Machine Translation

How Automatic Speech Recognition & Machine Translation are Revolutionizing Subtitling

How Automatic Speech Recognition & Machine Translation are Revolutionizing Subtitling

For many people, watching videos has become part of their daily lives. Whether they are watching the trending videos on TikTok, a “how-to” video on YouTube, or a television show, they are likely viewing several videos per day.

As videos continue to be generated and shared on phones, tablets, and laptops, viewers are appreciating the flexibility that subtitles offer them. After all, they can watch the videos with the sound turned off, and the experience is not hindered by language barriers.

While subtitles have become an essential part of videos and real-time programming, the process of adding them to a video can be tedious. Fortunately, automatic speech recognition (ASR) and machine translation are transforming how subtitles are produced, making them much easier to create.

Subtitles Matter to Viewers

Although they were used differently than they are today, subtitles can be traced back to the early 1900s, when they were added to silent films to help keep viewers engaged. Filmmakers relied on these subtitles to provide context to what viewers were watching.

As audio became part of television shows and film, subtitles grew into a necessary means for people who had hearing difficulties. Although they are still utilized for that reason, they have become mainstream among most viewers. As such, businesses are realizing that subtitles are an essential part of their video production.

The advantages of using subtitles include:

  • Allowing viewers to watch videos made in other languages: Without subtitles, countless potential customers would be omitted from a company’s messaging radar.
  • Ensuring that international viewers can find the video: The translated text in subtitles helps viewers locate videos as they conduct queries.
  • Generating text for search engine optimization (SEO): Subtitles help videos reach higher ranking online because of the inclusion of keywords.
  • Keeping viewers engaged: Viewers who fluently speak the source language are selecting the subtitle option so they can read the text while watching a video. This helps in situations in which they want to view the video, but need the sound to be turned off.
  • Enhancing the viewer experience: Subtitles provide a certain level of comfort to users, whether they speak another language, have hearing difficulties, or simply like having them available.

Although subtitling clearly has great benefits, creating the text can be challenging, especially if you do not have the time, budget, or skills required to generate quality subtitles. However, the solution to those issues can be found with ASR and machine translation technologies.

A Quick Look at Automated Speech Recognition

Before delving into how ASR and machine translation are used for subtitles, it will be helpful to gain a general understanding of both types of technology.

ASR is part of the growing world of artificial Intelligence (AI), and it involves converting audio content into text. With the technological advancements made in ASR, it is becoming useful in almost every industry. ASR relies on machine learning algorithms to recognize spoken words and promptly write them.

From voice-to-text capabilities on smart phones to the use of at-home virtual assistants, many people use ASR to help them complete tasks, such as creating a grocery list or dictating notes.

A Snapshot of Machine Translation

Machine translation is the process of using a computer program to translate text from one language to another. Because they are capable of processing millions of words per hour, machines can efficiently produce useful translations in most languages.

Like ASR, machine translation has evolved over time, with enhanced accuracy and speed. With the development of AI and neural machine translation, machine-generated outputs are becoming better accompaniments to the translations conducted by humans.

ASR and Machine Translation are a Perfect Match for Subtitling

When working on subtitles, the first step is to transcribe the audio that is part of the video. One way to achieve this is to type the transcript one word at a time; needless to say, this can be a slow process.

However, the development of ASR has significantly changed the way this transcription can be done. Now, with the ASR technology, a transcript can be automatically generated; the ASR program recognizes the spoken words, then develops it as on-screen scripts.

The ASR technology works in two ways:

  • Offline ASR, which is a great option for television shows, movies, or pre-recorded media.
  • Live ASR, which allows users to create captions in real-time, making it a perfect choice for anything that is broadcast live, such as sports events or televised performances.

The next step for creating the subtitles is machine translation, which is necessary if the video is to be viewed in other languages. This process involves inputting the source text into the machine, then receiving the output in the target language.

Following the transcription and translation processes, the subtitles can be added to their corresponding video segments.

