The Cameroon Project, June 2010
Subtitling course at ISTI, Yaoundé
In December 2009, Mr Charles Soh, founder of ISTI, Istitute of Translation and Interpretation, visited me in Haarlem, the Netherlands to discuss a possible subtitling course for ISTI students. Could we teach a group of ISTI students subtitling in three weeks? Yes, with an immersion course, but it would mean hard work for the students. "I want Cameroon to become a hub of subtitling," Mr Soh said.
By the end of May I started with 50 students. After about a week with lots of computer problems, viruses and students without computers, a test marked the end of the basic course. I then had to refuse many talented students who did not possess a computer, and 15 students started with the certification part of the course, working very hard in subgroups. They subtitled a number of different videos, ranging from a nature documentary to episodes of "Dr Phil" and "NCIS". What struck me was how helpful they were towards each other.
The final test On June 20, on my final day in Cameroon, the certification ceremony took place. The students held a speech, they had composed a song and had decorated the walls. Radio and tv reporters were there to cover the event. I found myself giving interviews not only in English but in half-forgotten French. The students' gratitude was the best possible reward.
The students started a forum for Cameroonian subtitlers that should evolve into an association of subtitlers. I also advised them to start groups targeting issues like encoding subtitled video files with Virtual Dub, a rates page to prevent them from being exploited by international subtitling companies, and to help each other wherever possible. The students would continue practising and probably start working for channels like Cameroon Radio Television, Canal 2, the Nigerian film industry Nollywood and international subtitling companies. Some of the students that did not make the certification course entered my distance-learning course. The people at ISTI were wonderful hosts and did everything to make my stay enjoyable. They organised some interesting trips in and around Yaoundé, a visit to ASTI, University of Buea, partner of ISTI, a fantastic benefit concert by André-Marie Tala and his band, as well as a number of dinner parties, at one of which we met Mr Tala. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with the Cameroonian students. And it was quite an experience as well to see how people live in Cameroon. I wish them all the best for the future. June 23rd 2010
Haarlem - Netherlands, Bartho Kriek
U-trax - subtitling course, February 2009
U-trax localises games for the international market. Much of their work consists of subtitling-like activities.
To boost quality, eight employees took a tailor-made subtitling course of three weeks. In three weeks time, they learned the basics of subtitling, working in subgroups and individually.
The lectures, given in U-trax' office in the centre of Utrecht, were combined with assignments. During our meetings, the assignments were watched together and extensively discussed.
The course was concluded with an individual test with feedback.
The start of subtitling company Uyngo - Madrid, Spain
In the summer of 2008 we were asked to advise subtitling company Uyngo, that was then starting out.
After an initial consultation, in which we mapped out how we could best advise Uyngo, we made a proposal.
Then our advisory talks started. Every week we delivered to Uyngo a mindmap containing all aspects and details to be discussed.
The mindmaps were used by Uyngo to make notes on during our talks and to share the information in-house. Uyngo kept them on file for further consultation afterwards.
The people of Uyngo were very satisfied with our advice. We continue to collaborate with them, giving further advice and training, and sharing our networks.
Because of our flexible approach, we were able to adjust to their needs.
This way the result lmost became an almost perfect fit.
In May 2008 Alphonsius Ategha came to the Netherlands to complete his subtitling course. Ever since being a little boy, Alphonsius dreamed of making the translations he saw on television and in the cinema. Finally, he took the final step in that direction.
Alphonsius and Bartho, end of May 2008
Alphonsius receiving his Certificate Plans have been made for a Comprehensive Subtitling Course for a group of students in Cameroon. Their goal: employment by the new subtitling company of which Alphonsius is co-owner. July 2008:
A group course has started with Alphonsius Ategha as a subtitling teacher and Bartho Kriek assisting and giving feedback on the assignments.
Material: the Comprehensive Subtitling Course
June 2009: Alphonsius Ategha's company
Communication Facilitators started business:
An interesting aspect may be the resemblance between Cameroon and Canada, both countries having French and English as the main languages.
2007, a subtitling set starts a new life in Cameroon.
Cameroonian Alphonsius Ategha, a long-time subtitling enthusiast started our course. After the course, he wanted to start the first subtitling company in Cameroon.
On the FFF website (organization of Dutch subtitlers) a Screen subtitling set was offered by Bartho Krieks colleague Sabine Mutsaers. The set had survived countless subtitling hours of Sabine behind the indestructable keyboard.
