The Comprehension Benefits Through Subtitling English Language Essay

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Many researchers had experimented the usefulness and effectiveness of subtitles to language learners to replace the beliefs that subtitles bring more harm than good. Among them was Vanderplank (1988) who proved that only some initial disturbance was noted from subtitled programme and tend to disappear over the period of study. This means that they are able to read and listen simultaneously and flexibly, also known as 'chunking' ability. Not only does subtitled programme keep the original voices and actors' performance, it allows rich context for language acquisition (Koolstra & Beentjes, 1999) as well as providing higher motivation to understand what they heard and saw on television (Danan, 2004). Moreover, television is a source of entertainment and subtitles can reduces the fear of failure in learning (Salomon, 1984; Larsen-Freeman, 1983). It can also be a cognitively active experience for children to predict meaningful vocabulary and content (Anderson & Collins, 1988; Rice & Woodsmall, 1988; and Neuman, 1989, 1990, 1991).

2.1.1 Comprehension Benefits Through Subtitling

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It is known that captions were more beneficial compare to images alone or oral and written summaries or video clips, in terms of the degree of comprehension of the film. (Chung,1999). In order to compare the effectiveness of watching films without subtitles, with L1 subtitles (Chinese), and with L2 subtitles (English), 128 Chinese EFL learners were tested to reveal their understanding of words and phrases. A post hoc analysis indicated that the L2 subtitle group significantly surpassed the no-subtitle group. (Tsai & Huang, 2009)

Subtitled TV programs also contributed to a regular increase in decoding skills. Kothari, Pandey and Chudgar (2004) cited Rajeshkumar Solanki's observation about a particular subtitled programme. "Due to this program we are learning to read fast, the illiterate too are learning to read from this program. Now we are also practicing to speed write as the letters go by in Chitrageet (the subtitled programme) while others read them aloud." Koolstra, van der Voort, and van der Kamp (1997) conducted a 3 years study on 828 primary school children and found that subtitles reading can provide extensive practice in decoding words.

In another study, Chinese caption showed to improve the students' knowledge of word meaning the most, followed by English captions. One reason might be English captions significantly improved students listening-word recognition and therefore facilitated word meaning skills. Hui (2007) stated that when we listen to something, whether in L1 or L2, the most important thing is to recognise the words. Another reason why having captions is better than nothing at all, is that viewers can read additional written input because Chinese ESL learners tend to be better in L2 reading than listening.

2.1.2 Listening and Reading Benefits Through Subtitling

With subtitles, subjects reported that they not only can understand fast, authentic speech and unfamiliar accents; they were more attentive and show no sign of anxiety or defensiveness before, during or after the film (Vanderplank, 1988). Subjects were hearing the accent and knew what was being said by the actors, who had strong regional or American accents.

L2 subtitles seemed to be preferable than L1 subtitles or no subtitles at all. Hayati and Mohmedi (2011) conducted a study to determine the effect of subtitled movie on listening comprehension. 90 intermediate EFL students were divided to view one of the three treatment conditions: English subtitles, L1 subtitles (Persian) and no subtitles. The results indicated that students who watched the English video with English subtitles performed substantially higher in listening test than those with Persian subtitles, which also outperformed the no subtitled group.

In addition with vocabulary/phrase acquisition and general comprehension, Huang and Eskey (1999) found that closed-captioned TV improved listening comprehension among a group of intermediate ESL students. Subjects' attitude toward L2 learning by closed captioned television was found to be favourable as well.

Combination of sounds and pictures might help learners to understand the words and meaning. Blosser (1988) explained that subtitled television viewing has positive relationship with Hispanic children, who know some English.

With familiar graphic representation (visual) of an utterance, learners can assign meaning to certain unfamiliar and incomprehensible words which will help their listening and reading comprehension. Garza (1991) also showed that those who viewed the second language captioned video scored higher than those without captions in comprehension and language memorisation. Other researchers also reported an improvement in listening comprehension with full text captions (Markham, 1989; Borrás, 1993).

