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History And Function Of Subtitles English Language Essay

According to Wikipedia, subtitles are textual versions of the dialogues of the actors in movies and tv programs, usually shown at the bottom of the film which can either be considered a form of written translation of your dialogue in a spanish or the same language. Mostly, subtitle language follows the original audio, except in some multi-lingual countries where different languages subtitles may be provided to be chosen by the audience.

Subtitle started as inter-titles to mention what the actors said in the movies to the audience. In fact, the 1st subtitle was registered as a patent by M. N. Topp in 1909 as a "device for the rapid showing of titles for moving pictures other than those on the film strip" (Gilbert Chee, 2009, p4). Together with the invention of sound film in 1927, the idea of subtitling was revoked as the subtitling technique was quite complex and expensive at that time. Soon, optical method was invented where "a frame containing the title was kept in position as the film negative and the positive print strip were fed forward and exposed" (Gilbert Chee, 2009, p5).

Later, in 1935, a Hungarian inventor, O. Turchnyi, registered a patent for a higher temperature method. Before that, R. Hruska and Oscar I. Ertns improved the high temperature technique where this method is still in used as it was the least expensive process ever invented. After having a few decades, Denis Auboyer and Titra Film in Paris developed the laser subtitling where laser is employed to burn away or vaporizes the emulsion. With great success, this technique has been commercialised since 1988. Soon, films were shown on tv set with subtitle. The first scheduled showing of any subtitled film was Arthur Robison's Der Student von Prag on August 14, 1938 by BBC.

"Two main systems were developed after 1970s, designed to use a word processor with subtitling program which managed to get possible to write the subtitles in a film" (Gilbert Chee, 2009, p6). As the one of these is dependant on the teletext principle which runs on the computer to generate hidden signals, the other system uses a "computer-controlled character generator" in the transmitting the movie data. Nowadays, there are several improvements and researches have been done to the subtitling system by non-profit organization such as Esist as well as some companies such as Media Movers, Inc. which has developed proprietary software which renders automated timing (spotting) for audio-video content.

The Functions of the Subtitles

Watching films, short series, and tv set programs are fundamental part of today's entertainment culture. People watch each one of these either with or without subtitles. However, which one do they prefer more? "do some research". The effect demonstrates out of x people, y people liked to view subbed movie. Why do people like it? Subtitle allows foreign broadcasting and movies to be shown in one's country, enhances people's understanding on what had been shown and lets deaf people enjoy the same entertainment as others.

In Malaysia, Movies are shown in various language-- Chinese, English, Korean, Japanese, Malays etc. However, not all Malaysian can understand these languages.

Thus, without subtitle, these movies can't be shown in Malaysia as no-one will really know what the characters are saying. According to Mylot Forum (2009), from action, we can only understand the contents about 50%. Thus, if foreign movies should be brought into a country, it's important for subtitle to be accessible in these movies.

Just like English, pronunciation of certain language can vary greatly in different countries. The movie may be dubbed in one's country first language but due to different in slang, it might be hard for the audiences to get what they are trying to within the movie. However, using subtitle, audience can grasp what had been shown in the movie. It is because there's a new source for audiences' understanding which is visual rather than just audio tracks only.

It is believed that we now have many people who have weak hearing in the society. Also, there are people who can't hear whatsoever, and were called deaf. It might be a pity for these people to view dubbed movies because they can't hear the particular characters say. However, with the aid of subtitle, the situation is solved. These people can understand the films through the words shown at the bottom of the screen and can enjoy the movie shown as others.

In a nutshell, subtitle does help a lot in the entertainment world as it allows foreign broadcasting and movies to be shown in one's country, enhances people's understanding on what have been shown and lets deaf people benefit from the movie as well.

