Lost for words, Netflix's hunting for translators

The streaming giant has created an online test to spruce up its subtitles

As part of its efforts to become the world’s favourite channel, streaming giant Netflix is looking to find translators around the globe to help it improve its subtitling.

When the subscription service launched five years ago, its film and TV programming were only capable of supporting three languages in subtitles, namely English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

But now Netflix offers viewers from territories all over the world more than 20 different languages, including Korean, Chinese, Arabic, and Polish – with plans to grow the translation service even further.

That presents a problem, however, as finding the right people capable of understanding slang and cultural references and how to translate those for an unfamiliar audience is no easy feat. So Netflix is actively looking for new translators to join its polyglot ranks, with open applications carried out through an online test named Hermes.

“Since we unveiled our new Hermes tool two weeks ago, thousands of candidates around the world have already completed the test, covering all represented languages,” a Netflix press release says.

“We’re quickly approaching an inflexion point where English won’t be the primary viewing experience on Netflix, and Hermes allows us to better vet the individuals doing this very important work so members can enjoy their favourite TV shows and movies in their language.”

The online test consists of five parts, designed to examine how well a person can localise richly idiomatic language into a foreign tongue. It comprises thousands of randomised multiple-choice questions that rate how well the candidate:

  • Understands English
  • Can fluently translate idiomatic phrases into a target language
  • Can spot language and technical errors
  • Can write and programme subtitles

Any professional subtitler interested in taking part in the job search in invited to take part here.

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