Accessibility and multilingualism: an exploratory study on the machine translation of audio descriptions – Anna Matamala & Carla Ortiz-Boix, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona

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Accesibilidad y multilingüismo: un estudio exploratorio sobre la traducción automática de descripciones de audio
Este artículo presenta los resultados de un estudio exploratorio que evalúa la traducción automática de audiodescripciones como una posible solución para aumentar la accesibilidad en entornos multilingües. Se entiende que la accesibilidad abarca dos categorías diferentes: accesibilidad sensorial (en este caso específico, para los ciegos y discapacitados visuales, que no pueden acceder al contenido visual de las producciones audiovisuales) y accesibilidad lingüística (para aquellos que quieren acceder a este contenido en su propio idioma). El artículo presenta algunas reflexiones sobre la traducción como medio para promover el multilingüismo, sobre la viabilidad de traducir descripciones de audio y sobre la traducción automática tal y como se aplica a este tipo de traducción audiovisual, antes de sintetizar los hallazgos del presente estudio y, lo que es más importante, abrir la posibilidad de nuevas vías a la investigación.
This article presents the results of an exploratory study which assesses the machine translation of audio descriptions as offering a possible solution to increase accessibility in multilingual environments. Accessibility is understood to encompass two different categories: sensorial accessibility (in this specific case, for the blind and visually impaired, who cannot access the visual content of audiovisual productions), and linguistic accessibility (for those who want to access this content in their own language). The article presents some thoughts on translation as a means of promoting multilingualism, on the feasibility of translating audio descriptions, and on machine translation as applied to this audiovisual translation mode, before summarising the findings of the present study and, most importantly, opening up new potential avenues for research.

This article has presented a piece of exploratory research that proposes a new application of machine translation for the translation of audio descriptions. The cost of the audio description process makes it difficult to increase the presence of audio description beyond the figures established by law. As a result, new solutions have to be found, ranging from the implementation of technological solutions (machine translation, and text-to-speech) to the adoption of crowd-sourcing approaches. This article offers a solution (which is still undergoing research) that could help cater for the needs of visually impaired people in multilingual countries, such as Spain, by offering them the option of an AD language choice. This corresponds to our view that in multilingual countries, accessibility should be offered not only in one language (usually the dominant one) but would ideally be available in the many and varied languages of the country’s citizens.
The data obtained in this study show that, taking words as a unit, 8% of the automatically translated corpus contains errors. On the other hand, if taking sentences as a reference, mistakes are to be found in around half of the corpus (with percentages of 42.22% for Google Translate and 57.78% when using Apertium). The possibility of improving these figures with specific training in the case of SMT on the one hand, and on the other the effort needed to post-edit the raw machine translation output and raise its quality to the required standards, are undoubtedly two key issues requiring further investigation. Measuring the post-editing effort as opposed to a process involving both human AD creation and human AD translation is an aspect worth analysing at various levels, and we hope to shed light on this in the near future. All in all, this article advocates for wider accessibility in multilingual societies and assesses the implementation of a specific technology (that of machine translation), which would ideally increase the presence of accessible audiovisual content in the language(s) of the audience.
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