Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby reineke » Tue Aug 23, 2016 4:06 pm

I'd be careful jumping to conclusions. Verbatim subtitles include a lot of linguistic information that moves quickly across the screen. Foreign language learners are generally slow readers in the target language. Non-verbatim subtitles may be simply edited verbatim subtitles that lighten the processing load or something that reads as if it came from a completely different source. The latter is sometimes the case with dubbed TV shows (for example Japanese or English original dubbed and subbed into other languages).

After a lifetime of L1 subtitles I find them inferior to "no subtitles" at any level of language proficiency.
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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby Serpent » Tue Aug 23, 2016 10:20 pm

It's disappointing how the SLA studies typically use just one text, one audio or one TV episode. That's too soon to judge the efficiency of any method.
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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby reineke » Tue Aug 23, 2016 10:47 pm

Watching Cartoons With Subtitles Improves Children’s Foreign Language Acquisition

"Exposing the EFL (English as a Foreign Language) learners to highly contextualized language input which involves the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) is becoming fashionable and prevalent. Some argue that input modification can help comprehension. This longitudinal case study was designed to provide evidence about whether target language subtitles are effective in providing modified input to the learners. The participant was an Iranian 12-year-old boy, Morteza, who watched more than 20 cartoons enhanced with English subtitles in two years. He was just indirectly observed but not controlled by the researcher. After mastering each cartoon, he took the direct
listening, pronunciation, vocabulary and comprehension tests orally. The testing sessions were followed by an oral interview regarding the usefulness of subtitles. The results indicated that his performance incrementally improved. First, he preferred to watch the cartoons without subtitles. Then, he used English subtitles as a crutch during the second viewing of the cartoons. And finally, he used Persian subtitles during the third viewing to get the exact meaning of the new words and expressions. Now he speaks English fluently and understands the original cartoons without any subtitle quite well after watching them two or three times. His pronunciation is native-like at the age of 12."

http://www.davidpublishing.com/davidpublishing/Upfile/3/22/2012/2012032202712653.pdf
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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby Seneca » Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:43 pm

For TV shows in Spanish, I think that Mad Men might be a good choice for anyone wanting something not geared specifically at children or learners. It is a character-driven show that is a bit of a slow burner. No crazy action scenes. Just dialogue on many repeated themes (infidelity, advertising, etc....) I may look to pick up the DVD or blu-ray of the series at some point. I see it is offered in Spanish on streaming, but I am worried about fiddling with my VPN and catching the ire of the Netflix folk!
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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby Stefan » Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:38 pm

These two books might be of interest.

Subtitles and Language Learning: Principles, strategies and practical experiences
This book is meant to provide a scientific and educational guide for researchers, language professionals and students of applied linguistics. The collected articles incorporate past and recent research on the use of subtitles as foreign language learning tools, and describe some interesting teaching/learning experiences carried out by university scholars and school teachers to test the effects of subtitles/subtitling in tutored or untutored foreign language learning contexts.

Captioned Media in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching
This book brings together current thinking on informal language learning and the findings of over 30 years of research on captions (same language subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) to present a new model of language learning from captioned viewing and a future roadmap for research and practice in this field. Vanderplank considers whether watching with captions not only enables learners to understand and enjoy foreign language television and films but also helps them to improve their foreign language skills.

Sadly they are both expensive and therefore still on my 'to read'-list.
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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby tommus » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:44 pm

I find the best way to use L2 subtitles is to (if possible) convert them to text, and then "read" them separately "before" you watch the video without subtitles turned on. In other words, read and understand the text; then listen to the story. If you cannot convert subtitles to text, then first watch the subtitles with the sound turned off. Pause the video to look up any words or expressions you don't know, or to study a sentence. Once you understand the words and the sentences from the text, then watch/listen to the video without subtitles, concentrating on understanding each word and sentence.

I agree that L1 subtitles are detrimental. One possibility is to use L1 subtitle text in parallel with L2 subtitle text to help learn the words and sentences before you watch the video (as per the paragraph above).

For me, non-verbatim L2 subtitles are worse than no subtitles at all. I spend far too much time thinking about how to match the words with the audio than I spend listening. Far too distracting for me. And for me, delayed subtitles drive me crazy. I'd rather they be early so I can quickly read what is going to be said. Of course, some of these preferences may be different whether you are A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. Note that I keep saying "for me". Other people may have different preferences and successes.

