The History And Development Of Subtitles English Language Essay

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Subtitle has two types of meaning. It can be either a heading after a title or a textual version of the dialog in films, which is usually displayed at the screen. Here, subtitle in media which refers to the meaning as a textual version of what is said onscreen; often used in foreign movies or in science fiction films to translate a language which can be lost or imaginary to real language. In a movie developed in one local language can be broadcast with sub-title in English so that audience of English speakers can enjoy watching the movie while broadcast. Furthermore, people learning a foreign language may use same-language subtitles. This is how subtitles in different language are helping reaching people of different language. Although same-language subtitles and captions are produced primarily with the deaf and hard-of-hearing in mind, many television viewers choose to use them. This is often done because the presence of closed captioning and subtitles ensures that no word of dialogue will be missed. Those who are the viewers, they are never ready to miss any part just only for language problem, this is the reason which lead the movie makers to develop the subtitle quality day by day which was first seen in 1903 as titles in Edwin S. Porter's Uncle Tom's Cabin invented by J. Stuart Blackton. The titles were called subtitles from 1909, as they were used in the similar way as subtitles in for instance the newspapers. Earlier, but rarely, the subtitles were used in the moving images like Porter's College Chums (1907), the French films Judex (1916) or Mireille (1922). With the invention of sound film, in 1927, the audience became able to hear the actors. So the titles used in between the scenes were disappeared & finally they started with using subtitle what we call now. So from the era of silent film when the very first sub-title (in 1909 by M N Topp) in modern sense was used, people considered it as the light of the day and started to dream of a new era in the media.

Later on, subtitle became much more developed with the help of science & technology. There can be found some steps of developing subtitling-

From inter-titles to subtitle & later on The optical method

The subtitling using thermal & mechanical process (introduced by Leif Eriksen, 1930)

The chemical process (introduced by R. Hruska, 1932)

The laser subtitling (latest developed introduced by Denis Auboyer, 1988)


The Functions of Subtitles

"The basic unit of a film is a frame, a series of frames is a shot, several shots make a scene and scenes make up the sequences that together constitute the film. The dialogue joins these components up like beads on a single thread." (Ali Hajmohammadi, 2005)

From what Ali has stated, we can say that dialogues do play an important role as it controls the image story with the flow of shots and each of it delivering a push as to keep it on the track. However instead of dialogues, there is another one thing that is also important which the subtitle is.

Actually, the subtitles are just like the shadows of dialogues. This is because the subtitles are presenting the dialogues, what are being said by the characters, without the dialogues extra-linguistic features like gender, age, social or class, also minus the paralinguistic features such as facial expression of characters, head or eye movements or even gesture. Emotional tone, pitch patterns are also not be counted in subtitles. That means the subtitles are just stand for only a small portion of the main dialogue.

In light of this view, the main dialogue can be considered as an acceptable equivalent of the SL version if any fusion of words that can give the similar direction to the image-story. To mention it another way, any type of expression that can build the same type of connection between the shots as the actual dialogue shall be regarded as perfect.

According to Ali, "Translation may be defined as follows: the replacement of textual material in one language (SL) by equivalent textual material in another language (TL)." (Ali Hajmohammadi, 2005)

People may get confused with subtitling done this way may be deemed as translation, where the answer should be with no doubt, since the aim is to help TL audience to introduce the SL material, as it may with any type of interpretation. However, not like other forms of Interlingua transfer, effective subtitling needs appreciation of the confinements of the media and an appeal very clearly centred on the audience, what means that the master product have to be configured with two basic things for better attention:

1) The interest and common sense of the audiences who are going to enjoy the film. Subtitling provides these viewers as a helping tool to make the movie understandable and thus help them get the image of the story.

2) The bull's eye of the audio-visual media and their temporary nature, which requires subtitles to accommodate strategies of translation and rejuvenate the actual audiovisual condition.

Those who are the subtitle makers they have to be very visual and literate and completely familiar not only with the cinema language but also very fluent in the target language. Besides that, they need to be talented and innovative enough to condense each the segment function of the dialogue in the very lowest possible words and making that function understandable in the specific condition concerned often calls for repetition, for attentive viewing.

