A History And Development Of Subtitles English Language Essay

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The invention of films in the early years led to the production of intertitles. Intertitles were inserted between the sequences of a film after the texts were printed on papers. Being as the first effort taken in conveying the dialogue among the actors to the viewers, they were first used in Edwin S. Porter's film Uncle Tom's Cabin which was published in 1903. Later on, from 1909 onwards, the titles were called subtitles as they played the same role as subtitles in reading materials such as a newspaper. The titles inserted between the scenes of a film were disappeared from the year 1927 on. This was caused by the invention of sound films in which the dialogue among the actors could be heard by the audience but then, they were used again in film production. They were inserted in the picture and thus became what we called subtitles.

The techniques used to insert subtitles into films were developed from years to years. They were optical method, mechanical and thermal process, chemical process and laser subtitling, which is used until today. In the era of intertitles, slides with printed texts were projected onto the screens but then the optical method was implemented. The titles were copied onto the film itself. A space for titles was provided, which was enclosed within a frame. The frame was kept at fixed position while the film negative and positive strips were shown on the screen. The only problem with this method was that the whole film needed to be recopied and much effort needed to be done.

In 1930 a method of inserting titles directly onto the images of a film was invented. However the processes involved was very difficult and produced unclear letters. In 1932 Oscar I. Ertnæs and R. Hruska who is an inventor in Budapest came out with a new technique to apply the method. That was by using some chemical processes. A thin coating of paraffin was applied to a film copy which was softened by moistening its emulsion layer. Printing plates which contained letters of the titles, were pressed against the paraffin coating. It was then displaced and exposes the film emulsion. This process produced clear white letters on the screen. The plates were no more required in laser subtitling technique. Instead of the plates, lasers are used to vaporize the emulsion. Denis Auboyer and Titra-Film were the two figures responsible for this development. This technique has been widely used since the year 1988 until today.

2.0 Literature Review

2.1 The Functions of Subtitles

In some films and television programs, texts are displayed at the bottom of the screen. They keep changing according to the actors' dialogue. They are what we call subtitles. Subtitles are dialogue in films in the form of text and indeed they have a lot functions. The first function of subtitles is to help deaf people and also viewers who have difficulties in recognising accent to follow the dialogue. According to Donald Simmons (2010)1, the subtitles can be in two forms. The first form is the translation of the dialogue in another foreign language and the other one is the written translation in the same language being spoken in the films.

Subtitles can ensure no words of the dialogue will be missed and thus they help the viewers to understand the sequence of the film better. Television teletext subtitles which are television information retrieval service are also available for viewers but they were hidden. The audience can request from a menu to use them. These television teletext subtitles have sound representation for the deaf viewers and also people who have hearing problems. They still have the original audio thus this will not alter the meaning or messages that is tried to be conveyed.

Furthermore, same language subtitles can be used by language learners to catch up with the words said by the actors thus this will enhance their abilities to understand the language faster. At the same time, they will learn how words are pronounced and what meaning do they carry. The other function of subtitles is they can be used to translate dialogue from a foreign language which is used in the films to the native language of the audience. By this way, the original dialogue and voices of the actors can be heard together with the voice expression.

Ali Hajmohammadi (2005)2, from University of Allameh Tabatabai, Tehran, Iran, in his article said:

"Film lovers want to watch their favorite films in the original. This may be matter of hearing the real voices of their favorite actors, which they can do with subtitles. Another important incentive is the desire to learn a foreign language, as is illustrated by viewing patterns in my home country, Iran"

Next is subtitles function to further reveal information that is difficult to be picked up. Some applications of this function are in song lyrics, dialogue spoken quietly or minor dialogue from the background characters. This will allow the viewer to a better grasp on those materials. Other than that, subtitles also function to help people in some East Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea to understand the television programs and films being watched. For an instance, people in China speak using different accents and dialects although they have one standard spoken language which is known as Putonghua. Subtitles in the standard form of written Chinese are used to solve this problem. Subtitles are also used in interviews during live broadcasts as accents in East Asian languages can happen to be difficult to understand by those who are unfamiliar with them.

2.2 The Positive Effects of Subtitles

The world film industries are growing and many types of movies and films are being produced. Some of them come with subtitles and some are not. Movies or films with subtitles bring positive effects than those without subtitles. One of the positive effects is they still contain the original movement, voice trembling, feelings, and many other things which the original actors do in their voices which give the feeling the director wants.

