5 benefits of subtitling video and media content

By Lucia Mecocci

Hi! In this post, we will see 5 of the current benefits of subtitles, which are in greater demand in the localization industry.

To start with, what are subtitles?

Subtitles are a type of audiovisual translation (AVT): scholar Gottlieb defines them as a written, additive, immediate, synchronous and polymedial text.[1] In other words, subtitling consists in adding to the original soundtrack new written material, which is displayed synchronically with the film to the screen.

One of the main characteristic of subtitles is concision: not all is said in the original soundtrack can be transferred to the text on screen. That depends mainly on two reasons:

1. Viewers should read and understand quickly the subtitles in order to have the necessary time to enjoy the images.

2. Secondly, in subtitles, there are spatial and temporal parameters to be met. When subtitlers perform spotting (setting the “in” and “out” times of each subtitle), they try to reflect the rhythm of the film (pauses, shot changes and so on) and sometimes they have to condensate subtitles.

If you are interested in this topic and wish to learn more about subtitling from a technical point of view, I highly recommend you to read this book: Audiovisual translation: Subtitling by Díaz-Cintas & Remael.

Let’s now turn on the subtitling benefits.

1. Subtitles for corporate training videos
Companies nowadays are more willing than ever to hire employees abroad and training videos are being increasingly used to welcome and train new hires. It appears that if you can get your viewers to read through your videos this can makes them more engaging for the employees.

2. Subtitles as a language learning tool
Watching movies, TV shows and videos in general is an active process, since viewers are watching, listening and reading (when the translation mode is subtitling) at the same time. People are generally recognised to be visual learners and since they can hear the foreign language while reading the translation in the subtitles, they are confronted with many new words, sentence structures and expressions. Therefore, subtitles are a fantastic way for developing an ear for more nuanced features of foreign languages.

3. Watching videos in noisy or sound-sensitive environments
Users recently tend to watch social network videos with the sound off. For instance, while at work, where they risk to be disruptive by playing it loudly or in noisy public places (like the tube), where they cannot hear the sound. Digiday UK reports that 85% of Facebook videos autoplay on mute and according to marketers, subtitles are original video solutions for grabbing the attention of viewers while scrolling through their news feed on social networks.

4. Subtitles improve SEO
Although search engines (like Google) are not yet able to understand and index videos, they can index the subtitles embedded in them and give a boost in the search rankings of videos. This can make a great difference on the number of users who find, for instance, a company website, watch its videos and enjoy the content. Remember that search engines do not index automatically generated subs (like automatic subtitles on YouTube).

5. Hard of hearings need subtitles for understanding videos
Did you know that nowadays there are still many people who cannot have access to video and media contents? Think about people suffering hear problems: only in Italy, according to Istat, they accounts for more than 800.000 people. The main Italian TV stations, namely RAI and Mediaset, provide subtitles for hearing impaired, but only for a small number of TV programmes. Therefore, providing subtitles for hearing impaired is a must to ensure content is being shown in an inclusive way and enjoyed by a greater number of people.

It goes without saying that the list of the possible subtitling benefits does not end here, but keep in mind that all these advantages are related to professional high-quality subtitles and does not apply to automatic generated ones.

Author: Lucia Mecocci

[1] Gottlieb, H. (1992). “Subtitling – A New University Discipline”. In C. Dollerup & A. Loddegaard (eds) Teaching Translation and Interpreting. Training, Talent and Experience. Papers from the First Language International Conference, Elsinore, Denmark, 31 May – 2 June 1991. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Ben