We consider that better subtitling means first and foremost the shortening to give image and the pride of the place to the viewer. Reid, as an experienced subtitle maker, mentions it as "deciding what is padding and what is vital information." We would like to recommend the viewers that the image carries the most important information and we should care for that.

The Positive Effects of Subtitles

Online Video Subtitles Increase Video Viewing By 40%

Mark R Robertson (2009) proved that subtitles can help with invention and receptiveness and it also can increase the amount of time watching videos spends by the users by almost 40 percent. He also stated that 80 percent more people watched the entire video to its completion when there are subtitles provided.

Therefore we agree with him that this thing could be a very important indicator for post-roll video advertising as some of those videos at the end which have an invitation or a message.

All of this is according to conducted trials by PLY media, which is a provider of closed-caption solutions. They have found that those videos which contained subtitles and captions were watched 91 percent to end compared with 66 percent to end for those without any subtitle.

Subtitles as learning sources and helps new English learners

We can categorize two types of viewer, which is one with excellent English while the other one is a new learner or just a lower-level learner. As study by Holger Mitterer and James McQueen proved that English subtitles helps new English learner. Logically, those new learner might have problems and difficulties when they watch movies in English. Those people who are excellent in English also might face the same problem because not all of them can understand the native speakers, 100 percent.

Therefore, sometimes listeners used to have difficulty in understanding unfamiliar regional accents of their native language as the speech sounds of the accent mismatch those of the language standard. This kind of situation usually arises when we watch a film in a second language. Therefore the subtitles that match the language of the film would help someone to cope better with the film. It means English subtitles for English movies. The reason for this is because the subtitles appeared indicate which words are being spoken.

(Vander plank, 1988: 272-273) said that subtitles might have a potential value in helping the learning process by providing learners with the key to massive quantities of authentic and comprehensible language input.

Borras and Lafayette (1994) voice a similar concern, but also maintain that the proponents of subtitles contend that subtitles may help develop language proficiency by enabling learners to be conscious of language that they might not otherwise understand. They also state that same language subtitling may help the foreign/second language learner associate the aural and written forms of words more easily and quickly than video without subtitles.

So, for those new learners, this is really helpful for them. They will not get frustrated as they also can understand what is being said. It is also help them to improve their vocabulary. Sometimes people may feel that it can be a pain to read those subtitles sometimes, but this is the only way to understand foreign people with thick accents in shorter and easy way.

Subtitles Improve Viewers Vocabulary

Wilson (2002) suggests that subtitled movies encourage learners to consciously notice new vocabulary and idioms and, as such, may have potential to facilitate vocabulary acquisition without being a distraction for learners.

Koolstra & beentjes (1999) have investigated whether children can learn English vocabulary through watching a television program with an English soundtrack and Dutch subtitles. They concluded that vocabulary was highest in the subtitled condition.

In other case, Stewart & Pertusa (2004) explored gains in vocabulary recognition made by intermediate students viewing films in Spanish with English subtitles and others watching the same films with Spanish subtitles. They reported that intralingua subtitles are more effective in enhancing vocabulary recognition.

The Negative Effects of Subtitle

Subtitles Distract The Audience

It seems obvious that if we are watching a film in a foreign language with subtitles in our own language, we are going to read the subtitles and pay less attention to what is being said. Besides, it can cause a viewer to miss some important scenes in the film. How can we focus for two things at one time right? So that film should not have subtitle or maybe they can make the subtitle optional for the viewer. They can choose whether they want to watch the film with subtitle or not. Therefore those who do not want the subtitle would not be distract the attention at the dialogue with those words at the low side of the screen.

Reese & Davie (1987) conclude that subtitles may impede understanding of the picture stories by distracting attention from the visuals. Similarly, according to Koolstra & Beentjes (1999) an aesthetic disadvantage of subtitling is that the subtitles may distract the viewer from watching the visual images because the title partly covers the film, and because the reading of subtitles make the viewer, especially the viewer with poor reading skill, look away from the film.

Subtitles Do Not Help In Learning

People said that they are learning English using the subtitle provided when watching films. However, the fact is learners need to get used to hearing non-subtitled speech because they would not have subtitles when talking with native speakers. Therefore, they have to learn to watch film without subtitle in order to increase their hearing skill. Using this way only can help them. They should watch the same film for several times, and then naturally they will understand the dialogues as they watch the film more than one time.

