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The Reception of Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Europe

UK, Spain, Italy, Poland, Denmark, France and Germany

Edited By Pablo Romero-Fresco

This is the first volume to deal specifically with the quality of subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) in Europe, with contributions from the UK, Spain, Italy, Poland, Denmark, France and Germany. Drawing on the results of the EU-funded project DTV4ALL, the book looks at the issue of quality in the reception of SDH in Europe as a combination of three factors: what viewers think about SDH, how they understand these subtitles and how they view them. The viewers’ preferences have been obtained through questionnaires and their comprehension has been analysed with tests, involving clips with SDH and questions. The viewers’ perception has been measured with eye-tracking technology, involving the analysis of 71,070 subtitles in what is so far the largest international eye-tracking study on subtitling. With this research, we have sought to obtain both subjective (preferences) and objective (comprehension and perception) data that can inform national guidelines on SDH. The book also introduces the notion of viewing speed and points to the existence of certain universals of SDH and subtitling that can contribute to advance our understanding of how different types of viewers from different nationalities view, process and understand subtitles as a means to access audiovisual content.
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As pointed out in the introduction to this volume, the heterogeneity of the audiovisual landscapes and hearing-impaired communities in every country as well as the different social, economic and political situation make it very difficult to even think about harmonising SDH practices in Europe. With this in mind, the researchers involved in this project have sought to embrace this heterogeneity, thus obtaining findings that are specific to the countries involved in the project and essential for the creation of national guidelines and others that are illustrative of European viewers (with and without hearing loss) as a whole.

Starting with the former, in Denmark, the great majority of the widely watched foreign programmes are in English, a language that most Danes claim to speak well enough in order to be able to follow the news on radio or television or to even have a conversation. Interlingual subtitling is the most common mode of audiovisual translation and intralingual subtitles for viewers with hearing loss are now becoming more common, with close to 100% of the domestic programmes currently offering SDH on five DR channels. The problem is that, according to the findings obtained in this study, many people (one in four amongst the deaf and almost half of the hard-of-hearing respondents) are not aware of this service, which should be advertised more widely amongst all viewers. Indeed, just as deaf and hard-of-hearing Danes watch interlingual subtitles even though they are not designed for viewers with hearing loss, SDH are also...

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