Auto-subtitling of winter olympics broadcasts

The auto-subtitling for the broadcasts of the winter olympic games on Australian television (provided by an independent company) seems to have three approaches to rendering the many different names of competitors from many different countries.

The first is to leave them out completely, which sometimes leaves a gap in the sentence. The second is to take a wild guess at it. Several times. It tried four times to spell the surname of the eventual winner of the men’s luge David Gleirscher before, obviously, a human overrode it, after which it was rendered correctly. The third is obviously when a human has provided the names already, for example Saturday night’s speed skaters Carlijn Achtereekte, Sjinkie Knegt and the unfortunately named Semen Elistratov. (It’s a perfectly good Russian/Ukranian equivalent of Simon. Most sources give his name as Semen, but Wikipedia renders Семён as Semion.)

So obviously there is some level of human programming of some different names from some different countries. The competitor list has been available for days or weeks or months (and these people have been on the competitive circuit for years), so why don’t they use it?

In 2012 Victoria Azarenka won the Australia open tennis championships. During the presentation ceremony, the auto-subtitling referred to her as ‘Victoria as a drinker’. Surely it (or the humans behind it) can do better than that.

(I’d like to make it clear that I don’t fully understand how auto-subtitling of live programs works, and that the humans behind it do a much better job than I would be able to do.)

(added 17 Feb: last night in the women’s aerials, the commentators were saying the names of the Chinese competitors family name first, but the autosubtitling was giving them given name first.)

 

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PyeongChang v Pyeongchang

The Winter Olympic Games open on Friday this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The venue is officially styled as PyeongChang, but is better transliterated as Pyeongchang. There is no reason for the second capital letter, and no other Korean city, town or geographical feature is given with a capital letter in the middle (sometimes called camel case (or CamelCase)). The 1988 Summer Olympic games were not in SeoUl. (That just looks weird.) Wikipedia states that this style has been adopted to prevent confusion with Pyeongyang (citing Agence France-Presse). The most common transliteration of the northern capital’s name is Pyongyang (possibly following the DPRK’s own use) while that for the southern county* is Pyeongchang (following Revised Romanisation). It’s the same spelling in hangeul. Searching for ‘Pyeongyang’ and ‘Pyongchang’ automatically reverts to the official/most common transliteration.

*Pyeongchang is not even officially a town, let alone a city. Gangneung, the venue for most of the skating events, is city.

Chung Hyeon, or Hyeon Chung

The Australian Open tennis tournament is currently being played in Melbourne. I’m not particularly a tennis fan, but the tournament, players, matches, results, future matches and extreme weather conditions are in the news.

Last night my wife came home with the news that a South Korean player Chung Hyeon, or Hyeon Chung had beaten former champion and world number one Novak Djokovich.

Korean names are given family-name first. Chung’s family name is Chung. Korean given names are usually two syllables, but one or three are not unknown. In fact, Wikipedia reports that there is a law requiring given names to be no longer than five syllables. I have never encountered a Korean with a five-syllable given name, or even a three syllable one. In one class at a Korean high school, I had one student with a three syllable given name and another with a one syllable name. (There are also a handful of two-syllable surnames.) Continue reading

Samsung, Chilsung, Subaru

Samsung is a South Korean company best known for mobile phones and other consumer electronics. Its name in Korean 삼성 (sam-seong), means “three stars”, but doesn’t refer to any three stars in particular. The Korean pronunciation is closer to /samsɒŋ/ (psalm song), but almost everyone in English-speaking countries pronounces it /sæmsʌŋ/ (Sam sung). In fact, I was prompted to write this by a video on photography in which the presenter pronounced it /sæmsʊŋ/ (closest to Sam should). Korean doesn’t have a close equivalent to English /ʊ/.

Chilsung is a very popular brand of lemonade (cider) made by the Lotte Corporation. Its name in Korean 칠성 (chil-seong) means “seven stars”, and refers to the Big Dipper. I haven’t heard enough foreigners pronounce to know how they pronounce it. Spelling both words with a u messes up foreigners’ conception of the vowel. Revised Romanisation transliterates it eo and McCune–Reischauer ŏ. u transliterates ㅜ (/u/) in both systems. Continue reading

Singing in Korean

Sometime about the beginning of November, my wife arranged with the conductor of her church choir that I could join them to sing in a cantata on Christmas Day. (My church choir is singing at a very early service, and I just can’t get there in time.) I have been attending Sunday afternoon rehearsals for about six weeks, and learning the words by myself on the train. The music is straightforward enough, but the words are entirely in Korean. I’ve sung (actually performed) in other languages before; lots of Latin, some German and French, a sprinkling of Italian, Spanish and Welsh, one movement of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in Hebrew and all of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers in Russian. As far as I can remember, the words for the Bernstein were given in transliteration, but the words for the Rachmaninoff were in Cyrillic and transliteration. (Hebrew is written right-to-left, and would not naturally fit into in a musical score. I have seen a hymn in Arabic for Arabic-speaking Christians, and the whole score is reversed.)

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Dawid

Hot on the heels of posting about variations of the name Francis yesterday, I discovered that a player in the England cricket team currently touring Australia is named Dawid Malan. Wikipedia lists 160 variations from 91 languages – more languages but fewer variations than Francis.

Dawid (pronounced DAH-vid in Malan’s case) is listed as Afrikaans (he was born in England to South African parents; his father has the same name), Polish and Swedish, and as a transliteration of Biblical Hebrew, Korean (though I would transliterate it Dawit), Syriac and Yiddish.

When my first boss in Korea took me to the immigration agency, he unhesitatingly wrote 데이비드 (de-i-bi-deu), so I use that spelling when I have to write my name in Korean (which is not often). Korean translations of the bible use 다윗 (da-wit); many biblical names in Korean are closer to the Hebrew original than to the English version.

Mike Klitschko, The Cock Prohibited and The Icy Python

For a few days now, various contributors to Language Log have been exploring the fact that repeatedly typing one letter, character or syllable, or even a string of random letters, characters or syllables, into Google Translate results in ‘translations’ which a) have nothing to do with those letters, characters or syllables and b) are sometimes funny, baffling or seemingly meaningful. In the first such post, Mark Liberman reported that Japanese ュース (which Google Translate translates as juice) entered repeatedly eventually results in:

It is a good thing for you to do.
It is good to know the things you do not do.
It is good to know the things you do not mind.
It is a good idea to have a good view of the surrounding area.

Continue reading