Embracing the Complexity

A Pilot Study on Interlingual Respeaking





live subtitling, interpreting, subtitling, human-machine interaction, interlingual respeaking


This paper presents the key findings of the pilot phase of SMART (Shaping Multilingual Access through Respeaking Technology), a multidisciplinary international project focusing on interlingual respeaking (IRSP) for real-time speech-to-text. SMART addresses key questions around IRSP feasibility, quality and competences. The pilot project is based on experiments involving 25 postgraduate students who performed two IRSP tasks (English–Italian) after a crash course. The analysis triangulates subtitle accuracy rates with participants’ subjective ratings and retrospective self-analysis. The best performers were those with a composite skillset, including interpreting/subtitling and interpreting/subtitling/respeaking. Participants indicated multitasking, time-lag, and monitoring of the speech recognition software output as the main difficulties; together with the great variability in performance, personal traits emerged as likely to affect performance. This pilot lays the conceptual and methodological foundations for a larger project involving professionals, to address a set of urgent questions for the industry.


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Author Biographies

Elena Davitti, University of Surrey, Centre for Translation Studies

Elena Davitti is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Translation Studies, University of Surrey (UK). Her research interests include hybrid modalities of spoken language transfer, particularly methods for real-time interlingual speech-to-text and how increasing automation of these processes would modify human-led workflows. Elena is currently leading the ‘SMART’ project (Shaping Multilingual Access with Respeaking Technology, 2020-2022, Economic and Social Research Council UK, ES/T002530/1) on interlingual respeaking with an international consortium of national and international academic and industrial collaborators. Elena has also published extensively on communicative, interactional and multimodal dynamics of interpreter-mediated interaction (both face-to-face and technology-mediated), and she has been co-investigator on several EU-funded projects on technologies applied to interpreting, particularly video-mediated interpreting (AVIDICUS 3, SHIFT in Orality) and innovations in interpreter education (EVIVA). Elena has been invited to serve on the boards of projects and organisations in her fields of research (e.g. ILSA Advisory Board, GALMA, IATIS, ARTIS).

Annalisa Sandrelli, Facoltà di Interpretariato e Traduzione, Università degli Studi Internazionali di Roma- UNINT

Annalisa Sandrelli is a Lecturer in English in the Faculty of Interpreting and Translation at UNINT and has taught at the universities of Hull, Bologna at Forlì and Trieste. She teaches Dialogue Interpreting and Interlingual Respeaking on the MA in Interpreting and Translation; Subtitling and Audiodescription on the MA in Audiovisual and Multimedia Translation and Adaptation for Subtitling and Dubbing. She has participated in several national and international research projects, including EPIC (European Parliament Interpreting Corpus; University of Bologna) and three projects on legal interpreting and translation funded by the European Commission (Building Mutual Trust, Qualitas, Understanding Justice). She coordinated the DubTalk and TVTalk projects on dubbing and subtitling (UNINT-University of Pisa). She is currently International Co-investigator on the ESRC-funded SMART project, coordinator of the ¡Sub! Localisation workflows that work” project (UNINT-Roehampton) and coordinator of the English unit of the Eurolect Observatory. Her research interests include Audiovisual Translation, Computer Assisted Interpreter Training (CAIT), corpus-based Interpreting Studies, Legal Interpreting/Translation and Legal English.






Special Issue: November 2020