The RESULTS of Subtitles

With the option of subtitle, it has changed the way of movie, video and short series broadcasted in the mass media. Countries no more broadcast these exact things in their own country's first language, but also other language with the assist of subtitle. Moreover, as English end up being the international communication language, it can be seen that every movies shown in the theater will get English subtitle. As subtitle had been widely used, I really believe it brings a lot of advantages to the society. Benefits of subtitle will be the average cost for transferring the initial movie to subbed movie is much cheaper than transferring it to other languages dubbed movie. Furthermore, it can boost people's vocabulary acquisition and the original voices of the actors can be maintained.

Advantage of subtitle is subbed movies are cheaper than dubbed movies. It may seem illogic for subbed movies to be cheaper than dubbed movie because there were these extra tiny words appear below the screen and the cost should be higher. However, a research had been done by Lukyen (1991) and the results shown that the common hourly cost for transferring a dubbed movie to subbed movie is just about 740 ECU (around RM3134) where else 11, 000 ECU (around RM46592) per hour is needed in order to replace the original actor's voice in the films. This proved that subtitled movies are almost 15 times cheaper than dubbed movies. According to Lukyen, it is because it is a lot much easier to insert subtitles into the movie than replacing the original voice of actors in the movies. Thus, subbed movies are cheaper than dubbed movies.

"meaning of an word can't be fully grasped unless the word is encountered in varied semantic and syntactical contexts"

(Anderson & Nagy, 1991, p51)

Both, subbed movies and dubbed movies can help people acquire new vocabulary. However, it is believed that it is easier for people to comprehend certain word when watching subtitled movie. In dubbed movie, people can hardly find the spelling of any word since it was not shown in the screen. Thus, they can not take a look even if indeed they want to. Sometimes, you could also hear a word which includes the same pronunciation but it could not seem to be the same spelling. These words are called homophones and it would be a trouble in learning such words in dubbed movie. Thus, there is a barrier to enhance your vocabulary for watching dubbed movie. D'Y Dewalle and Pavakanun (1997) had done a study on word recognition of students in subbed and dubbed movies. Students are separated into three groups to watch a 15-minutes television set program in (1) Spanish dubbed and first language subbed (2)First language dubbed. The effect demonstrates students score better in word recognition for the movie with subtitle available. Thus, subtitles do help a lot in vocabulary acquisition.

Another good thing about subtitle is the actors' and actresses' original voice are maintained in subbed movies. People may well not prefer to watch movie where the original voice of actors and actress are differed because it would be weird to see a foreigner to speak inside our first language. Imagine an Indian lady speaking Malays or Chinese within an imported movies. Obviously, her original voice was being replaced by another person's voice.

Also, enough time taken to finish talking a sentence in various language differs. Sometime, you might start to see the actors still talking but there would be no sound coming out from the audio system and vice versa. This may cause distraction and dissatisfaction on the list of spectators. Also, some people prefer watching movie with the original voice of the actors maintain as the atmosphere will be different if the voice is replaced. This happened especially in Japanese video, which there are a great number of voice ramifications of Japanese which cannot be shown in English.

"Children's ability to obtain vocabulary through context is influenced by their degree of competence"

(Neuman & Koskinen, 1992, p52)

It is believed that folks with higher knowledge may benefit more from subbed movies. Despite this, children should be encouraged to watch subbed videos and movies as it could increase their learning of new words in foreign or its country's first language. Nobody will understand how subtitle can be in the future. However, Cultura Inglesa (2010) is wanting to provide subtitle in radio station. Also, it is believed that subtitle will be further developed in other profession related to media.

The Negative Effects of Subtitles

In 2010, subtitle has been commonly used in videos, TV programs, films among others. More and more people are slowly adapted to subbed movies but nonetheless there's a portion of individuals who still prefer dubbed and dislike subbed.

