It’s very common to see people say “just read the subtitles/captions” when there are calls for sign language interpreters.
But is it really that simple? Is that enough? Spoiler alert: no. But it’s not complicated to understand why it’s not enough either. There are reasons why:
1) subtitles/captions are not enough in certain scenarios, and
2) sign language interpreters can relay the message better for many people who communicates in sign language only.
Even for someone like myself who does not depend on sign language, it is heart-breaking yet frustrating for me to see people who do depend on it and it’s their native language, they are neglected in more ways than one. It’s even worse when they are neglected in scenarios which are literally life and death, like during a global pandemic.
You can watch the video about this topic:
…listen to the podcast below or on your platform of choice…:
…or read the transcripts instead.
Here’s a thought: when are there situations where caption or subtitle is not enough? It won’t do you need something more, like you need to have sign language interpreters.
The reason I ask that is because all of the time when people say, “oh, just follow the captions”, it’s not all that straightforward because sometimes we all know there are autocaptions, aka ‘craptions’, and that’s not going to be enough for a certain situation. And I’ll get to that in a moment.
But I see this all the time. And I’ve seen a lot during the pandemic when people are saying, “why are there no sign language interpreters for important, essentially life or deaf information news, why are there no interpreters?”.
And then people respond by saying just “follow the captions” and a lot of the time the captions, as I said, they are autocaptions, so it’s difficult to learn what’s going on and follow instructions provided by, let’s just say the government, when the information is not correct, the information passed on is not even comprehensible. You can’t even understand it.
So it’s not enough; subtitle in this situation, it just won’t do.
I’ll be honest; for me, I never really thought about it in that much details until the pandemic happened and there are the daily press briefings and even if it’s not daily, just general briefing from government about “here is the situation, this is what we’re going to do, this is what you need to do and we’ll get through it”.
But it’s even more important that the information is understandable. However, people just don’t get it because they don’t understand that sign language for some people is their first language. So reading it in their essentially second language, it’s not going to work. You need to be able to learn these information in your first language or your chosen language, your main language. And for some people, it’s sign language.
So that’s why when people say follow the captions, first of all, if it’s autocaptions for anyone, they’re not gonna be good enough anyway. And second of all, even if it’s accurate, if done by a human, and even if there are transcripts afterrward, in a situation like this, which is not going to be forever, hopefully, but in the situation like the pandemic, then we need that information to be understandable for every single person…including deaf people. Yes, we exist.
Which is it’s a shame in situations like in the UK, really, particularly England, even still, after over a year and a half of the pandemic happening and there had been campaigns #WhereIsTheInterpreter, people shouting about sign language interpreter during the government briefings. And that hasn’t happened really in England.
Other places in UK it happened. Other places around the world, most occasion in the developed world, in the Western world really, it has happened. But even in developing country, they’ve got the sign language interpreters, but in England it hasn’t. And that’s where the conversation really started to talk about “well, we’ve got caption. Just follow the caption”.
No, no, no…it won’t do. It’s just not enough.
Put it this way, people say just follow the captioning. You can read it, then you should be able to understand it. But I would like to argue this point.
If let’s just say you understand the English language, then technically you can read French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portugues…you can read it because most of the letters are the same. But just because you can read, it doesn’t mean you would understand it.
And even if you understood some words, then that’s not going to be good enough in a situation where it’s life and death…Literally, life and death information, would that work? Would you be happy to accept “you know what? I can read and I can get the gist of the information. It’s enough.”
Would you really be happy with that?
The same thing applied if you’re learning a language, you’re trying to understand what’s going on, and it’s just scary if you think about it, being left out of important information. So imagine you are in a situation either you are learning the language or you got an idea of what that language means in your language.
Then if you are not able to follow along, you’re going to be really left alone. You might be scared. You might be anxious because you are left out of those critical information.
And is that going to be enough for you? No! In your situation, you would need a translator to help you to make sure you understand the information provided for you. And even if it’s not a pandemic, it could be a situation, for example, like, well, you are abroad and for some reason you need to go to see a doctor. And unfortunately, that doctor does not understand your language. That’s going to cause issues, isn’t it?
I can going to see a doctor where there are communication barriers, language barriers. And no, it’s not going to be enough if you raise your volume and trying to make sure that they understand English by speaking louder and slower, that’s not going to work.
You do realise that, right? People do that, especially the British holidaymakers. I’ve noticed when they go abroad and it seems like if you speak slower and louder in English, then people understand you.
No, that’s not going to work!
Think about those situations like in Wales where they have the English language. People speak English here, but they have their own Welsh language as well. And I’m pretty certain that they will be able to provide information in both languages because people speak those languages in a country. So it’s kind of similar.
So then let’s take it back to the situation where those press briefings by the government, they are autocaptions…”just follow the captions. It would be enough”…It’s just not enough. And that is one of those rare situations where really captions are not enough. You need sign language interpreters in those situation. In other situation, you could get away with it. I’m saying you should, but you could get away with it.
For example, those fun videos on YouTube, you might get away with it. But don’t do that please, just caption your videos. It’s just better that way. But I would like to argue the case where if it’s crucial information that every single citizen needs to know that information, then it needs to be in a language that they’re able to understand. And, yes, that language is also in your country.
If it’s sign language, if it’s British Sign Language, if it the American Sign Language, that is the language of your country. So don’t be arguing by saying, “oh, no, but we speak English here…oh we speak Spanish here”, whatever. No, you also have your own local languages as well.
And dare I say it, you even have some Indigenous languages and even those languages where there are dying out, or even those languages were just so unique to, like, country, like in Wales, they have their own language.
Now, I’d love to know what you think. Is it enough? Will it do by having just captioned in this situation, even if it’s autocaption or if it’s just human-generated caption? Will it be enough?
I’d like to think not. But if you don’t agree with me, let me know in the comments. And while you share your own thoughts, make sure you hit the Like button or the Subscribe or the Follow or the hug or the high five or the socially distance elbow-bump…whatever it is, make sure you do all of that. I would love to hear from you as well.
On top of it, leave a comment below.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon. Take care!
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