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2.1.3 Vocabulary Learning Through Subtitling

One of the most studied effects of subtitles was vocabulary learning which focus on word recognition, retention and recall or spelling of words. Pioneers of research experiment such as Koskinen, Wilson, Gambrell and Jensema (1987) reported that the learning disabled students who watched television with subtitles score significantly higher in word recognition and oral reading skills than those who only read printed text. Subjects had a high level of retention and recall of language especially specific words and phrases (Vanderplank, 1988). In the presence of new or striking expression and unfamiliar words, conscious focusing occurred when text and sound come together. Learners also use subtitles for support and for 'finding' new words and phrases.

In a study to analyse whether comprehensible input via captioned television influence acquisition of vocabulary and concepts, subjects in the closed-captioned group scored higher in word knowledge and recall of information than three other groups who watch traditional non-captioned television; reading along and listening to text; and textbook (Neuman & Koskinen, 1992).

For native Dutch elementary school children and university students to native English and advanced non-native speakers, vocabulary acquisition and recognition of English words were highest among those in subtitling condition (d'Ydewalle & Pavakanun, 1992, 1995; Koolstra & Beentjes, 1999; Bird & William 2002).

Bird and William (2002) examine the effect of single-modality (sound or text) and bimodal (sound and text) presentation on word learning. The first experiment showed that captions can implicitly retain the phonology of words and improved memory recognition. The second experiment found that captioning enhanced word recognition for spoken words and nonword compare to sound-only or text-only condition.

Markham (1999) did a study on 118 advanced ESL students and found that availability of captions significantly improved words recognition on the videotapes when they subsequently heard them again. Although the group in captioned condition fared better than the group without captions, the vocabulary learning as shown in the result was not significant (Yuksel & Tanriverdi, 2009).

In a study of 69 Turkish undergraduates, Akbulut (2007) demonstrated that participants who were assigned to watch movies with definitions obtained more favourable in vocabulary learning, than those who were presented with only definition of words; or definitions with pictures. Some studies also showed that captions improve both vocabulary and comprehension (Price, 1984; Huang & Eskey, 1999).

King (2002) summarised the benefits of captioned films for language learners as follows:

motivate students to learn English, especially to listen to the dialogs in movies

bridge the gap between reading skills and listening skills

reinforce students' understanding of English context-bound expressions

follow a plot easily

learn new vocabulary and idioms

develop students' concentration in following lines

learn how to pronounce certain words

develop word recognition

process a text rapidly and improve rapid reading

enable students to keep up with the captions that accompany the spoken dialogs

comprehend jokes and have a few hearty laughs

learn different strategies and styles for processing information

easily get a clear image of related dynamic verbs and sound effects words in brackets appear on the screen, synchronized with corresponding actions and sounds such as slam the door and giggle.

2.2 Paivio (1986) Dual Coding Theory

Allan Paivio's (1971) dual-coding theory (DCT) asserted that information is much easier to comprehend when dual-coded system occurs, that is when both verbal and visual codes appear simultaneously. Using both auditory and visual form has positive effect as the redundancy of input promotes comprehension. Moreno and Mayer (2002) found that the presentation of auditory and visual text helped to improve comprehension more than just auditory only (one input).

Numerous researches have shown that those captioned video facilitate L2 acquisition, content and vocabulary learning. (Neuman & Koskinen, 1992; Baltova, 1999; Huang & Eskey, 1999). Holobow, Lambert and Sayegh (1984) investigated whether combination of listening to L1 dialogue while reading L2 scripts (reversed subtitling); or L2 in both dialogue and scripts; to determine the most effective condition. Subjects were English-speaking (L1) elementary school pupils with advanced training in French (L2). The study was found that reversed subtitling was the best way to improve foreign and second language learning. Hui (2007) stated that although Chinese do not provide spelling forms of the English words, students were able to obtained better result than the students who watched the video with no caption at all.

