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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Are We That Ignorant?

Okay, so while I'm doing some email work I'm watching Ghost Hunters International. They're in New Zealand, a island country, former British Colony, so they speak English, natively. They're interviewing the caretaker, I think, of this stone building, and they're using subtitles to let you know what she's saying.

Yeah, let that sink in a moment.

Sure, she has the New Zealand accent, but it's not all that deep. And they're putting subtitles up. I have the sound turned down fairly far, and I can still understand the woman.

Then, as they're doing the set up, they subtitle Barry, who is a team member. Sure, his brogue gets a little thick when he's excited, but I've never not been able to understand him.

Are we really that ignorant? Do they think we really need that? Seriously, WTF?

13 comments:

David Klecha said...

At least they're giving us credit enough to think that we can read. That's something, isn't it?

Jim Wright said...

David has a point.

What the hell are you doing watching Ghost Hunters anyway?

Random Michelle K said...

Just out of curiosity, did the subtitles match what was actually being said?

Everything we watch anymore has subtitles, so my grandmother can follow along.

Some things are actually rather amusing if you can hear what is being said, and while reading the subtitles. ("That's not what he just said! They left off half the dialog!")

Ken McConnell said...

I'm with Jim, what were you doing watching that show? ;)

Steve Buchheit said...

Dave, well, yeah, I guess that's something. It just seemed incongruous with having people whose first language is a slavic tongue, much harder to understand their English, no subtitles. Then you have this woman, who speaks perfectly understandable English, and a crew member we've had for over a year now, and suddenly their subtitling. It was so jarring it kicked me out of the "watching through peripheral vision" mode I was in while writing emails. So it was one of those moments where the subconscious says, "Hey, there's something over here that needs your attention."

Jim and Ken, well, it's one of my dirty secrets. I'm not so much a fan of the international version (which was only what they showed last night), but that's just my impression of some of the crew they have (not all of them). The initial show is pretty good (it got better after the first season, although I don't like how they do 2 investigations in each show). It's light fun. Some things they "find" are interesting (as long as you accept the basic premise that it's a "reality show"). I know they say they're being "scientific." That's a bunch o' crap. Just because they have "science tools" doesn't mean they're being "scientific." I think it would be better to say they're being "rational" and "methodological" about it. It's also research for stories. Lately, it's the one night where I sit on the couch with my wife, laptop in hand, doing email or posts, instead of the other nights where I'm at the table out of eye sight of the TV. I will mention that Ghost Hunters is the only "paranormal" show I can watch without rolling my eyes. The other's they've had I try to watch, but quickly need to turn before the stupid sets in.

Random Michelle K, yeah, it was a direct copy of what she was saying. Yeah, cc TV can be interesting. I especially love when they do the sound effects.

sheila, who is not lurking, said...

I started laughing at the first paragraph you wrote, until I realized that you were SERIOUS! Then I got ticked.

I have seen the same thing done with English-speaking Scots, and now Kiwis, too? I read your post to my Kiwi boyfriend, and he couldn't believe it, either!

I don't think it is ignorance, Steve, I think it is laziness. It takes effort to listen to someone, and perhaps a little bit more effort to listen to someone who has an accent. Most people in the USA do not make an effort to listen, even to other Americans.

But then I started to laugh again when I thought about you watching Ghost Hunters. Didn't you learn from watching Scooby Doo that there is no such thing as a ghost? It's just someone up to no good, and they would have gotten away with it, too, were it not for those meddling kids!

Steve Buchheit said...

Sheila, yeah, I am serious. And if I could follow her conversation, with the TV low, writing emails (so it's not like I'm paying rapt attention to it), yeah it would take a real lazy person to not be able to follow her.

"Mabel, they've got them foreigners on the teliovision again!"

Okay, so now I need to do a post about defending Ghost Hunters. Sigh. Okay. :)

And actually, they did have an episode just like that.

John the Scientist said...

Same damn thing on Iron Chef last night with the Japanese Chef. His English is prefectly fine, but they had a damn VOICE OVER.

WTF?

I mean, I can excuse someone for mistaking a Kiwi for an Aussie or a South African, took me a while of working around those accents to get them straight. But that's IDing the source, not understanding what is being said.

Our chief science officer is an upland Scott, and we have an office in the UK. God help the next generation in this company if they can't understand a simple difference in accent.

Steve Buchheit said...

John the Scientist, I hear ya.

When I was in college, there where students who claimed they couldn't understand many TAs, who to me had perfectly understandable English (most were Sub-continent Indians).

And now that the majority of our tech and customer support goes to India, that just can't be good.

Nathan said...

Showing up late to the party.

I didn't see the show you're talking about, but I have seen documentaries that included Kiwis whose English pronunciation was completely inpenetrable to me. I was very thankful for the subtitles.

Maybe there was someone else on the show who was hard to understand and they figured they'd just apply the subtitles to everyone?

Steve Buchheit said...

Nathan, well, but then there's people that live around me whose corn-paw accent and word usage is well neigh impenetrable. Those usually leave me with the feeling, "I know they're speaking English, but got me what they're saying."

And those were the only two they subtitled. Later in the show, when they did the "Reveal" (show what they have to the client), they didn't subtitle. I just don't understand it.

John the Scientist said...

I did know some Chinese TAs whose accents were undeciperhable, but we generally kept them to lab positions where you could simply demonstrate when people did not understand.

But I also head of complaints about TAs with eprfectly good English. the problem was not the English of the TA, it was the stupidity of the student.

Steve Buchheit said...

John, well my wife is the one with the PhD, but I think her experience matches your own. I know I'm somewhat of an odd duck, but if I can understand the English and I'm only half paying attention, I just don't understand why most viewers couldn't follow it. It just blows my mind, sometimes.