. The Conference Catalogue, with printed session abstracts, helped me investigate session topics and make the hard choices of which to attend in person. It also facilitates follow-up and outreach to speakers after those three intense days of the conference. For the dedicated researcher, the Conference Catalogue includes bibliographies that point you to the source materials to do your own digging.

Finer Points of Subtitling

An often cited rule of thumb in subtitling is the “six-seconds rule” that recommends that a full two-line subtitle should be displayed for a maximum of six seconds. On this topic, Agnieszka Szarkowska presented research delving into reading speed, also referred to as subtitle presentation speed or presentation rate. Through a combination of methods, like eye tracking, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, she and Olivia Gerber-Moron determined that many modern viewers can keep up with faster subtitles. Olivia Garber-Morón presented their conclusions on subtitle segmentation, confirming that non-syntactically segmented subtitles increase viewers’ cognitive load and negatively affects comprehension.

Many sessions touched on subtitling quality and quality models were discussed. One presenter, Jan Pedersen, proposed a model for assessing general quality of interlingual subtitles: the FAR model. Other models consider not just the subtitled product or assess language alone, but look at the whole process, including social, working and environmental factors that can impact final quality results.

On the technology front, cloud-based tools and workflows were the focus, and a list of related pros and cons were discussed: on the one hand, they require no installation, they allow login from any computer, version updates occur in real-time, they offer control and content security, and they make collaboration easier. On the other hand, they don’t support old video formats, they may require video processing, and they will keep the translator sidelined if there is no internet connection.

In a poll taken during the Netflix presentation, translators indicated the features they would like to see in a CAT-tool. A word-cloud graphic showed that the possibility of working offline is one of the main demands, along with autocorrect, spell check, translation memory, and others.

I had the opportunity to attend to sessions from Ooona, Star Group, Dotsub, and SubtitleNext. Alex Yoffe, from Ooona, reinforced that the changes in workflows demand fast turnaround, control, consistency, collaboration, and security, stating that these are some of the reasons for the shift to cloud-based tools. They presented their toolkit demonstrating some functionalities and advantages, like open API. Gabriele Kock, from StarGroup, presented Transit for consistent subtitle translations with emphasis on terminology. Tanbir Johal, from Dotsub, presented their cloud-based workflow for video translation management for LSPs with focus on collaboration in complex workflows. Vladimir Stanic, from SubtitleNext, stated that they embrace the best of the cloud and desktop worlds, presenting a hybrid model where they merge cloud storage and collaboration with the offline availability of local storage.


In the closing session, the polling platform helped the organizers evaluate the overall experience of attendees at the conference. Over 70% of attendees gave a favorable (7) or better rating for an overall score of 7.1 on a 1-10 scale.

They asked the audience which topics should be on the agenda for next time.

You can expect that dubbing, respeaking, quality and workflow will be future featured topics if organizers continue in the vein of responsiveness to audience requests.

From my personal experience, it was a great opportunity to learn, network, and do business. I was able to meet Anna Matamala, Lecturer at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, and Jorge Diaz-Cintas, Lecturer at University College London. They are two authors whose books and papers everyone in the field had read. They generously took the time to discuss my research project with me and to provide guidance and insights. This type of personal connection with leading thinkers in our field is priceless so I encourage anyone with a passion for language transfer in audiovisual media to consider attending the 2020 conference.

#AVT #languagesmedia

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