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Markham (1989) conducted a study on beginning, intermediate, and advanced ESL university students and the results indicated that captions facilitate students to perform beyond their proficiency level on various linguistic ability. The capabilities in spelling, word recognition, pronunciation, understanding of spoken language, intonation and construction of correct sentences; are among the abilities found. (Koolstra and Beentjes, 1999; Tsai, 2009)

2.3 Limitation of subtitles

Some study suggested that subtitles can cause text dependency, or overloaded channel capacity and becomes distracted and disturbed (Koolstra & Beentjes, 1999). Besides that, L1 subtitles can cause interference during the aural language comprehension process (Tsai & Huang, 2009). When asked about their opinions, high percentage of children of primary school in Dutch claimed that the television subtitles were "often too quick" for them (van Lil, 1988). First year students also claimed that captions were distracting and had difficulties perceiving all channels of sounds, image and captions simultaneously (Taylor, 2005).

Listening with the presence of written and auditory representations could lead to better understanding of scripted or subtitled sentences and passages but poorer performance on construction of listening comprehension and interfered with learning to listen. The findings also showed that students are not prepared to comprehend a similar passage without the support of visual texts (Diao, Chandler, Sweller, 2007).

King (2002) also noted some values of non-captioned movies for listening comprehension and fluency practice:

help students develop a high tolerance for ambiguities.

enhance students' listening strategies such as guessing meaning from context and inferring strategies by visual clues, facial expressions, voice, and sound track

promote active viewing and listening for key words and main ideas

motivate students to make use of authentic English material on their own

provide students with the opportunity to experience a great sense of accomplishment and self-assurance.

There are a number of reason how an individual can learn second language faster or slower than the others (Dörnyei, 2005). Various learner attributes such as personality traits, language aptitude and motivation may be causes to the different styles of learning, which might determine a fail or successful learning. Individual differences ranging from creativity to anxiety and learner styles may also affect learning process. Akbulut (2007) proposed that annotation type and reading ability were important factors contributing to vocabulary development. Moreover, in order to best improve reading comprehension, reading ability and visual learning styles were essential.

Correct strategies to optimise the use of captions will lead to successful language learning (Danan, 2004). For example, higher proficiency learners were more able to utilise and process information through captions successfully. She also concluded that captions can improve listening comprehension if appropriate strategies are applied.

The designs and types of programmes were researched as well, Vanderplank (1988) suggested that the plots, relationships and characters and programmes such as comedy were much easier to understand and appreciate with subtitles as well as familiarity of the programmes that will contribute considerably to comprehension of the video (Markham, 2001; Akbulut, 2007). Hui (2007) also believed that students should be shown with captioned authentic video rather than simplified video in order to challenge the students' ability and make progress.

d'Ydewalle & Pavakanun (1997) reported that language acquisition was highest for programmes with soundtrack in language similar to L1. This may suggest that new words are learned more effectively through watching subtitled programmes which sounds similar to the viewers' L1. When it comes to reading the text, L1 subtitles can cause lexical interference which made L2 subtitling more useful (Guichon & McLornan, 2008). Repeated exposure help language learning as well, followed by having visual and textual support. (Chang & Read, 2007)

2.4 Subtitles as teaching materials

With the constant change in languages and the media, language learners in classroom need to be exposed to technology and its integration in language teaching (Çakır, 2006). Video watching is not only entertaining; it can provide several techniques to learn which present multiple communicative situations from the context. Moreover, EFL learners depend "heavily on visual clues to support their understanding". In order to reach successful and effective results from learning language through any media, people are also encouraged to be active learners when watching video or films by participating.

Canning-Wilson (2000) supported the use of instructional video in foreign and second language teaching to allow teachers to ask both display and referential questions in an interactive classroom. Other than videos, CD ROM and computers are forms of communication which can cultivate more active learning of visual and auditory information. Therefore, multimedia environment may grant more learning opportunities for learners with different visual learning styles (Akbulut, 2007). Cummins (1979) argued that L1 proficiency and motivation are important determinant in L2 acquisition. Therefore the television, a largely entertaining medium and the subtitled programmes that come with it can be an important learning device for language learning, as it allow students to learn words in meaningful and stimulating context (Neuman & Koskinen, 1992)

For learners who have no or lack of interest in learning another language, there are various types of films to arouse different individual's interests which can be used as language learning materials (Tsai & Huang, 2009). Besides that, low quality text which can cause omissions, errors, misleading inaccuracies, differences and inconsistencies between text and speech, could actually be a very useful teaching technique and productive self-monitoring device (Vanderplank, 1988).

