When we get free subtitles for a movie (to study a foreign language, for instance), sometimes different countries have different editions of the same movie in different points (political, moral, censorship reasons...), and the problem of fixing the subtitle gets worse than just synchronize/adjust/shift (options available in Gnome Subtitles 1.2).

I think that computer technology is advanced enough nowadays for a software that can recognize some words in the audio stream and check them with the subtitle. The same could be done with different languages, after a first analysis of a subtitle on the same language as spoken in the movie. Does anyone know of any open-source project like this? Might it be much harder than it seems on first sight?

  • Looks like most of the 252 viewers up to now don't usually watch subtitled movies? – Rodrigo Jun 12 '17 at 15:11

Having much more experience with language teaching than software, I think you might find this difficult. For one thing, it is very often extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make direct translations even when you know a language well and I would not under any circumstances rely on a machine to do this for you.

Language is much more about figures of speech than grammar or vocabulary! How do you really convey 'tranquilo' in English? is a very simple example.

Secondly, I agree that watching with subtitles is a valuable learning tool and I have used it myself both for teaching and learning, but please do not ever try to separate culture from language. The two things are so closely related it is impossible to say which came first.

Thirdly, there are too many homomyns (words that sound the same but are different). In fact, in English there are words that are even spelt the same and have different sounds and meanings. Take lead (pronounced led) - it's a metal and it's a verb, (pronounced leed), of which the past simple and past participle are led. How can a machine translate this? I think you would be better off with a good dictionary that translates both ways, plus a book/website that explains idiomatic expressions.

I would say that watching a film with subtitles is especially good for idiomatic expressions. It's a good way to know -this is how you express this feeling or idea in ...... language. Don't expect perfect translations as they don't exist.

In short, if such software exists, I would not trust it at all!

  • I won't translate any subtitles. They're already on the net. I would only try to match them (sound-text and then text-text) based on scattered points where the trust of the voice recognition/text translation was higher. – Rodrigo Nov 23 '15 at 12:04
  • Sorry Rodrigo, like I said, I'm not a software expert, I'm a language teacher. Hopefully somebody else can give you the answer you're looking for. Good luck! – CatM Nov 23 '15 at 19:34

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