". . Subtitle may distract the viewer from watching the visual images, because the titles partly cover the film" (Cees & Jonannes, 1997, p51)

Subtitle normally appears at the bottom of the scene to aid visitors to fully recognize what have been shown. However, some individuals will think that it is just a distraction to them who are able to fully understand what the actors say. A research have been done to track the eye's position when subtitle comes in the video. This research was done by Ross Bryant, Jill Constate, Mike Manna, Tony Sereechia, and Tawanna Starks using "Tobii Eye Tracker" and people in the experiment are asked to view subbed and dubbed movie respectively. It was proven that in subbed movies, their eyes have a tendency to refer to the subtitle where else in dubbed movies; their position of eyes is random. This implies that subtitle do distract folks from hearing the actual actor are trying to say. This would be bad as audience may miss some important scenes. In addition, subtitles were shown in multi-languages a while. This will cause more distraction to the audience. For people who know two languages, they'll feel ambiguous because they don't really know which one they ought to choose to read.

Some time, the subtitles provided might not exactly be translated accurately in the movie. No languages can be directly translated into other languages. As an example, in English, compound sentence is the combining of different sentences. "I eat after taking bath" is a compound sentence said by the actor, however when translated into Chinese, they might mention "take bath" first before "eat". As this happen, the sentence that was shown in subbed may vary from what had been mentioned by the actors. Although the meaning may be the same and the top point is still mentioned and maintained, the audience who know very well what have been said by the actor find out that the subtitle will not follow exactly what had been said will feel uncomfortable.

Also, not absolutely all subbed movies are flawlessly made. It is common have a technical problem in subtitles, specifically for videos from in internet. These videos do not show subtitle at the right timing, they either show the subtitles before or following the actors speak. As more folks prefer to watch movies in foreign language dubbed, few of them can understand it fully. Just like Japanese anime, this is actually the favor of teenagers nowadays. Although they don't really understand, they still watch these anime in Japanese with the assist of English subtitle. Thus, if the timing is wrong, it'll be a problem to allow them to understand the movie fully. This may irritate the spectators sometimes because they need to trace back the actual actors are trying to say in the movie.

"preference for either dubbing or subbing not appear to be motivated bybut by habit. " (Luyken, 1991, p54)

From this quote, it is proved that individuals who love to watch subbed movies because they are being used to it and vice versa. Also, they will continue watching subbed or dubbed movies if given a selection to choose between them. However, watching too much subtitle is bad for people. People who watch too much subtitle will form a habit, becoming too reliable on subtitle and this may cause their listening power to decrease. They don't have the ability to understand anything unless they try hard to when watching dubbed movie. This will cause a problem for those who want to take pleasure from movies or series without subtitle provided. They have a tendency to replay the video in order to understand what have been said and ruin their mood in continue watching the video.

Due to the problem stated in third and forth paragraphs, too reliable on contexts may sometimes cause problem to the people who can't fully understand the movie through speaking. Also, watching too many subbed movies will ruin people communication with others because hearing people talking is just like hearing people in the movie talking. Thus, most professors or individuals who have good education will prefer to view dubbed movies rather than subbed movies.

Overall, both subbed movies and dubbed movies are advantageous to the society. Thus, mass media should provide their movies in both subbed and dubbed so that individuals receive choice to choose their own way of watching movies.

Previous study 1:

Exploiting Films and Multiple Subtitles Interaction for Casual Foreign Language Learning in the Living Room

By Victor Bayon


Films and movies have become one common entertainment inside our daily lives. They are being used as a kind of learning tool which helps people learn foreign language. Victor Bayon, therefore, developed something to support the advanced consumption of subtitles for everyday spanish learning in living room.


Interviews and discussions among designers and language course members were held to learn what out-of-class materials and activities had been used to reinforce learning in college. It had been discovered that subtitles in foreign films have been frequently used. However, some challenges were discover, for example, problems among beginners. As a result, ideas for the initial application of prototypes were used to solve some of the problems within watching movies in living room.

Experiments and Results:

The output was a dual subs-view which displayed subtitles of two languages simultaneously. This enabled the shorter gap between understanding the language and following the movie with subtitles. Students could choose whichever language of subtitle to rely on.

