The Ridiculous SOTU Spanish Subtitles Made Us Laugh And Cry At The Same Time


Jan 28, 2015 / by Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen


From Huffpost Latino Voices...


Article Excerpt: The White House YouTube account offered a version of Tuesday's state of the union speech with Spanish subtitles. But as the bloggers at Latino Rebels immediately noticed, the closed-captioning was atrocious. 

Most of it flew by so fast it was impossible to catch to anyone but hyper-caffeinated speed readers. The captions that did remain on the screen long enough to read often contained egregious errors that made the text incomprehensible. It appeared that more than one translator was on the job -- one who wrote normally and one who wrote in all caps. The all-caps translator was responsible for the lion's share of the errors.


Link to the full article here.


InterpretAmerica's Take: On the surface, the fact that the translators hired to provide closed captioning for the President's recent State of the Union speech did such an atrocious job is something most people laugh at. But those of us in the language services industry may see a more troubling trend. Similar to the fake sign language interpreter who somehow made it onto the roster of official interpreters for Nelson Mandela's memorial service and ended up "interpreting" President Obama's remarks at the event. the poor quality of closed captioning during a major speech shows a distressing lack of competence not just in the translators but in whoever was tasked to hire them. How is it that the we repeatedly see the lack of professional translators and interpreters being hired for the highest profile events in US politics?. Millions of Spanish-speaking Americans and people from around the world relied on that closed caption Spanish feed. Instead of having access to President Obama's intended message, they were stuck with a mish-mash of unintelligible posts that effectively negated his intended message for an important part of the audience. These repeat incidences reveal continued ignorance of the critically important role professional interpreters and translators play in facilitating smooth multilingual and international commuinication. The question then becomes, what can we do to break through that ignorance?

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