News Column

Amara, PBS Translate Political Speeches Into Spanish, Other Languages

Sept. 7, 2012



With politicians vying for the U.S. Hispanic vote, it makes sense to deliver information in a voter's native language.

Teaming with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Amara allows Spanish-language speakers to read what Republicans and Democrats said during their recent national conventions.

Amara, a crowd-sourced subtitling platform, engages volunteers from around the world to translate online videos into multiple languages, including Spanish.

Launched in 2011, Amara's mission is to make online videos accessible to all.

"There are so many world events we can understand better through translation," said Amara CEO Nicholas Reville. "For instance, Amara translated a number of videos from people on the ground during the Arab Spring. Amara can give people the power to make their voices heard all over the world."

Amara's technology offers an API that allows companies to use the platform for internal collaboration as well as allowing individual customers to translate video content. It was backed by $1 million in funding from the Knight Foundation and Mozilla.

Made up of volunteers, the PBS NewsHour Open Vote 2012 Subtitling Team is translating each DNC speech into languages ranging from Spanish to Mandarin. Last week, Amara and PBS engaged volunteers to translate 10 speeches from the RNC.

French, Spanish and German are the most the popular languages for translation, according to Reville. To date, Amara has about 170,000 videos that have been translated into more than 50 languages.

"Bengali, for instance, has almost 150 translations so far," he said. "There are almost as many Chinese and Arabic translations as German."

In the future, Reville said, he hopes to have the capability to track which languages are the most visited.

"Amara is allowing people to participate in the political conversation regardless of whether English is their first language," said Hari Sreenivasan, correspondent for PBS NewsHour. "They're able to hear a diverse range of voices from around the country and see what makes this country great, what makes this election important and why the negative advertisements don't represent America."

PBS and Amara began their partnership in January 2012 with a goal of translating politically themed videos for hearing-impaired and foreign-language audiences. Together, they have translated more than 158 videos in 52 languages. And PBS is always looking to add to its team of volunteers.

When asked how a business can benefit from Amara's technology, Reville offered these key points:

-- Amara can allow companies to speak to customers all over the world. Any company can start using the powerful medium of video to speak to people around the world.
-- The cost is 90 percent lower than most translation services. Video that previously couldn't be translated because of high cost can now be translated.
-- Amara allows companies to engage their own customers as part of the translation work, which creates a deeper relationship with those customers.
-- Amara can allow big companies to translate training videos and other internal communications.
-- Amara video content becomes searchable, making it easier for people everywhere to find it.

"Search engines can't see the words in videos unless videos are subtitled," he said. "So Amara makes videos more searchable and findable by people all over the world."

Source: (c) 2012. All rights reserved.

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