Zanon (2006) refers to two common handicaps of using subtitles in foreign language education. One is too much concentration on reading so that the dialogues are ignored or forgotten. The second problem deals with the difficulty to break the habit of reading once learners are used to doing so.

Mother Tongue Language Retarded English Learning Process

In other aspect, subtitle also because the viewers become lazy and their learning process not increasing. This is because the viewer watch film with their mother tongue subtitles and they would not listen to the dialogue. They just read the subtitles while watching the movie and 'close their ears'. As long as the subtitles are there, they would not learn. So, there is no learning that people talk about when we watch film with attack language subtitle like this. If we want to learn, watch a movie without the subtitle which is the most efficient way.


The first research was conducted by Maria Bernschutz, done in 2007. The aim of this research was to study the attitude of viewers towards subtitles. 413 students of Corvinus University of Budapest, CUB were the sampling. There were 37% male respondents and 63% female respondents. The average age for the sampling was 21 years old.

An online focus group conversation was created in a chat room as the starting of this research. They respondents were divided into 4 groups of 17 persons. All of the respondents were asked to answer some quantitative questionnaires. They can freely express their opinions; they can prompt and interact with other respondents with the online interface. Maria had listed seven of the focus group's discussion in her journal as followed;

Questions about watching television in general

Open questions in connection with subtitled films

Semantic differential questions about subtitled films

Watching an entertaining film which is an extract from Friends-English Audio, Hungarian subtitle and semantic differential and open questions about it

Playing the informative film and open questions which are an extract from Animals Are Beautiful People-English Audio, Hungarian subtitle

Questions with reference to learning languages, subtitling, going abroad

Projective techniques with questions about habits of media usage

All of the data were analyzed through qualitative research and were divided into three parts which are the phase of narrowing data, the phase of visualizing data and the phase of drawing conclusion based on Miles and Huberman concept. They found out that the respondents mostly agreed on the fact that subtitles are better than dubbings in making documentary films more authentic. Foreign movies also should be retained and watched in their original language. They suggested that subtitles can be applied in art movies as they are know that original art movies are very complicated. Some of the respondents said that they failed to read the subtitles as the display time of the subtitles was too short. At last themetical channels and redefinition of public broadcasting services were provided.

The second research was conducted by Holger Mitterer and James M. McQueen. 121 Dutch students were the participants which are the sampling for this research and they were from the subject pool of the Max Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics. The research was conducted in six steps in order to prove whether their hypothesis is correct or not.

Firstly, they informed all the participants about the nature of this study. The second step is six groups were formed with 20 persons for each group and those groups were given the right to choose whether they want to watch Australian or Scottish material which each of them presented with English subtitles, Dutch subtitles or no subtitles at all. Then, the participants have to watch either Kath & Kim (season 1, episode 5) which is a 25-minutes episode with English subtitle only or Trainspotting which already shortened to 25 minutes with English or Dutch subtitles. After the watching sessions, the participants were asked by Mitterer and McQueen to repeat back 80 audio excerpts from each material which are spoken by the five main characters. That means, each of them have to repeat back 160 audio excerpts. All of their responses towards the sources were recorded using a microphone and stored on DAT. Lastly, two judges will marked and give the scores for repetition accuracy offline of those responses by participants.

As for the results, they found that their hypothesis were quite close to the real results. The results show that the Australian English is harder to repeat by the participants than Scottish English. They also found out that the accomplishment was bad when some of the participants had to repeat new materials which are those who had been exposed to Dutch subtitles with the Australian subtitle. Nevertheless, there is only 7% of difference in the percentage.

Last but not least, they discovered that for English and Dutch subtitles, there were more correct words were repeated after them compare to materials without subtitles. Through this research, they got three key-findings as the conclusion. Firstly, exposure to a different foreign regional accent do improves verbal communication understanding of viewers. Then, native language subtitles do help detection of words that viewer used to hear but harm recognition of new words. Lastly, foreign language subtitles do improve reiteration of new words and also those words that viewers used to hear.

The third research was conducted by a group of researchers in Spain from UAB Research Centre on Hearing Impairment and Language Acquisition (GISTAL) and the research was published in The American Annals of the Deaf. All the samplings were those who attended schools with normal children by relying on the use of lip-reading and auditory prostheses to communicate with their friends. The first sample consisted of 20 students with profound or severe deafness, aged between 12 to 19 years old and the research was conducted in three steps.

