Can Subtitles Help You Learn a Language?
Many people enjoy learning languages by watching TV and movies — especially with the subtitles on! But do those subtitles actually help us learn?
Well, it depends.
First we need to discuss the difference between "subtitles" and "captions."
Subtitles are text that translates the words being spoken into another language the viewer can understand.
Captions, on the other hand, just show the spoken words in the same language, and are usually used by people who can't hear the audio.
Studies have found that the effectiveness of subtitles on language learning is mixed — and it probably depends on your level.
A 2023 review of 26 studies found that watching videos with subtitles doesn't really help beginners, but does help more as your skill improves.
Subtitles were found to be best at improving listening skills, but had little effect on learning vocabulary.
And subtitled videos don't help much if you live in a place where you're likely to hear your target language spoken outside the classroom — but they can be helpful if your target language isn't really used locally.
However, a 2012 study from France found that it could help you learn vocabulary if you watch movies in your native language, but have the subtitles in your target language.
Meanwhile, study after study has found that captions do help with language learning.
Seeing the words on the screen as they're spoken helps learners increase attention, analyze the language and reinforce their knowledge — as well as helping them understand difficult content.
In fact, a 2019 study found that video captions lead to better understanding even when used for non-language subjects.
Then there are "glossed" captions — captions that also highlight key words and define them in the learner's native language.
These seem to be even more effective. A 2018 study from Taiwan found that students who watched videos with glossed captions were even better at remembering vocabulary than those who saw videos with regular captions.
Questions:1. Explain the difference between "subtitles" and "captions."2. Discuss the result of the 2023 review of 26 studies about watching videos with subtitles.3. What about the result of the 2012 study from France? And the 2019 study about the benefits video captions.4. What are "glossed" captions? How effective are they in learning vocabulary?
5. What are your thoughts on the study's findings? How often do you use captions or subtitles when watching TV or movies?