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August 7, 2007

Google Video with Multi-Lingual Closed Captions

Not many people know that Google Video lets you add closed captions for your videos. The nice thing is that you can add captions for more than one language, but I'm not sure if Google selects the right language based on your IP or your browser's settings.

Antolín Martínez used Subtitle Workshop, a free software for editing subtitles, and translations produced by volunteers or obtained from Google Translate, Babel Fish, InterTran to add closed captions in 26 languages for Charlie Chaplin's slient movie "The Kid". The movie, released in 1921, is in the public domain.

Here's what the author says about his idea: "This project shows how the power of the web 2.0 can be used by us – the ordinary people - to do nice and productive things together. It follows, in some sense, the altruists' lines that Chaplin referred in the last scene of his movie The great dictator. I hope that will be repeated by other people – and by me - to improve [the] great public domain films hosted at Google Video."

If your language is not yet available, you can translate the script and send it to Antolín here. An automated speech-to-text system and a translation engine, helped by some human contributors, could make a lot of videos accessible to a larger audience, even if the translation wouldn't be perfect.

About the movie. "The Kid was Charlie Chaplin's first full-length movie. It, more than anything else to that date, made Chaplin a living legend. It took over a year to produce, and was an incredible success for Chaplin." (

Tip: You can change the language by clicking on the little arrow next to the "CC" logo from Google Video's player.

The movie: (also available at Google Video)


  1. This is great. But when will Google add voice-recognition technology, automatic translations and participative corrections?

  2. It happens too often that I just thought of something and a little later I see this exact same idea worked out by someone else. Only addition I had was that all people should be able to add subtitles to all videos.

  3. Hello there! Thank you very much for the post. Regarding your comment "...but I'm not sure if Google selects the right language based on your IP or your browser's settings." I only can say that when we load Google it goes to the server of that country, say in case of Venezuela. I suppose is selected by the IP. Here the language is spanish, and the language's name of the translations are in spanish, say "chino" for chinese, "inglés" for english and so on, but the CC are in the language itself.
    I think charbax's technology will rise some day, no doubts, he wants something like Wikipedia already has for texts. Anonymous: Sorry, happened to me too, but the goal is to become reality those ideas. All people is able to translate the subtitles, but the administrator of the video has to add the UTF8 file to it. I have enjoyed because I met people around the world. Best regards to all of you. Cheers!

  4. I think this is a great idea...i wish all videos on includes closed-captions because there are so many deaf people in America. And please also it would be nice to set Tagalog language too that's what my family speaks and I don't understand it sometimes. I would like to learn it.