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Outsourcing's Next "Victims": Deaf People

Somebody has to write those subtitles that allow the hearing impaired to watch movies. Increasingly, that work is being outsourced to India--with some unintentionally hilarious consequences.
Somebody has to write those subtitles that allow the hearing impaired to watch movies. Increasingly, that work is being outsourced to India--with some unintentionally hilarious consequences.According to UPI, professional subtitlers in the UK are up in arms over the outsourcing of their jobs to low paid workers in India. They're also complaining that the trend is resulting in substandard work.

For example, in the movie My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Uma Thurman utters the line "We have a zero-tolerance policy for (sexual harassment)."

But as rendered by Indian workers, the line reads like it's from a Borat movie: "We hold the highest standards for sexual harassment by foreign workers."

It reminds me of the time I watched the movie Airplane in a French language theater in Montreal. One particularly graphic scene in the film shows human, uh, waste, hitting a fan.

I was the only one laughing at this rather obvious sight gag because it represented an English expression for which there is no equivalent in French.

The point is, translations that don't take into account cultural differences in order to accurately convey not just words, but meanings, are bound to fail.

And it's why the outsourcing of technical work to India has a higher success rate than the outsourcing of less black and white functions that require subjective judgments.

The correct way to write computer code is universal. The way to appropriately deal with a customer who's just taken delivery of a PC that's DOA is not.

Prediction: business functions that require knowledge of local customs and idioms will increasingly be seen as poor candidates for outsourcing.

At the same time, an increasing amount of technical work--anything to do with the universal languages of math, science and engineering--will continue to head offshore.