Matamala, Ana, Pilar Orero (eds) (2010). Listening to subtitles. Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
Wien: Peter Lang, pp. 235, 28 coloured and 10 b/w ill., 15 tables, 10 graphs. EUR 37.10. ISBN 978 3 0343 0353 8.
In the time of the analogue shut-off, this book arises with fresh information related to the future of subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) in this new era. This collection of interconnected studies provides a very thorough picture of the current challenges and possibilities of SDH. The information provided is so contemporary and practical that this book becomes a very attractive reading both for SHD experts and for people who are totally new to the world of accessibility.
The introduction to this work (by the editors together with Ana Pereira) presents this work as one of the outcomes of the research project Research and development of the criteria regarding the creation of subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for digital television (SUBSORDIG). Furthermore, this book also offers the results of two other related projects: R+D Project and Digital Television for All. All these projects share a common goal: the improvement of the quality of accessibility services for people with hearing disabilities.
The book starts with a prologue written by Peter Olaf Looms where some of the challenges of Digital TV (DTV) are presented. After Loom's general background introduction to the analogue shut-off era, the book turns to a more detailed description of specific problems, studies, and proposals as regards SDH.
Inmaculada C. Báez Montero and Ana Mª Fernández Soneira classify and describe the different groups of users that can benefit from SDH, subjects ranging from deep deafness to partial loss of hearing. Each group poses its own peculiarities that should be born in mind when it comes to develop and study new guidelines and technological advances as far as SDH is concerned. Carmen Cabeza-Pereiro, in the second article, reviews the concept of "grammaticalisation" in order to focus on the group of SDH users whose main language of communication is sign language. Their different reading-writing learning models need to be acknowledged and understood by people involved in SDH.
After the previous studies that introduce us to the world of SDH users and their relationship with language, the book turns to the detailed description of the studies included in the SUBSORDIG project. Francisco Utray, Belén Ruiz and José Antonio Moreiro offer the results of a series of tests aimed at determining the most effective font size for SDH, and they establish the specifications of a subtitle magnifier application that will allow SDH users to amplify the size of their subtitles optionally within DTV. Related to this study, Eduard Bartoll and Anjana Martínez Tejerina discuss a series of empirical tests undertaken so as to establish the most suitable font, size, and position (especially the latter) for SDH, taking into account audience members' preferences.
In a different line, the next four articles, presented by Ana Pereira and Lourdes Lorenzo, attempt to assess the users' reception of complex data. The two contributions by Ana Pereira focus on two different issues: the first one presents a series of tests carried out in order to assess the validity of a set of criteria (technical, orthotypographical, linguistic) for the elaboration of quality SDH, while the second one describes the defining features of Spanish Sign Language (SSL), comparing them with the general rules of the Spanish language, so as to discuss both how SSL syntax can be introduced in SDH, and how this would be received by the audience who uses SSL as their main mode of communication. After Pereira's studies, Lourdes Lorenzo offers two interconnected articles: the first one describes a case study to assess the communicative efficiency of the criteria included in the Spanish subtitling standard (UNE 153010) for deaf and hard of hearing children, while the second one offers solutions and recommendations to guide subtitlers involved in the production of SDH for children in Spain, especially in those areas where UNE 153010 appears to be deficient or inadequate.
In the contribution that follows, Clara Civera and Pilar Orero analyze the possibilities offered by the use of icons in SDH, to express sound context, as well as to identify the speakers and their moods, with the goal of enhancing the reception of contextual information and reducing subtitle text at the same time.
The last four articles of the book are more focused on proposals for further research. In this sense, Verónica Arnáiz Urquiza suggests the use of eye-tracking technologies to improve the study of subtitles conventions and preferences; Pablo Romero-Fresno introduces the European project D'Artagnan,that is starting to perform tests in different European countries in order to analyse the common patterns and the discrepancies between viewers across Europe in the difficult quest for a European harmonisation of SDH. Gilles Boulianne and other members of the Centre de recherché informatique de Montréal present a summary of the results of the challenging experience of offering live closed-captioning of TV broadcasts in French using speech recognition systems with simultaneous human revision. Finally, Álvaro Pérez-Ugena, Ricardo Vizcaíno-Laorga, and Deborah Rolph describe their experiences testing the use of SDH in a virtual avatar environment that makes use of sign language, as part of the project ULISES (The logical and integrated use of the European System of Sign Language). The book closes with a comprehensive bibliography of SDH by Ana Pereira and Verónica Arnaíz Urquija, from the SUSORDIG project.
The great amount of research-based contributions included in this work turn it into a very updated and trustworthy reference. Although not all the articles are equally practical and the research results present different degrees of generalisation, the book as a whole constitutes a very stable point of departure in order to draft consistent European guidelines for the creation of SDH, as well as for the development of new accessibility-oriented technological implementations.
Noa Talaván Zanón, Dpto. de Filologías Extranjeras y sus Lingüísticas, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia