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Thread: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

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    Hanna
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    Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Have you thought about how differently you experience a film depending on whether or not you use subtitles?

    I miss A LOT of what is said if I watch without subtitles. But I think I also learn more if I don't use them because I am forced to listen *really* carefully and be much more focussed. Also to stop, rewind and watch again...

    I think that subtitles make you lazy. If you didn't hear something, or didn't understand it, you can just ignore it because you got the meaning from the subs anyway.

    I grew up with subtitles on most TV shows, I automatically read them - even if I understand everything that's said! And even if they are in a language that I can hardly understand! It's almost impossible to ignore them!

    I don't have a lot of experience of dubbing for learning, other than learning some German from kids TV as a child. They used to keep the original speech and simply put the Swedish voiceover on top of the German. As an adult I find this kind of dubbing incredibly distracting, to the point that I don't watch anything dubbed in this way.

    Sweden never does "professional" dubbing like in Germany or France, where real actors are used for the dubbing. Only big countries do this, I think.

    Oh, one more thing: The English subs for Russian films are usually pretty bad! Have you noticed? They leave out a lot of what's said, the text is chopped up and sometimes there are problems with grammar, spelling or expressions used.

    Obviously, these may be "fansubs" and the translator might have made the subs to be helpful, for free... If so, it's not fair to complain.

    What's your experience and your view of subs and dubbing into English, Russian or any other language?

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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    I abhor dubbing, those voices that sound nothing like what the actors sound like; it's all so fake.

    One thing I think is useless is to watch a movie in a foreign language and read the subs in your native tongue and try to figure out the foreign language from that translation. Number one, there are too many processes going on in your brain and secondly translations can leave a lot to be desired.

    Subs in a foreign language are a great tool but you have to use them right. There's no way on earth I'm going to understand all of what's being said in a Russian movie or TV show; I can follow along but I miss much of the large chunks and all of the subtlety. Nor am I at a level where I can just read the subs as they flow by and understand them. So what I do is open the subtitle file (.srt) and study that completely, then go back and watch the movie with the subs. It's very painstaking, but it improves your ear and more importantly you understand what they're saying. Dialogue and in general the spoken language is a very hard barrier to crack but subs can help with that. I don't see how that encourages laziness.
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    I miss a lot that is shown if the subtitles are on. I can't help but read those subtitles and miss the film (I mean the picture).
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by sperk
    I abhor dubbing, those voices that sound nothing like what the actors sound like; it's all so fake.
    + 10000000

    I prefer to watch a film with subtitles first (if I can't get the sense without them; anyway, I always try to watch some first minutes without translation). And then, if I like the film, I always re-watch it without subtitles.

    BUT! The best variant is watching a movie with subtitles in the original language (that is you see on the screen exactly what actors say, not a translation). It's the best variant if you can't make out yourself what they say.
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Here in Germany we overdub everything. The quality is very professional; you get used to it so you don't notice that lips and words aren't in sync (though, funny enough, I do notice that very well when the movie is actually German but a given scene was overdubbed in the studio for some reason).

    However, when you compare the dubbed version to the original you often find that emotions transport better in the original language. Only then does the dubbed version appear to be somewhat flat.

    In some cases the actors recording the overdubs are so good that they are better than the original. There's a woman who does overdubs for many leading roles in US TV series, such as Ally in Ally McBeal and Maggie in Northern Exposure, and while she's not an actress, just a voice, she is often much, much better than the original voices.

    Subtitling is almost completely unknown in Germany. You find it only in artsy movies on obscure TV channels and in backyard cinemas.

    That said, I prefer watching English movies in the original with English subtitles because my hearing is so messed up that I frequently don't even understand German in movies... But I can do that only when alone, as my wife gets so distracted by subtitles that she just reads, she doesn't even notice the movie as such anymore. I can ignore the subtitles and only read them when I notice I am not getting what is being said.

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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Subtitles are bad because the spectator should engage one's eyes and misses much. It is good only if one wants to learn language rather than to enjoy movie. Or mostly remember the text.

    Synchronous dubbing with completely overwritten sound may be good if it is made professionally. Sometimes even it may improve the original movie. Namely I like Russian dubbing of the "Pirates of the Caribbean". The new voice gave some personality to that girl Knightley which she lacks. But in most cases dubbing spoils the original voice-acting more or less.