2.4.1 Cognitive load theory

For 25 years, CLT is regarded as one of the most important leading theories in educational psychology and instructional design (Sweller, Ayres & Kalyuga, 2011). Moreno and Mayer (2002) investigated under which conditions where on-screen text would facilitate learning which can be explained by a dual-processing model of working memory. They found that students were more superior in comprehension when auditory and visual text were presented, rather than just auditory only. However, in 2003, Mayer and Moreno (2003) stated that eliminating redundancy involves cutting unnecessary and identical streams of printed and spoken words and suggested that it is a useful way to reduce cognitive load. Cognitive overload occurs when the total intended processing exceeds the learner's cognitive capacity.

One of the earliest study is by Lambert, Boehler and Sidoti (1981) who showed that information coming from more channels or inputs such as the dialogue and scripts, garnered better mean score compare to just one input form. Guichon and McLornan, (2008) also conducted an experiment using several modalities and group French undergraduate students into four groups: sound alone; image and sound; image, sound and L1 subtitles; image, sound and L2 subtitles. The results showed that multimodality learning improved comprehension.

Although using both modalities (spoken and written) for learning had increased comprehension, visual texts should be eliminated if the aim of instruction is teaching to listen. This is because in order to improve listening, the study showed that learners will need listening-only condition. The research concluded that the presentation of both spoken and written text to EFL learners should be abandoned. This multimodality presentation imposed a heavy cognitive load that will affect effective learning (Diao, Chandler, Sweller, 2007).

To test the importance of the amount of words and audio, Barron and Atkins (1994) used authentic video and experimented with 3 groups: full text, keyword captioning method (partial captions), and no text. The result showed that the number of words did not affect comprehension significantly, suggesting that reduction of subtitles will not "adversely affect achievement gains". However, Guillory, (1998) conducted similar study where the result stated that having less words to read did not enhance comprehension. In fact, the full text group performed slightly better than keyword captions group and the keyword captions group performed better than the no-text group. This finding is important for future designs of closed captioned video as an instructional aid for classroom learning.#

Contrary to cognitive load theory, Debuse, Hede and Lawley (2009) demonstrated that there were no differences in learning efficacy between the conditions with and without subtitles, showing that redundancy effect did not necessarily bring negative outcome.

2.4.2 The Affective Filter Hypothesis

First proposed by Dulay and Burt (1977), the Affective Filter hypothesis states how affective factors relate to the second language acquisition process (Krashen, 2009). It stated that an effective language teacher is one who can deliver a great deal of comprehensible input in low anxiety situation. Students should be highly motivated, full of self confidence in order to allow lower filter, higher defence and more input to students, in other words, by doing better in second language acquisition.

Fig 1 Operation of the "affective filter"

Having entertaining quality, television can create "low filters" in classroom to promote low anxiety among students and keep them "off the defensive" (Stevick, 1976). Subtitles also proved to be beneficial in reducing anxiety (Krashen, 1985; Danan, 2004) to enable input to be internalised instead of blocking them out (ÄŒepon, 2011). Gradman and Hanania, 1991 focused on SLA and compare variables such as affective, sociocultural, age, language practice, and learning strategies. They measured the strength of relationship between each of these variables and the students' level of proficiency. They concluded that extracurricular reading exposure had the most significant effect on language learning.

A 20-month study conducted on 380 rural English as second language (ESL) Fijian children, affirmed that children who were exposed to rich and interesting illustrated story book, performed better in reading and listening comprehension (Elley & Mangubhai, 1983). Not only that, they also improve in vocabulary knowledge, structure and written comprehension. With high motivation and in a low-stress environment, numerous researches have concluded that the willingness to learn becomes enjoyable and easier to process (Stevick, 1976; King, 2002; Danan, 2004; Krashen, 2009). Cummins (1979) also argued that motivation is one of the most important determinants in L2 acquisition. Students like to learn for pleasure which will improve their linguistic skills at the same time, especially their writing skills (Hafiz & Tudor, 1989). Television programmes with the help of text contribute as a source for enjoyable and motivational means of learning (Bean & Wilson, 1989), as they motivate students to learn English when learners listen to the dialogs in movies.