A movie recommender held a database of vocabulary learned and an electronic dictionary which added new vocabulary when student searched a word. The highest recommendation percentage was the one that students might have higher opportunity to expose to new vocabulary. It made students understand how complex the vocabulary in a movie is really as in comparison to vocabulary of the course.

A handy remote control predicated on PDA was developed. It produced an interface which display subtitles on PDA. This enabled students to pause and browse the words as well as check dictionary on the PDA system.

Previous study 2:

Foreign Subtitles Help but Native-Language Subtitles Harm Foreign Speech Perception

By Holger Mitterer1 and James M. McQueen


Listeners face difficulty in understanding unfamiliar regional accents of these native language, partly because the speech sounds of this particular accent match those of the language standard or listeners' own accent wrongly. This sort of listening difficulty is magnified when the unfamiliar regional accent is at some other or spanish. For listeners to deal better with foreign language, Holger Mitterer and James M. Mcqueen argued that subtitles of spanish help. Associated with subtitles in the language of the film indicate which word has been spoken and hence, can enhance speech studying foreign speech sounds.

Lexically Guided Learning:

Perceptual learning studies show that speech processing in listeners' native language can be returned by their lexical knowledge, the knowledge on how words ought to sound. To be specific, listeners can learn to interpret an ambiguous phoneme on the basics of disambiguating lexical contexts. This study addresses whether this type of perceptual learning aids listeners met with a new foreign regional accent. The logic is subtitles indicate what being spoken and could boost lexically-guided studying foreign speech sounds. It was tested in a novel way whether subtitles can support learning unfamiliar regional accents in a foreign language. If so, this would suggest that subtitles help foreign speech understanding.

Experiment and Results:

Dutch participants were requested to watch videos containing unfamiliar accented second-language movies. They watched 25 minutes of video material with either strongly accented Australian English or strongly accented Scottish English. Different groups had English or Dutch or no subtitles. These were then asked to repeat excerpts from either Australian or Scottish materials. Repetition of novel fragments was worse after Dutch subtitles exposure but it was better after the exposure of English subtitles. Native language subtitles although may actually create lexical interference, spanish subtitles assist speech learning by indicating which words are being spoken and hence boost speech learning.

Previous study 3:

Audiovisual Translation and Language Learning: The Promotion of Intralingual Subtitles

By Annamaria Caimi


Annamaria Caimi's journal entitled 'The Promotion of Intra-lingual Subtitles' explains the two major functions of within-language subtitle, accessibility and didactic aids. Intra-lingual subtitling was defined as screen translation which involves the conversion of oral language into written language.

Functions of Subtitles:

Subtitles function as accessibility is made for audiences who are deaf or have hearing problems. Vocal execution of acting and non-verbal sound can't be heard by them. In this case, subtitles include descriptions like (a knock on the entranceway) and (the door closes). This permits hearing impaired visitors to understand what is going on in films.

"When target viewers are deaf or hearing-impaired, subtitling is a mixed intra-semiotic and inter-semiotic kind of audiovisual translation. . . "

(Annamaria Caimi, 2006, p. 86)

The function of didactic aids is for many who are unfamiliar with the language spoken in films. Subtitles make these audiences able to grasp what pronounced in films. It is an purposely combination of phonological expression of spanish with its written subtitles to do something as an aid for language perception. Sometimes, subtitles are paraphrased for audiences of different cultures to make them understand better. Also, subtitles may simplify or omit certain portion of text due to insufficient space, speed of dialogues or subtitles duration.

In conditions of language learning, it is shown that students who receive a pre-view of the vocabulary before watching the movie without subtitles once accompanied by with subtitles learn the most.

Film Review 1: Angels and Demons

"Angels and Demons" is a historical movie full with adventures and excitement. This movie adapts many historical knowledge and theories which are true, but presents it in another way, making the whole movie excruciating and unpredictable.

