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Translating Youtube with auto-captioning

Monday, March 22, 2010 | 5:13 PM

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We recently mentioned on the official Youtube blog that we were enabling auto-captioning for all Youtube videos. This new technology takes advantage of Google’s speech-to-text algorithms to add captions to videos with spoken English content. Captions have clear benefits for the hearing impaired, but there is another benefit which is worth noting: translation.

As you know, Google Translate can already translate between any of our 52 supported languages, whether the text is a word, paragraph or website. With this new advancement in Youtube’s technology we can now add “captions” to that list as well.

Currently Youtube’s auto-captioning technology can only transcribe spoken English but, thanks to Google Translate, these English captions can be translated for non-English speakers as well. Check out the caption and translation technology in this video of Barack Obama speaking to students or author Elizabeth Gilbert speaking at TED. Hover over the “caption” icon and select “Translate Captions” to activate the translations. 


Both the auto-captioning and translation technologies are generated by machines, so there are still plenty of situations where mistakes will occur. Furthermore, when these technologies work together, mistakes can be amplified so you may find some captions that don’t make much sense. We know there is a lot of room to improve both technologies, but we feel that offering this translation feature is an important step in making information on Youtube more accessible.

In the next few months we expect over 150,000 Youtube channels to implement auto-captioning with translation. This is just the beginning and we hope that all Youtube content will soon be enjoyed by all Youtube users, regardless of what language they speak.

Posted by Andrew Gomez, Associate Product Marketing Manager