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Reddit helps deaf man understand grandfather’s WWII video

When a 32-year-old deaf man came to Reddit for help interpreting an old video of his now-departed grandfather, redditors stepped up to caption the entire thing.


Chase Hoffberger


Posted on Dec 20, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 5:05 am CDT

Call it a Christmas miracle. Thanks to a kind group of contributors on Reddit, a deaf man will finally be able to read the words once spoken in a video by his late grandfather.

The kindheartedness came Wednesday morning from the subreddit r/favors, where redditor Whoa_Bundy staked his impassioned plea.

“I am deaf and I would like a video of my late Grandfather captioned,” Bundy wrote. “I can’t understand what he is saying and I would really like to.”

The video, a 38-minute interview that finds Bundy’s grandfather talking about his experiences during World War II, has been in the redditor’s possession for years, but youth and deafness has made it such that it’s more or less a silent movie.

“He was alive and I was 17 when I got a copy of it,” he wrote. “I’m now 32 and he has since passed away. I watched the video and teared up just seeing him but I can’t understand what he is saying.

“If anyone has a suggestion for a website that I can pay to have this [translated], I welcome them.”

Turns out that the kind folks on Reddit had a whole lot more to offer than that.

Redditor BoredOfCanada was the first individual to step up to the plate, offering that “we can all pitch in and help transcribe it” if Bundy would just upload the video to a dropbox. BoredOfCanada set up a Google spreadsheet to track all the progress.

“If we all state which minutes we’d like to work on, then add the subtitles to the Subtitle Text sheet, this should work a treat,” BoredOfCanada wrote. “Once it’s done, I could convert it to a SubRip subtitle file and/or somebody could superimpose the captions, then we should have a subtitled video.”

Redditors started coming out of the woodwork to offer their services. Redditor Deracinated claimed fluency in the language of sign. Pvrbl told the crowd that both her parents were deaf; American Sign Language was literally her first language.

Before long, BoredOfCanada’s spreadsheet had started to fill up. Redditors reported hold-ups, stunted updates, and delays as they tried to fill in the blanks.

“The goosebumps I got when I clicked on the link and got the ‘Too much traffic’ notice,” redditor Germino wrote. “This is why I love this site.”

When Whoa_Bundy returned to check in on the progress, he was completely taken back.

“I’m tearing up just reading this,” he wrote. “I never knew my grandfather was in Holland. I heard about France. He was pretty quiet about his experiences. I’m surprised he even agreed to do this interview.”

Whoa_Bundy returned at 9:30pm Wednesday night to tell those who helped that the transcript had been completed.

“I’m working on getting that in my possession,” he wrote. “I’ve gotten offers from professional captionists, court reporters, transcription services, medical transcriptionists, and accessibility at Google.”

Bundy’s next task is to figure out a way for him to line up the transcript with the video of his grandfather being interviewed.

“I was told that if I upload the transcript to YouTube—without time codes—that YouTube will use speech recognition technology to automatically align the text of the transcript with what it hears in the video,” he wrote.

Is that the case? Frankly, I have absolutely no idea. But what I do know is that a man who’s now 32 finally has the chance to read the things his grandfather had to say about his experiences in the second World War after 15 years of waiting to do so. Coming less than six days before Christmas, that’s a gift as good as gold.

Photo via TinyTall/Flickr

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*First Published: Dec 20, 2012, 3:03 pm CST