In leading part of the movie, the death of the Pope in Vatican occurred, accompanied by the kidnapping of the four cardinals who will be the primary candidates to replace him. Robert Langdon who is requested help soon realizes that the kidnapping is done by Illuminati, a former enemy of Renaissance-era Catholic Church. The Illuminati threatened to kill the four cardinals and blow up Vatican City with a stolen explosive called anti-matter. So Robert Langdon goes playing around the town with Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) browsing for the four cardinals as well as the anti-matter. Through the search, many symbols and histories is there to link the whole kidnapping case. It really is just like a treasure hunt movie, and it offers this marvellous twist in the long run, where the puppet master of the whole chaos is really the individual who saved Vatican from the fate of destruction.

Tom Hanks did a good job in playing the role of a symbologist who is desperate to save the four cardinals and also metropolis itself. Besides him, credit should also be given to Ewan McGregor, who acted as Camerlengo Patrick McKenna. Without his brilliant act, the complete twist in the end part of the story wouldn't normally be so successful. He is indeed good in playing a character looks noble and innocent on the outside but not in the inside.

The great plot that contributed much to the success of the movie comes from the Dan Brown's novel. Dan Brown has the ability to impress his readers as well as spectators of "Angels and Demons" The director Ron Howard did a congrats too in making the pace of the movie just fast enough to make the spectators get the whole idea despite feeling the excitement of the movie. It really is a movie that provides great entertainment.

Film Review 2: The person From earth

"The Man from Earth" is a science-fiction movie with no science-fiction stunts or scenes inside. To become more precise, it is a time travel movie that never travels through time where in fact the story inside it revolves in several time zones without actually showing it.

This movie starts off with an impromptu goodbye of your well-liked college or university professor, John Oldman (David Lee Smith) after a decade of teaching. John is surprised and touched when his colleagues gather around him before he leaves, which leads him to be honest that he's actually a cro-magnon who survived since the Palaeolithic, and today aged thousands years old. Then lots of questions from the colleagues who are intellectuals in their field start to appear, but all are answered by John easily, without the flaw. John's theory is hard to believe. In the end, there's a scene that indicates that John's theory holds true in the movie, where his own son (Richard Riehle as Dr. Will Gruber) fainted, knowing that John is really his father who left him a long time ago.

The main actor, David Lee Smith remains calm the whole amount of time in the movie, making it hard in order to that he's lying. There may be one part where John reveals that he himself is really Jesus Christ. This is where Edith (Ellen Crawford)'s great acting skill comes in. Edith is a Christian. When John's theory overturns Edith's perspective about her religion, she plainly shows her fear and also frustration. She actually is curious but afraid that she might lose faith in Jesus Christ, so she wished to leave all the time. Ellen Crawford plays the role well too by showing us the desperation of somebody who is about to lose faith in life.

Nevertheless, the ideas and notions presented in the film are interesting, all because of Jerome Bixby. The director (Richard Schenkman) also needs to be credited for this great film that is achieved wonderfully by cast and crew under a modest budget. This is a movie which ultimately shows extraordinary things in ordinary ways, this can be a movie worth watching.


The movie "THE PERSON from Earth" makes us understands better. "THE PERSON from Earth" is an English movie using English and Chinese subtitle at the same time. Whenever we cannot catch the actual actors say, we are able to grasp it by referring to the two sorts of subtitles provided.

Some may say that when two varieties of subtitles are provided rather than one, it can cause unnecessary confusion and distraction. That's also our initial perception, but directly after we watched the movie "The Man from Earth", we discovered that the perception is just a mere assumption that's not true at all. In the long run, we agreed to the fact that when two kinds of subtitles are given, it is way better than only giving a type. To be honest, we aren't used to two varieties of subtitles in the first 5 minutes, but from then on we found ourselves able to concentrate on different subtitles at differing times to cater our own need to understand the movie. It is because both subtitles have their advantages in certain situation.