Alphonsius in Cameroon heard about it and was interested. A cousin of his, Tegha, studying in Heidelberg, Germany, was willing to come and collect it So, we decided to drive to the southern Dutch city of Tilburg to pick it up at Sabine's place.
The connections can be rather complicated - so before unplugging, Sabine made a snapshot:
Next problem: the missing manual. After an appeal on the FFF site, another subtitling colleague offered a manual.
Tegha then came to pick up the set in Haarlem. Returning...
...to Heidelberg, he had to change trains six times with the 36 kilo set.
In Heidelberg, Tegha shipped the set to Cameroon. December 2007 The set arrived in Cameroon, but thieves stole the video recorder, and the shuttle box was also missing.
Alphonsius Ategha is glad with the set, but we still have to get him an appropriate video recorder and a shuttle box.
Salto is the public access tv and radio channel of Amsterdam, broadcasting programs of Demet-TV, Prisma-TV, Y-TV, CR-TV, Edge entertainment, SME-TV and many more. Last year, the city council decided to stimulate mutual contact between citizens and further integration by having the foreign language programs on Salto TV being subtitled in Dutch. During 2007, subtitling software for the Salto filmers was being developed by ArtiVisuals, when we were approached in the fall to help finish the development and to give workshops for about 80 Salto-filmers.
The languages involved are many - Sranantongo, Turkish, Somali, Ethiopian, Urdu, Chinese, Russian and of course English and Dutch.
January 2008, four workshops were held in the offices of Salto neighbor MediaGuild, and the filmers learned the theoretical and practical basics of subtitling. By practicing timing they made their first step toward developing their own subtitling skills.
We also demonstrated the disastrous effects of bad subtitling, increasing the awareness of the participants, who became strongly motivated to produce good subtitling in their productions.
The variety of languages posed a challenge, as subtitling rules specific for English-Dutch have to be adjusted when subtitling from other languages to Dutch. So the general principles and ideas behind all these rules were discussed and explained.
Becoming a subtitler takes about three months of training and two years of work experience. And although the Salto filmers, helped by their filming and editing experience, made a good start, it was obvious they would need further assistance while developing their subtitling skills.
We chose for a Google discussion and mailing group for the Salto filmers, a well-tried method to get people to help each other while at the same time providing them with the necessary support.
Subtitling course for students in India
Students in Karnataka, India, could then enroll in the subtitling course for beginners (language combinations EN-EN or KN-KN). Unfortunately not anymore.
The price is locally affordable and students will get an evaluation and a certificate on completion of the course.
In august 2006 we were contacted by Mr B.R. Ravindranath, director of the Institute of Translation Studies in Bangalore - a non-profit organization providing education and work in the field of translation.
Were we interested in cooperation?
Over the next few months our mutual plans took shape. As a result, Karnataka-based students can now learn the art of subtitling with the help of the Compact Course.
Kannada, a major language in India
Kannada is spoken by more than 50 million people, mainly in Karnataka, India. In Europe we tend to see India as a nation with one culture, but differences between the states can be compared with those between different European countries.
More than 500 feature films and countless television programs and motivational and management training videos are produced every year in India, and there is a great demand for good subtitlers. Most Kannada-spoken films are not subtitled in English or other languages.
Compact Course - Same Language Subtitling
In december 2006, I went to Bangalore to finalize cooperation with the institute. As it happened, the Suchitra Bengalooru International Film Festival was held between December 22nd to 28th, and Mr Ravindranath and I together watched many films, paying particular attention to the subtitling. In many cases we clearly saw how badly feature films suffered from poor subtitling.
In a number of lectures I was able to point out the differences differences between good and bad subtitling, stressing that good quality subtitling costs only slightly more than bad subtitling, and both cost only a fraction of any film production.
We decided to start out with a Same Language Subtitling course for beginners, language combinations EN-EN and KN-KN (KN being Kannada). After four to six months the first students will have finished the course and be eligible for certificates. The names of successful students will be published on both our websites.
A course for advanced students (language combinations EN-KN and KN-EN) is now also in the making.
Thailand project, Fanari
Spring 2007 Mr D. Wu Pasomthong contacted us about the Compact Course and consultancy services. His interest in quality subtitling was immediately clear, and we started a fruitful cooperation.
His company, Fanari (from the Greek word for 'beacon), provides among other things audio-visual translation for television, cinema and DVD.
We advised Fanari about hiring people and about all kinds of technical and organisational issues, concentrating on Fanari's current and foreseeable future situation in the Thai and international subtitling markets.