Subtitling or dubbing? An investigation of the effects from reading subtitles on understanding audiovisual material.
Abstract: The world of today is characterized by enormous flows of various kinds of information. People are engaged in vast interactions, irrespective of nationality, culture or mother tongue. On the political scene an increased openness and extended international co-operation are obvious signs of the times. In Europe the co-operation within the EU, which soon is about to comprise more nations and thereby more languages, is developing. The European year of languages 2001 is an initiative of the EU and The Council of Europe. The aim is to increase the linguistic diversity in Europe, promote multi-lingualism and to encourage life long learning of languages. The idea is to show what advantages and possibilities language skills can provide to work life and mobility throughout Europe. One of the most important principles of the ?Year of languages? is that language acquisition brings about understanding between people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The more languages one masters, the better. Therefore it is interesting to examine how subtitling or dubbing of audiovisual material might effect the understanding of the material and perhaps also contributes to language acquistion. An intuitive argument against subtitling and in favor of dubbing is that subtitling deteriorates the understanding of the material, when one continually moves ones gaze and attention away from the action and towards the subtitles. We wondered if subtitling in stead of dubbing could be assumed to exercise negative influence on the actual understanding/perception of coherence of audio-visual material such as movies and TV programs. In order to find out, we had seventeen subjects to watch the initial 28 minutes of the French movie ?Asterix and Obelix vs Caesar?. Half (9) saw a French spoken version with Swedish subtitles, and half (8) saw a version dubbed with Swedish speech. From eye-gaze measurements the amount of time spent on reading subtitles was calculated, and the data found make the foundation of a discussion on benefits and disadvantages with subtitling versus dubbing. I the study it was found that less than five per cent of the time was spent on reading subtitles. In the discussion it is argued that the reading of subtitles does not exercise negative influence on the actual understanding of the material and that the use of subtitling contribes to an increased understanding of languages.
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