From literally translated idioms to botched pop culture references, movie viewers often encounter subtitle snafus while watching flicks that weren’t filmed in their native language. To prevent these kinds of errors, Engadget reports that the streaming service has developed what they bill as the first online subtitling and translation test by a major content creator. Called Hermes, it will be used to vet translators’ English language skills.
Netflix currently supports more than 20 different languages, and they plan to add more. Until now, the company outsourced subtitle translation to third-party services. However, these providers all used different recruiting practices to bring workers onboard, resulting in inconsistent quality standards. "Our desire to delight members in ‘their’ language, while staying true to creative intent and mindful of cultural nuances is important to ensure quality,” the company wrote in a blog post.
Since most of Netflix’s streaming options are filmed in English, Hermes will test candidates’ ability to understand—and accurately translate—its linguistic subtleties. “Idioms are expressions that are often times specific to a certain language (“you’re on a roll”, “he bought the farm”) and can be a tough challenge to translate into other languages,” Netflix’s blog post explains. “There are approximately 4000 idioms in the English language and being able to translate them in a culturally accurate way is critical to preserving the creative intent for a piece of content.”
Once translators complete the test, they will be assigned a grade, called an “H-Number,” indicating their skill level. That way, Netflix can pick and choose among candidates, assigning less-advanced speakers to easier films and skilled ones to more complex movies.
The H-Number will also help Netflix keep tabs on who’s good at what, by matching translations to its translator. “Much like we recommend titles to our members, we aim to match our subtitlers in a similar way,” Netflix adds. “Perhaps they consider themselves a horror aficionado, but they excel at subtitling romantic comedies—theoretically, we can make this match so they’re able to do their best quality work.”
Starting this summer, all subtitles provided to Netflix will be required to have a valid H-Number. As for professional subtitlers, they can take the company’s new test here.