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reading subtitles through glasses

Are people getting better at reading subtitles?

Revised: May 2021

When it comes to video translation, one of the key questions you need to weigh up is whether to go with subtitles or a voiceover. Actually there are more options available, but they all involve either text captions or an overlaid voice recording – so for the sake of this article we’ll group them together.

Now, the best option for your video campaign always depends on the needs of your audience, and each approach comes with its pros and cons. But the question we want to ask today is whether people are becoming more accustomed to reading subtitles and if this makes them more effective.

The rise of global film and TV online

First, it’s important to understand what subtitles actually are and how they function.

With people growing more accustomed to subtitles, we can see that the rise of global film and TV online has had a big effect on this. The internet has given us access to media from around the world, and you don’t have to go far to explore cinema and television from countries from across the globe. In fact, there’s even a wealth of online sources where you can download subtitles for supported media players.

The effect on subtitle reception

So there are certainly more subtitles around, but does this mean people are becoming more accustomed to them? Well, this actually depends on where your audience is based. For example, European countries like Spain and Germany dub a range of foreign films and TV, while there’s a huge online community across Asia that craves film and TV from across the world – mostly relying on subtitles to make them accessible.

Piracy issues aside (not really our place to comment) there are parts of the world where subtitles are becoming second nature to many people – and this could even increase as the latest tech savvy generations mature.

How popular are subtitles?

Aside from allowing us to enjoy foreign language content, subtitles are also seeing an increased usage with viewers watching content in their native tongues.

In the UK, studies show that 80% of television viewers use subtitles for reasons other than hearing loss. With this, it’s clear to see that viewers are becoming more tolerant, and better at reading subtitles, as increasing numbers of use are turning to them to improve our viewing experience. 

Does this make subtitles a stronger option?

There are plenty of reasons to choose subtitles for your video campaigns – especially if you need a cost-effective way to reach audiences with many different languages. But, if there are certain audiences in your scope that are becoming more accustomed to subtitles, this could help you make the decision.

Naturally, if you have a wide range of audiences around the world, you will probably find some are more accustomed to subtitles than others, and there’s nothing to stop you alternating between both for specific audiences (in fact, it’s recommendable). Better yet, in an ideal scenario, you would offer both options to each audience and give them the chance to choose their preference.

Whatever you decide is best, our expert team here at Matinée Multilingual will be able to help. Whether you need help with subtitling, or a talented voice-over artist, why not get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you?

Call us on +44 (0) 118 958 4934

Or email project@matinee.co.uk