Dubbing, which is the substitution of the original actors' voices by another person who may be using a different language, for example cannot produce the same effects as the original movies or films with subtitles. Subtitles preserve the original audio effect of the films. Subtitles also allow the audience to understand that talkers or actors better.

According to Holger Mitterer and James M. McQueen (2009)3, subtitles in the language of the film being watched can inform the viewers which words are being spoken thus this can encourage learning about how foreign words sound and how they should be pronounced. At the same time, subtitles can improve our listening ability. The viewers can use their knowledge about how words normally sound as to listen to the speech in a different way and accent. For an instance, if a Scottish accent is used to say some words, English subtitles will usually tell the viewers what that word was and also how it sounds in other dialects. This made it easier for them to tune in to the accent. Other than that, subtitles also have positive implications in educational field. Language learners may also want to have visual aids other other than the audio input provided by the films in improving their listening skills. As subtitles appear to give help in learning foreign languages, they can be used such as on a DVD during the targeted language learning.

On the other hand, with subtitles of the same native language as the viewers, it will be easier for them to read the subtitles and hence understand the sequences of a story. A Spanish movie for example, can cause the beginner learners of Spanish language to be despaired whenever they come across those unheard words. Subtitles help these learners to follow the plot and provide cues for words in Spanish they should be listened. Some movies or films are shown for the purpose of appreciating and conveying their historical and cultural values. By inserting subtitles into those movies and films, it can be ensured that important information are understood by the viewers.

Other than that, humorous and sensible subtitles can also add fun to a program and they indeed play a big role to arise the audience's interest. As many programs that are hosted by group emcees come into existence, subtitles are undeniably required. Explanation on what they are doing and talking is needed in order to allow the audience to have clear ideas on things going around as many characters can contribute to a chaotic situation.

2.3 The Negative Effects of Subtitles

Despite all the positive effects subtitles have, they also bring some negative effects to the society. One of them is people who do not have the ability to read at all will not understand the movie they are watching. They can just watch the acting without understanding the words uttered by the actors. People in the countries that highlight the usage of their native languages like Poland and Russia may not be able to understand subtitles in other languages even the English language. That is the reason why another technique is applied in film industries that is dubbing.

Moreover, subtitles mostly consist of one or two lines of texts and never go any longer. Whenever long dialogue is uttered, each line of the subtitles is displayed just for a short while and this can make the viewers sometime be lost and not be able to catch up with all those words. The viewers need to read them fast enough. Another thing is that they need to concentrate on the subtitles displayed and in the meantime on the images above and behind the subtitles. Thus, for most people who cannot read quickly in high extent, catching up with the subtitles and pictures displayed can be very tiring.

The other negative effect of subtitles is that wrong usage of words or vocabulary of the targeted foreign language can probably happen. This effect may occur if the subtitle writers are not the native speaker of the language used in the films or in the other words, the subtitled language. In translating those words, the subtitle writers may opt for words of less precise meaning. This gives spaces for them to interpret the films by using their knowledge in that particular language only. The regional and cultural aspects are not preserved. For an instance, in British English, the term football refers to a game where a ball is kicked using feet however, the meaning will alter if it is interpreted in American English usage. In American English, the word football carries the meaning of a game where the players throw a ball by hand. If the subtitle writer does not have knowledge about how the meaning of word changes according to places, the real meaning cannot be expressed.

Next is subtitles can also discourage people to learn other languages if the films is subtitled with the viewers native language. As they can simply understand the conversation among the actors, effort is no longer required to watch their favourite movies. People no more look for the meaning of words in the dictionaries. There is no need for them to sacrifice their time joining language classes. Subtitles, without most people notice, tarnish the desire in one's heart to learn other foreign languages. The non-English speaking countries will have difficulties when subtitles provided are in English language, instead of their mother tongue language.

If same-language subtitles are used, language learning in the native speakers of the language itself will be affected especially when the subtitle writer is not one of their kind. The negative implication is not so obvious among the adults but greatly seen among the children. These children are still in their learning and discovering stage of the language. If they are exposed with wrong grammar and vocabulary, the language itself will soon be improper used.

Harbord, J. (2007). The evolution in film: rethinking film studies. Cambridge: Polity Press.

http://www.babelport.com/articles/38- ali hajmohammadi

http://www.thearticledirectory.org/Art/149601/24/Subitles-Are-Very-Important.html- donald simons