Some people don’t like their jobs, some people do. Then, there are those of us who go to work to watch the World Cup. I am lucky enough to be one of that wonderful last group. I am a live subtitler in our Spanish office in sunny Seville. We are a team of 30 experienced live subtitlers providing subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for all kind of programs, from news bulletins to talk shows and sports events. The World Cup is a big one for us – and really exciting, indeed.

In Spain we love football and the World Cup also seems to attract people who don’t normally enjoy football matches. This year, more than 10 million people have enjoyed the tournament in Spain, around 70% of the TV audience in the country. Quite impressive!

The World Cup is a very important event for the audience and we make sure we provide the highest quality experience with our unrivalled subtitles. Preparation is key – capturing the lineup names, referees, stadiums… We need to make sure our speech recognition software contains the specific vocabulary for each match, since those names are not in the main dictionary. Live subtitling is created using re-speaking, a subtitling technique based on speech recognition, and, for instance, the names of the South Korean team won’t automatically be in the glossary.

When live subtitling a World Cup match it reminds me of when I used to watch football in the bar with my father and people used to bring their radios – you’d hear “Goal” from the radio speaker before the ball reached the net. That is what I experience in the subtitling booths. To avoid extra delay on the subtitles, we receive an audio feed from the broadcaster before everyone else. It causes a strange feeling – a mix of the anxiety of not being synchronized with the image and the excitement of knowing beforehand what will happen with a penalty or an offside decision.

All those feelings are even stronger when you’re watching your own national team, in my case Spain, La Roja (the Red One). Just imagine watching a penalty kick and trying to keep calm – changes in tone due to stress can affect the quality of recognition. I have learnt to turn off the microphone, curse the referee or celebrate madly and come back to re-speaking as if nothing had happened. Blessed On/Off keys! – I can’t thank our beloved software programmers enough for that important option.

You need to be mentally strong to prepare for a football match that you’re emotionally involved in. Live subtitling is based on mental agility and retention, stimulating short-term memory, along with visual and auditory memory – and this is simply not compatible with celebrating a goal and jumping up and down. Keeping calm and quiet is our mantra.In short, if you are a sports fan like me, you’ll really enjoy this job. More so, when you realize that by keeping your nerve, you have helped thousands of people to have full access to the excitement and passion of the World Cup. It’s a very rewarding job!

Sergio Saborido, Live Subtitler

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