ASR and Machine Translation have Numerous Benefits for Subtitling

As more businesses explore the capabilities of ASR and machine translation, their popularity will continue to grow. The benefits of using the two processes for generating subtitles include:

  • Quickly making videos available to everyone: ASR and machine translation can rapidly generate subtitles either ahead of time or while an event is occurring to make content accessible to all viewers. Because ASR instantly captures speech, the subtitles are available quicker than if they had been typed.
  • Easily providing context to the videos. Since the automated processes are efficient to use, they can easily give context to what is happening in the video, especially if the audio quality is poor or the subject is complex.
  • Increasing marketing and sales. People spend more time watching videos with subtitles than without. As such, they are more likely to remain on your website and purchase your products. This can be accomplished more efficiently with ASR and machine translation.
  • Reducing expenses while increasing efficiency: Because of the time that is saved on transcription and translation, the entire video production process is more efficient, resulting in a cost savings.
  • Ensuring a competitive advantage. The use of technology permits businesses to spend time expanding their brands and marketing their products, allowing them to gain a competitive edge in their industry.

Challenges with Subtitling Technology

While the AI machine translation processes have tremendous advantages, they have limitations as well. Some of the ASR challenges include:

  • The technology is hindered by grammar: Rules of grammar can be challenging for machines. As an example, homophones, which are words that sound alike but have different meanings, can cause mistakes in an ASR output.
  • Specialized terminology creates issues: Many industries, such as the legal and medical fields, have their own unique jargon. ASR systems can have difficulties with comprehending and correctly relaying the information.
  • The quality of the equipment affects the output: If a person is speaking into an ASR system, they need to use equipment that has specific capabilities, including the ability to eliminate background noise.
  • Speaker clarity can affect what the technology hears: Naturally, how clearly the speaker talks and how well the technology can understand the words have an effect on the quality of the ASR transcript.

Machine translation technology has some issues that are similar to the ones with ASR, such as challenges with grammar and specialized terminology. In addition, machine translators have problems relaying human traits, such as nuances, humor, and the intended tone of the message.

Machine Translation Post-Editing: The Final Step

To overcome the limitations of ASR and machine translation, there is a critical step that should be added to the subtitling process; that step is machine translation post-editing (MTPE). By combining the speed and efficiency of ASR and machine translation with the benefits of human translation, MTPE ensures that the final subtitles are top-notch.

After the subtitles have been created through ASR and machine translation, human translators will review the text and make edits to ensure the content is accurate and clear. Both light post-editing and heavy post-editing are available, depending on the amount of assistance needed for the subtitles.

Partner with a Language Services Provider for the Best Subtitles

There are numerous online programs and apps available for people to use to create subtitles on their own. However, it is vital to realize that ASR tools and an automatic translation service can only do so much. As such, contract with a professional translation company to ensure:

  • Accuracy: Adding erroneously written subtitles to a video will turn customers away from you and toward your competitors. By working with an agency, you can be guaranteed that your subtitles will be accurate and will correctly relay your message.
  • Efficiency: Although using subtitling software might seem more efficient, it could add time to the process if you need to go backward to correct mistakes.
  • System integration: ASR programs, machine translation systems, and other necessary software do not always seamlessly work together. When working with a translation company, you are gaining access to their expertise and their tools. The agency will ensure that the transcription, translation, and MTPE processes are completely integrated.
  • Customization: While the combination of processes produces stellar results, you might need something different to suit your requirements. Working with an agency allows services to be customized to meet your specific needs.

After exploring the benefits of ASR and machine translation, it is clear that the technology will continue to revolutionize the video industry with quickly generated and translated subtitles. To be guaranteed top-notch results, partner with a machine translation services company with expertise in subtitling.


The world of subtitling is being transformed with the help of automatic speech recognition and machine translation. Together, the two processes can create a transcript of your video and translate it in record time. Learn how these technological advancements are making subtitle generation quick and efficient.

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