It’s time to meet Laura, winner of the “Studio Tre” prize for translators @ University of Bologna

Studio Tre Università Bologna DIT Dipartimento Interpretariato Traduzione
After Beatrice, it’s time to meet Laura, winner of the “Studio Tre” prize for translators, awarded to the best graduate from the DIT - Department of Interpreting and Translation at the University of Bologna.

First and foremost, Laura is passionate about great stories, and a keen enthusiast of all the different ways they can be told, whether through a play, a book, a song or a film. Thanks to her mother, who wrote plays and staged them with a local theatre company, she was involved with her local theatre from a young age, learning the relationship between words, movement, music, dance, speech and sound. Words, speech and sound thus became her main interest, an interest strong enough to influence her education: it led her first to a degree in Intercultural and Linguistic Mediation, and then to a master’s in Specialised Translation, completed with a thesis on the use of artificial intelligence in audiovisual translation.

Now let’s hear from Laura herself!

Laura, why did you choose this course of study?

You know those moments when all the choices you made out of sheer curiosity, enthusiasm and instinct, without any ulterior motive, suddenly seem to be perfectly aligned with yourself and your life? These are the moments I love, and it was one of those moments that helped me to decide what studies I wanted to pursue. I was 11 when I said to my parents “There’s something I want to do when I grow up, but I don’t think it’s a real job because it would be too much fun: I want to do the voices in videogames and films.”. They looked at me a little surprised, and they explained that it was in fact a real job, and that it was called “dubbing”. I was so excited; I had discovered that there was a profession that would combine lots of my interests, like acting, languages, animated films and music. After that, studying to do the voices became an obsession of mine, and so after high school I began studying to achieve my goal of becoming an audiovisual translator.

What was the subject of your master’s degree thesis?

My thesis, Augmented Audiovisual Translation: The Perks and Perils of the Implementation of Artificial Intelligence in Subtitling and Dubbing, deals with the use of artificial intelligence in audiovisual translation, with a focus on automatic speech recognition (ASR) for the transcription phase and speech synthesis to automatically generate speech, and audio and visual deepfakes. Learning about these tools was extremely rewarding, testing their potential and observing how quickly they have evolved in just a year, such as how realistic “synthetic” voices have become. It just so happens that I have had to use these technologies in my work as a freelancer, and this experience allowed me to confirm the idea behind my thesis: that we shouldn’t be frightened by the emergence of these amazing tools, because we are still talking about augmented translation, where technology supports, rather than replaces, linguists.

Aside from languages, what are your passions?

I would say I love good stories, and consequently all the different tools we have for telling them: theatre, music, visual arts… but I love the animal and natural world too, which in a way is constantly telling its own story, and for me that is the most mysterious and interesting story of all. I love challenges and solving puzzles, and that’s why I want to keep on studying: the world is an endless source of questions which it would be wonderful to answer.

Tell us how the Studio Tre project has helped you, or will help you, to achieve your goals.

I’m going to invest my prize in training, hopefully in the area of speech technologies, to integrate my linguistic training with information technology and neurolinguistic skills, so that I am better equipped to take on the technological revolutions ahead of us, and maybe, one day, contribute to them myself.

Is there a phrase or quote that particularly resonates with you?

There is a poem in the Basque language by Joxean Artze, which later became the lyrics to the song Txoria Txori by Mikel Laboa, which concisely and simply expresses a philosophy I very much identify with. It says: “If I had clipped its wings, it would have been mine, it would never have flown away. But then, it would have been a bird no more… And I, what I loved was the bird”. Although it seems melancholic, I consider it a hymn to freedom and the courage it takes to accept and love things for what they are – even if that means letting them go.


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