More haste less speed: Edited versus verbatim respoken subtitles


  • Pablo Romero-Fresco


Edited subtitles, live subtitling, respeaking, SDH, speed, verbatim subtitles


The choice between edited and verbatim subtitles has always been a controversial issue in subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH). Whereas scholars often support editing, deaf associations tend to demand verbatim subtitles as the only way to have full access to audiovisual programmes. Now that European legislation is making SDH no longer a privilege but a right for all viewers, this demand for verbatim subtitles has also been extended to live programmes. Yet, live subtitles, nowadays mostly produced by speech recognition (respeaking), present a different situation and require a different analysis. The aim of this article is to provide a description of respoken subtitles, especially with regard to their speed. First of all, an overview is given of the different parties involved in the issue of subtitling speed, followed by a review of the research carried out so far and of the guidelines that have been implemented as a result, with particular focus on the UK. Then, an analysis is presented of ten respoken programmes broadcast by the BBC, providing data regarding the speed of the original soundtrack, the speed of respoken subtitles, the amount of editing carried out and the information lost in this process. The results obtained in this analysis show that verbatim respoken subtitles, at least in the programmes analysed, are rarely produced. It is argued that editing, as currently carried out by respeakers, causes a minimal loss of information, especially as compared to the potential loss of information for viewers reading respoken subtitles at the current speeds.


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