    I like voiceover method most of all. It allows to enjoy the original voice-acting, doesn't engage eyes and gives the idea of what is going on. The best way if there is one interpreter with one voice.
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  7. #7
    Hanna
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by it-ogo
    Subtitles are bad because[s:1wn9hrd0]the spectator should engage one's eyes and misses much[/s:1wn9hrd0] the viewer is focussing too much on the text and may miss out on the actual move.. It is good only if one wants to learn language rather than to enjoy movie. Or mostly remember the text.

    Synchronous dubbing with completely overwritten sound may be good if it is [s:1wn9hrd0]made professionally[/s:1wn9hrd0] professionally done. Sometimes [s:1wn9hrd0]even it may[/s:1wn9hrd0] it may even improve the original movie. [s:1wn9hrd0]Namely[/s:1wn9hrd0] I particularly like the Russian dubbing of [s:1wn9hrd0]the[/s:1wn9hrd0] "Pirates of the Caribbean". The new voice gave some personality to that girl Knightley which she lacks. But in most cases dubbing spoils the original voice-acting more or less.
    I agree - you DO miss out some of the details of the film when you are reading the subtitles. I guess that's why Germany, France, Spain etc go to the trouble of dubbing films...

    In smaller countries this isn't done - the effect is that people in smaller countries often speak English with less accent and that they are more familiar with other bih languages. But they miss out a little bit on the viewing experience. I was so used to it that I didn't think anything off it at all.

    I think Olya's method seems to be good for a learner. Watch first with subtitles, or read through the subtitles on a PC..... Then watch the film (again) without subtitles.

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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by Johanna
    I think Olya's method seems to be good for a learner. Watch first with subtitles, or read through the subtitles on a PC..... Then watch the film (again) without subtitles.
    The best results are achieved if you do the other way around. First watch the film without subtitles and then watch it with the subtitles in the original language.
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by bitpicker
    I can ignore the subtitles and only read them when I notice I am not getting what is being said.
    That's way I do it, too. I think subtitles are incredibly useful, both for listening and learning the language. I know that some people find it hard to watch the film and read the subtitles at the same time. But it gets much better when you watch the film a second time. I don't know where I would be if it weren't for subtitles. They help you get used to the way spoken language gets shortened.

    When I watch a movie for the first time I'll always switch the subtitles on, if they're provided. I'm not quite as arrogant as to suppose I know everything. And I'll enjoy it better if I understand the jokes, etc. Movies are much harder to understand than, for example, tv-programmes, news, interviews and such. If I watch an interview on a dvd extra for the first time, without subtitles, I understand about 98% of what is being said, if I watch a movie it might be anywhere from 50 to 80%. The aim of a movie is often to be entertaining, so there are funny accents, jokes - how are you supposed to get it all?

    I have a friend who spent two years in the US so she knows English fairly well. She never watches films with subtitles - just doesn't like it. So this one time we were watching "The Pirates of the Carribean", the first part, in English. Now, you know how it's got all that 18th century pirate talk and lots of nautical terms? She didn't know them of course. And if you remember there's this gag running through the whole movie with the "parley" word. Hilarious joke, but it was all wasted on her because she didn't know that word and didn't hear it. So there you have it - poor scriptwriters who toiled so hard to make the movie funny and entertaining and half their effort was lost on her.

    So, the long story short, I think subtitles (for instance, English subs for a film in English) should be used at least in the early stages of learning a language. Then it's very useful to learn to listen for yourself. I used to watch BBC films about nature or bonus materials on various dvds and write down everything I heard. Sometimes rewinding about ten times when I couldn't quite catch what was being said. The trick is you've got to be at a pretty good level and know a lot of words, because if you don't know the words you won't hear them.
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    Hanna
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    What if I wanted to find subtitles in Russian for Russian films. Is there any good site for that?

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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by Johanna
    What if I wanted to find subtitles in Russian for Russian films. Is there any good site for that?
    Try this one http://subs.com.ru
    Alice: One can't believe impossible things.
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by Johanna
    What if I wanted to find subtitles in Russian for Russian films. Is there any good site for that?
    http://subtitry.ru/
    http://notabenoid.com
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Apparently, it's one of the best learning technique - watching a movie with the ORIGINAL subtitles cos you get to practice both, your listening and reading skills. Most of us have a feeling we're not really paying that much attention to listening when there's the subs, but we're doing it subconsciously. I'm always recommending this method to my students cos it's a fun way to study. Works best when you watch a movie that you know very well - if you're not on an advanced level that is.