Firstly, their level of understanding was measured using visual, audio, oral and printed information. Then, The Heart of the City segment was chosen as the material and the participants were asked to explain what happened in the chosen segment. For the last step, they were divided into three groups and there were three types of viewing for each group. The first group was without sound, the second group with sound and the last group with sound and subtitles. The results stated that global understanding was achieved by 30% of the first group and 40% of the second and third group which is 10% increasing in the percentage.

For the second sample, 23 younger children were chosen. 7 of them aged between 6 and 7 while the other 16 aged between 7 and 10 years old. The participants were asked to watch a segment of Shin Chan and it was provided with subtitles which they already formed with new speed and text selection criteria. However they also divided into two groups. The first group with regular subtitles while the second group with augmented subtitles. Only 2% from the first group understood what the story was about and 65.5% from the second group successfully understood the story.

The final results out of this research were current subtitles are not good enough for those with hearing impairment as the speed of the subtitles appeared and the dialogues failed to give the participants enough time to look at the images and understand what was the taking place on the screen are about. They also mentioned about some changes that have to be taken into consideration as if the information offered by the spoken language, language skills of the deaf viewers, sound in general and the images. Lastly, they stressed on the importance of subtitles for deaf children as they may help their reading skills.


Film Review

Film: Blood Diamond


Leornardo DiCaprio - Danny Archer

Djimon Hounsou - SolomonVandy

Jennifer Connelly - Maddy Bowen

Arnold Vosloo - Colonel Coetzee

The film takes place in the late 1990's during the height of the diamond trade conflict. Solomon Vandy, a simple fisherman whose village is ransacked by rebels who separate him from his family and force him to work in the mines. There he found a precious diamond, and just before the rebel diamond field is taken by the government, Vandy buries the diamond for later. While he is in prison as a result of the government's raid, he meets Danny Archer, a diamond smuggler who insists that he can help Vandy sell the diamond and find his family.

The two set off through the war-ravaged countryside, dodging both government and rebel forces as well as a nosy New York reporter, who takes a bit of a liking to Archer. Director Edward Zwick, does nothing to hide the audience from the true face of the violence in Africa, not shying away for a moment from showing kids with AK-47s shooting up towns of women and children. At first the scenes involving young boys thrown into the militia life may seem like overkill or even a bit of exploitation, but Zwick only shows how the violence really happens.


In the end, Blood Diamond is bound to make you think. It is a hard to watch, well acted and politically charged Hollywood drama, yes. But above all things, it is a story about Africa and how the world continues to placate the violence by turning and looking away. Blood Diamond is as unyielding and unnerving as anything we have seen this year.

Film: Up


Edward Asner - Carl Fredrickson

Christopher Plummer - Charles Muntz

Jordan Nagai - Russell

Bob Peterson - Doug

Up, the latest Pixar-Disney animation from director Pete Docter is a lovely, creative, exciting, charming and visually stunning family comedy which can leave no heart unarmed. It is also Pixar's first 3D movie and we think that the 3D effects enhance the experience. It really brings us into the movie. We can feel the thousands of soaring balloons, the heights, and those aerobatic stunts.

The story was about a lonely, curmudgeonly old widower called Carl Fredricksen, lives all by him in a house on land that unscrupulous property developers want to buy. He sets out to fulfil his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America by tying thousands of multi-coloured helium balloons to his house and uses it to take off. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he is not alone on his journey, since Russell, a wilderness explorer, has inadvertently become a stowaway on the trip. The old man is fulfilling a childhood promise to his deceased wife, Ellie, of visiting the adventure and landing his house at a place called Paradise Falls -- where she had always wanted to visit and he, himself has dreamed of since he was a little boy and wanted to be an explorer, inspired by the adventurer Charles Muntz - a flawed Lindberghian hero.

Tagging along for the ride is wilderness-scout Russell and eventually Doug, a dog with an electronic talking collar. The story relies heavily on the interplay between the characters since the backdrop action (which at some point involves, hauling a weightless house through a jungle by means of a rubber garden hose that is tied around Carl's mid-section). It is so surreal as to be disorienting without strong leads to, well, keep it grounded. It is short at 96 minutes while still making us feel it takes its time.