2.5 Perception towards subtitles

Subtitles are viewed in different ways according to self assessment which can be influenced by various factors such as proficiency in L2 and gender differences (Kaivanpanah, Alavi, 2008). English in European countries is positively viewed to be a valuable language in order to communicate internationally while the youngsters find the language "cool" as it is the language for most popular films and music (Koolstra & Beentjes, 1999). 25% of Grade 6 Dutch children also stated that they learn more English from radio and television than when they are in schools (Vinjé, 1994). In a caption condition, Spanish students who had 3 to 4 years of study outperformed those who were in first year. All the students had positive attitudes towards captions. (Taylor, 2005).

Furthermore, Danan (2004) noted from De Bot, (1984) that a 1977 survey conducted by Dutch Broadcasting Service (NOS) revealed that 70% of their spectators favoured subtitling because it mostly allowed them to increase their language proficiency. Bean and Wilson (1989) stated that "student attitudes towards closed captioned television were extremely positive" as it helps them to learn to read as well as increasing general knowledge. Their research also reported that the group using closed captioned TV achieved certain levels on weekly sight vocabulary tests. This result suggests that television programmes with the help of text may improve word recognition and a source for enjoyable and motivational means of learning.

2.6 Conclusion

Based on the numerous studies discussed earlier, the purpose of this study is to determine the perception of ESL students towards subtitles according to their sex differences and level of proficiency.

One of the variables which are covered by the research in this study is differences in male and female. Sex differences can cause various results in second language learning and performance. In general, women are more dominant in language learning than men, both first and second. (Bacon and Finnemann, 1992; Claessen and Oud- de Glas, 1975; Pritchard, 1987; Wilson, 1991; Chavez, 2001). As for second language learning, women are able to recall lists of words or paragraphs of text better than men (Kimura, 1999) and showed superiority in both listening comprehension and vocabulary (Gardner and Lambert, 1972). In classroom learning, individuals learn differently from each other by gender where males are more visual than females (Greb, 1999; Pizzo, 1990).

Many earlier researches conducted studies on the use of subtitles and the relationship with different level of proficiency among learners. Cummins (1979) argued that L1 proficiency and motivation are important determinant in L2 acquisition. The higher L2 proficiency, the reliance on L1 as the language of thought to help L2 reading comprehension will decrease (Upton and Li, 2001).

For beginner and low intermediate learners, the use of subtitles may not be effective due to slow reading speed and the lack of proficiency in terms of grammar and lexis (Vanderplank, 1988). However, Hui (2007) argued that at any proficiency levels, vocabulary acquisition will still be influenced by the presence of captions. To examine the effects of captions on Chinese EFL students incidental vocabulary acquisition, 182 English majors Chinese university students were the subjects of the study (Hui, 2007). They were divided into high proficiency (GH) and low proficiency (GL) group with three subgroups: Chinese captions, English captions and no captions. In terms of listening word recognition and spelling gains, English captions contributed most for both GH and GL while Chinese captions subgroups scored higher than the students in no-caption group. This suggested that even low proficiency students under the no captions group also improved significantly on vocabulary which proved that video can be used as a teaching material.

Beginners, intermediate, and advanced participants who watched with subtitles fared better in comprehension than those who watched with captions (same language in dialogue and script) and control condition (without any written script). In long term, text aids were useful in learning vocabulary for each level of proficiencies. However, beginners benefited most in vocabulary comprehension from captions, followed by control condition, while intermediate and advanced students obtained better results with subtitles, followed by captions (Bianchi and Ciabattoni, 2008). Participants in this study were made up of students from the UTAR who are bilingual in English and Mandarin Chinese.