Are Subtitles Really Efficacious in Learning a Foreign Language?


Are Subtitles Really Efficacious in Learning a Foreign Language?
Julie Parker

Julie Parker

4/11/2014

Learning Language Through Subtitles

Learning a new language is an exciting experience that can leave an individual with a feeling of accomplishment and self-worth. The reasons for learning a foreign language are endless, from the broadened career opportunities, to the boost of confidence it gives a person. Many tools are at your disposal if you want to discover your roots, such as online courses, individual lessons and learning materials.

Reading foreign subtitles can prove effective if you want to build up your vocabulary, learn grammar and study foreign phrases. However, is this familiarity of phrases and sentences enough to learn the pronunciation of a language? While it's true that everyone learns in different ways, when it comes to self-teaching, a translation service may be better if you want to avoid getting lost in translation.

The Advantages of Using Subtitles

Watching television is a great tool for language learning, because audiovisual input has great importance. In fact, you may learn unconsciously as you follow dialogues, allowing you to match words with expressions. Here are some reasons why it is an effective tool:

  • Information is absorbed by written dialogues subconsciously.
  • Soundtracks and written text can improve recognition memory and aid with learning.
  • You may stumble across subtitles in magazines, newspapers and television, providing you with a more comprehensive understanding of the language.
  • Audiovisual learning materials are aimed at people with varying levels of learning, making them versatile.
  • Allows individuals to monitor progress by watching foreign TV programs without English subtitles.

The Disadvantages of Using Subtitles

Although there are multifarious reasons to use subtitles for language learning, intralingual subtitles may expose words that are spoken in everyday Spanish for example, but not in written aspects of the language. Let's take a closer look at disadvantages:

  • If there is no correspondence between verbal and written text, there may be inaccuracies due to semantic confusion.
  • The more cryptic the language, the more difficult it may be to find simple videos with subtitles.
  • Dubbed foreign films can confuse and distract attention from learning, making a translation service more appealing.
  • Difficult to benefit by watching consciously, until you have learned unconsciously.

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Julie Parker

Julie Parker

Julie Parker is the Transcription Supervisor for GMR Transcription Services, Inc, a leading U.S. transcription company based in Orange County, California. Julie has a true passion for effective verbal and written communication. She applies her passion to providing the excellent customer service and accuracy upon which GMR Transcription's clients depend. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, watching movies, and hosting dinner parties with friends.