    As for dubbing I despise it, ruins the joy of watching a movie. What usually happens in Poland is that you can hear the original dialogues in the background and then there's also this guy reading the whole text in Polish. TERRIBLE.
    here's a sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcb1XOIhB-4

  14. #14
    Hanna
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by kamka
    What usually happens in Poland is that you can hear the original dialogues in the background and then there's also this guy reading the whole text in Polish. TERRIBLE. here's a sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcb1XOIhB-4
    Kamka - You are right, that is truly HORRIBLE!
    They used to dub the kids programs like that when I grew up. But to do it on a TV show for adults...! That's insane!

    If I was Polish I'd get all my foreign TV shows off the internet to avoid this....

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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by kamka
    What usually happens in Poland is that you can hear the original dialogues in the background and then there's also this guy reading the whole text in Polish. TERRIBLE.
    I've heard that in Russian stuff, I couldn't believe my ears.
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by Johanna
    Quote Originally Posted by kamka
    What usually happens in Poland is that you can hear the original dialogues in the background and then there's also this guy reading the whole text in Polish. TERRIBLE. here's a sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcb1XOIhB-4
    Kamka - You are right, that is truly HORRIBLE!
    They used to dub the kids programs like that when I grew up. But to do it on a TV show for adults...! That's insane!

    If I was Polish I'd get all my foreign TV shows off the internet to avoid this....
    and that's exactly what I do most of the time. I hardly ever watch any telly.
    But most of the adults love it like that - take my parents, who speak no English, for an example: they refuse to watch anything with subtitles as they say it's too confusing to read & watch at the same time. I guess it's a matter of being used to that, I mean, that's the way they've been watching movies all their lives, can hardly blame them for not wanting to change it.

  17. #17
    Hanna
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Thanks Starrysky and Sperk for the tips about subtitle sites! I am going to watch some Russian film that I am already familiar with with Russian instead of English subs.
    I hoping that I might learn more from that approach.

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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    I hate dubbing, but Russian dubbing is the worst. All they do is get a couple of people to talk OVER the original voice actors. So you got a bunch of people talking at the same time... I like subtitles. But again... It's flawed. The people who subtitle take creative liberties.

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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    Quote Originally Posted by jjjiimm
    I hate dubbing, but Russian dubbing is the worst. All they do is get a couple of people to talk OVER the original voice actors. So you got a bunch of people talking at the same time...
    That way is not called "dubbing" (дубляж) in Russian. We have the 'classical' dubbing, too (when you only hear voices of actors who speak in your language and don't hear the original voices). This dubbing is the most widespread way of films' translation at ours, too. And I hate it most deeply.
    As for "a bunch of people talking at the same time", original voices sound very low in this case, and it does not detract the viewer's attention. But we don't call that "dubbing"; we call it "синхронный перевод".
    Thanks to translations like синхронный перевод I knew some English when I was at school (not thanks to teachers).
    In Russian, all nationalities and their corresponding languages start with a lower-case letter.

  20. #20
    Hanna
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    Re: Pros and cons of subtitles for learning..... (and dubbing)

    I think it just depends on what you are used to.

    For example most English speaking people think it's a terrible inconvenience to watch a film with subtitles - a lot of people refuse to watch subbed films at all.

    But I have watched films with subs since I first learnt to read and I don't think anything of it at all...

    On the other hand, I can't stand the dubbing that Olya describes as "синхронный перевод".

    What Olya, you didn't have any mandatory English in school at all?

    Sometimes I get really fed up with the fact that it is English that is the "world-language"... It's got irregular grammar, rather illogical spelling and it is closely associated to some politics/history that I never liked much... Wouldn't it be nicer if it was a neutral language like Esperanto or something like that... It's a lot easier to learn as well... But in my case I've learnt English since I was 9 or so - mandatory school subject.

    I watched a film that was already familiar to me with Russian subs - interesting experience! I learnt A LOT !!! Definitely more than I would have learnt with English subs. Recommended for all learners.

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