My main point: For me, transcripts which I can read (either before or during) are far more helpful than embedded subtitles. If they are converted to HTML so they can be used in a browser with a pop-up dictionary, all the better. And that is easy using a text editor such as OpenOffice.
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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby arthaey » Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:49 pm

tommus wrote:I find the best way to use L2 subtitles is to (if possible) convert them to text, and then "read" them separately "before" you watch the video without subtitles turned on. In other words, read and understand the text; then listen to the story.

I totally agree with this. I wish I could find transcripts for all my content!

tommus wrote:For me, non-verbatim L2 subtitles are worse than no subtitles at all. I spend far too much time thinking about how to match the words with the audio than I spend listening. Far too distracting for me.

I love how this forum exposes me to people with different learning styles & preferences.

For me, I don't like inaccurate L2 subtitles, per se, but I'd rather have them than nothing, especially as a beginner. They give me context, which can help me "catch" words I'd otherwise not understand. I also enjoy figuring out how they're different from what was actually said and may ponder why the subtitler chose to condense the phrases in that way.

But YMMV, and that's fine! :)
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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby amadeus1991 » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:12 pm

L-1809 wrote:I've been thinking about this a lot lately, especially when it comes to Spanish.

I tend to gravitate towards TV shows that have subtitles included, therefore I 'read' along with whatever the speaker is saying. I find I can understand a good 85% of what's being said when I'm reading alongside listening. I've noticed however that if I switch subtitles off I find it more difficult to understand what's being said.

I'm finding it difficult to put what I want to ask into words, but is it detrimental to keep the subtitles on? Or should I just go for it & take them off, and get used to listening to the language without having the added help of the subs? I am guessing my listening comprehension will become better once I do this?

Any advice, thoughts or tips welcome. Thank you. :)


This is a very good idea because listening is the most difficult part of learning a foreign language.
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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby amadeus1991 » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:14 pm

tommus wrote:I find the best way to use L2 subtitles is to (if possible) convert them to text, and then "read" them separately "before" you watch the video without subtitles turned on. In other words, read and understand the text; then listen to the story. If you cannot convert subtitles to text, then first watch the subtitles with the sound turned off. Pause the video to look up any words or expressions you don't know, or to study a sentence. Once you understand the words and the sentences from the text, then watch/listen to the video without subtitles, concentrating on understanding each word and sentence.

I agree that L1 subtitles are detrimental. One possibility is to use L1 subtitle text in parallel with L2 subtitle text to help learn the words and sentences before you watch the video (as per the paragraph above).

For me, non-verbatim L2 subtitles are worse than no subtitles at all. I spend far too much time thinking about how to match the words with the audio than I spend listening. Far too distracting for me. And for me, delayed subtitles drive me crazy. I'd rather they be early so I can quickly read what is going to be said. Of course, some of these preferences may be different whether you are A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. Note that I keep saying "for me". Other people may have different preferences and successes.

My main point: For me, transcripts which I can read (either before or during) are far more helpful than embedded subtitles. If they are converted to HTML so they can be used in a browser with a pop-up dictionary, all the better. And that is easy using a text editor such as OpenOffice.


I totally agree
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Re: Watching TV without subtitles VS with (dilemma!)

Postby Cavesa » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:55 pm

There are thousands and thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands or millions) people worldwide, who never reach good level of comprehension in the target language (usually English), due to getting stuck at either L1 or L2 subtitles. I know so many.

A common situation: The learner feels courageous, turns off the L2 subtitles. Then they watch for 10 minutes and of course don't understand much. Instead of continuing, they turn the subtitles back on, like "I don't want to waste my time". They try a few more times, until they stop trying. They never understand the problem is not their tv series, or too little time with coursebooks. The problem is perfectionism and being a coward about it. And the fake idea of what is and what isn't an efficient way to learn. Part of the problem are teachers (as usual), as the only kind of input approach they introduce students to is intensive. (Except for the teachers, who do not introduce students to real life input material at all, of course)

Yes, the original subtitles can be helpful. But there is a point at which you simply need to jump to the water. And the sooner, the better, in my opinion. It will be difficult at any point you choose. The only way through is investing dozens and hundreds hours into it, and not being a perfectionist at the beginning.
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