We found that English movie with English subtitles makes us understand the story better rather than English movie with attacked language subtitles. This is because by using the English subtitles, we can understand what the story is about. It will not mix up with different translations. Furthermore, sometimes the attacked language subtitles are quite different from the dialogues. They do not exactly same with the dialogues and it makes us to hardly understand what the characters talk about. It also cause misunderstanding between us and the real script by the characters. Finally when we finished watching the movies, we might get wrong with the real story line of that movie.

As Ali Hajmohammadi (University of Allameh Tabatabai, Tehran, I.R. of Iran) has said and as we find that subtitles are like a shadow of the dialogues, it means that it should be the same. So, which language is the dialogues used, that also should be used by the subtitles and it must the same. The same line appears when the dialogues come out from the characters. Then only we can really understand what the story is about.

The reasons for saying that attacked language subtitles are not as good as the English subtitles is because sometimes the translations are not really accurate to the real meaning of the dialogues. All this depends on the translator. There are some translators who just do the translations without think carefully and did not check the real meaning of the dialogues. That is why sometimes we can found that there are inaccurate words in attacked language subtitles. It is also not surprising to see subtitles of mixed languages such as in one line of sentence, there are English words and Malay words, used together as a sentence and that is definitely hard to understand by the viewers. That kind of situations usually found in the pirate DVDs.

As according to Koolstra & Beentjes (1999), an aesthetic disadvantage of subtitling is that the subtitles may distract the viewer from watching the visual images because the reading of subtitles makes the viewer look away from the film. From that, it is stated that our attentions to the play will be disrupted with the presence of subtitles, but, when we watch English movie with English subtitles, we can deny the statement that we really do not be disturb by the subtitles as we are following the dialogues which are the same as the subtitles. We can catch the word from the dialogues and at the same time, we look at the subtitles to make us understand better of what the dialogues are about. This is especially when the characters using different accents of speaking from us.

However, the statement from the study might be true when we watch English movies with Malay subtitles as Zanon (2006) argues that many viewers consider subtitles a nuisance because they cover visual information and so lessen the credibility of the film and Danan (2004) holds that language learners often have feelings of guilt or annoyance when first exposed to subtitles. This is because the dialogues and the subtitles provided are different. It causes some chaos there to listen to the dialogues and at the same time to look at the subtitles, especially when several number of people watching movies together. This is quite hard for the viewers to really enjoy the movies compared to reading the English subtitles while following the dialogues. Through attacked language subtitles, the viewers also might be confused with words are the real meaning for some words from the dialogues. They maybe can understand what the scene is about but they do not really learn from the subtitles and they are actually not listening to the dialogues. They just understand what the plays are about and might left some important parts or words from the characters.

As the conclusion for this, we hold that the English movie with English subtitles makes us understand the story better than the English movie with Malay subtitle.


After we go through this project, we can conclude that subtitles provided in movies do improve our English. Both, Malay and English subtitles that we chose for this project do help us while watching the films.

The reasons are through subtitles we can understand the dialogues better as sometimes we cannot really understand what the characters are talking about because of the accents and also because they speak too fast. So, at this kind of situation subtitles are really helpful.

Other than that, the reasons for saying that subtitles do improve our English are because we can learn lots of new bombastic words from subtitles that we did not learned in class. All those words can be use in writing essays especially for exams as bombastic words can help in increase our marks. Furthermore, it makes our life easy as we do not have to read the thick dictionary to improve our vocabulary. When we watch movies with subtitles, especially the attacked language subtitles, we can directly know the meaning of the words that we do not understand from the dialogues.

In addition, subtitles did help those people who did not take English lesson in school but through watching movies with subtitles, indirectly they learned English. There are cases when a girl can speak English with British accent, fluently even though her parents never send her to any tuition class to learn English nor they can speak English. But this girl learned English from one of the most popular English movie, Harry Potter. She watched the movie, again and again as she loves that movie very much. As the results after so many times of watching Harry Potter, her English improved very well. She also announced as the winner of Spell It Right competition last time. She master in vocabulary well too from watching movies with subtitles.

As the conclusion, we really agree that English movies with subtitles helped people in improving their English. Do not look at the negative side of it. Search for the positive one and learn from it.