Romero-Fresco, Pablo (ed.) (2015). The Reception of Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Europe.
Peter Lang: Bern, Switzerland, pp. 381, £67.00/€84.00. ISBN: 978 3034316286.
Accessibility translation has become increasingly popular, aiming to ensure audiovisual texts within the media are accessible for deaf and hard of hearing (DHOH) and blind and partially sighted audiences through subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) and audio description (AD), respectively. As we reach a time of even more technological advances, there has been a substantial increase in the number of experiments, in particular, on SDH reception due to specific demands for heightened quality in access services.
This book is the product of the largest reception study and collaborative research project funded by the European Commission: DTV4ALL, in which viewers’ subtitling preferences were sought through questionnaires and their comprehension measured through eye-tracking tests. The project undoubtedly falls into the category of accessibility translation as it focuses on access services, more specifically on the quality of SDH and audience reception throughout Europe using eye-tracking technology.
Just as the DTV4ALL project, the book is comprised of two parts; part one begins with “Viewers’ opinion of SDH in Europe,” and contains 7 chapters, which focus on the European countries involved in the project: Denmark (Henrik Gottlieb), Poland (Agnieszka Szarkowska, Joanna Pietrulewicz, Anna Jankowska), Italy (Carlo Eugeni), Spain (Verónica Arnáiz-Uzquiza), the UK (Pablo Romero-Fresco), France (Tia Muller) and Germany (Juliane Mascow). Each chapter provides the reader with an overview of the DHOH community and contextualises the current situation by noting the audiovisual landscape of each country, giving the reader international overviews of SDH practice. The analysis of each country continues with detailed observations and comments on subtitling processes, preferred modes of subtitling and difficulties faced. Claims are evidenced by detailed statistics based on data collated from the long questionnaires, carried out in each country, designed to determine the viewing preferences of DHOH communities.
The volume advances with part two, “Viewers’ comprehension and perception of SDH in Europe.” This commences with chapter 8 by Esté Hefer-Jordaan in which the author presents a critical discussion on the concept of eye tracking. An inter-disciplinary approach draws upon scientific, translation and linguistic theory to provide the reader with ample definitions of terminology such as reading, fixations and saccades. As part two continues, chapters 9-12 present the reader with the results of the DTV4ALL eye-tracking studies on SDH in the countries that had access to eye-tracking technology: Poland, Spain, Italy and Germany. The authors provide brief overviews of the demographics of participants and present the main results of the second half of the project. The chapters detail findings of viewers' comprehension measured against the following parameters: character identification, mean reading time, subtitling style, position on screen and sounds amongst others. Each author provides a strong conclusion on the specific findings of the SDH parameters, and in many instances, these corroborate the viewers' preferences. Part two ends with chapter 13 by Pablo Romero-Fresco and is for those who have followed the often-complex discussion of verbatim versus edited subtitles. Here, the author introduces the term of viewing speed as a new concept and presents a balanced view on this long-standing debate, which is an affirmed aspect of quality in SDH.
Although the quantitative content could be deemed as dense, the book takes full advantage of the ever-expanding development of technology as it offers a scientific approach using eye-tracking technology and presents sturdy data, which could aid in adopting further legislation to boost audience reception. The study provokes thought on the validity of current practices and emphasises whether viewers' needs are being met or if revisions are required in order to enhance audience reception. The book successfully notes differences in legislation across Europe and highlights current AVT norms in each particular country, which in turn encourages the growing trend of collaboration between academia and the industry.
Ultimately, students, researchers and professionals would absolutely benefit from the thorough account of the DTV4ALL project, the invaluable data presented and the clear structure of the book. Offering a broad international overview of what has been practiced in various European countries with regards to SDH, this resource emphasises the importance of such a project that presents a comparable study of audiences and their preferences in relation to subtitling. As reception studies continue to grow, all-round beneficial publications such as this are essential in reaching out to broadcasters, professionals, and more importantly, the viewers.
This book should, without a doubt, appear on the resource list of all subtitling courses, underlining the importance of audience reception to future professionals. Meanwhile, we hope the authors will continue to pursue such studies so we can immerse ourselves in another volume before long.
University of Roehampton, London