When watching a movie, everyone wants to fully understand it in order to enjoy the movie to the fullest. The main problem that we face is we have a tendency to lose track of what's being told in the movie, because we have no idea the precise spelling and meaning of the word mentioned. This situation happens when we cannot follow the pace of the actor's speech and when we come across a word that people never heard before or unfamiliar with. When we lose tabs on what one of the actors said, we may be leaving out important info that is crucial to link to another scene in the movie. Then throughout the movie, you will see parts that we do not understand here and there, ruining the joy to watch the movie. This is when subtitles come into handy.

Firstly, the English subtitle shown is merely the converting of speech of the actors into words. It preserves the originality and essence of the speech as it shows the precise words and phrase without changing anything in the context of the speech. It is sometimes not that people don't realize English, but sometimes the actors speak too fast or speak of something we never heard before like names of certain organization in the past. By referring to the English subtitle, we're able to catch what they state and indirectly understand the background of the storyline better. Nevertheless, the English subtitle below helps us to speed up our pace of understanding what's being said. The subtitle is very effective in giving us extra speed in understanding because when we combine everything we hear and that which you see, which can be actually a similar thing expressed differently, we will understand it much quicker if compared to using only one of the techniques.

Besides helping us to meet up with the particular actors say, English subtitle has other advantages. Sometimes we run into words that people do not know, or we may know what but we are not certain of its spelling. By discussing the English subtitle, we can check the spelling of what and better still, learn words that we never knew before. With this sense, the English subtitle can in fact supply us with knowledge and also improve our vocabulary. Aside from having better understanding towards what that are mentioned in the movie, we can come in contact with the way they speak in certain countries and how they pronounce certain words. Their pronunciation will change from ours and we can learn the way in which of pronouncing those words through them as English is their native language, not ours.

However, English subtitle cannot clear our doubts in the movie. Imagine if we realize the spelling of certain words but we don't realize what it means? It might be useless to learn the English subtitle again and again because no matter how many times you make reference to it, you will only have the ability to get its spelling but not its meaning. So Chinese subtitle play an important role here, whereby it why don't we compare both subtitles and guess the meaning out of it. When we have no idea the meaning of 1 of the words within an English sentence, it will be easy for us to learn the meaning through aid from Chinese subtitle. Needless to say, it is also important for the Chinese subtitle to be well structured. In some movies, when using subtitles of other language, the sentence formed is very awkward as they translate it word by word without considering the different way of expressing in various languages. This will lead to confusing sentences that have to be rearranged to get the true meaning. In cases like this, the subtitle loses its function as it confuses the spectators more rather than helping them understand more.

In conclusion, by aid from both subtitles we're able to understand the movie and thus measure the movie to produce a film review from it. The two subtitles have their own function and is most effective when they are being used together.


On the complete, we think that the subtitles provided in movie do improve our English reading and writing skill. It enhances our vocabularies; make us understand the movie better. There are numerous evidences show that when students watch movies with English subtitles, their reading and writing skills show a great improvement. For instance, in the movie, "Angels and Demons" and "The Man from Earth", subtitles help us understand the plot better, as these movies contain a lot of foreign language as well as scientific, historic and religious terms such as Illuminati, preferiti, antimatter, Cro-Magnon, Palaeolithic, Hammurabi, and Resurrection; the subtitles help us to know very well what the actors and actresses say in the movie in particular when they are using the American and Italian slangs which is quite difficult for Malaysians to comprehend unless we're able to manage it.

However, too much reliance on subtitles does retard our speaking and listening ability. When we watch these movie, we will concentrate more on the subtitles thus we may miss some interesting scene of the movie. Moreover, whenever we are too focusing on the subtitles provided, we will subconsciously neglect the audio part of the movie, where we will not listen the pronunciations of what in the dialogue. Thus, this will retard our speaking ability even as we didn't know the word pronunciations well.

By considering each one of these benefits and drawbacks brought by subtitles, we have to take into account whether we require subtitles to assist us when watching movie. What do you consider about any of it? Without subtitles, is it possible to understand the movie well? To ensure an equilibrium development of reading, speaking, listening, and writing skills, should we watch the same movie twice, first without subtitle, and then again with subtitles?

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