Benefits of using subtitles to learn English

Does using subtitles when students watch videos in English help them learn more effectively?

Using subtitles when watching videos helps students learn English by increasing reading speed and comprehension and also increasing familiarity with vocabulary and the sounds of English.

Based on an academic study of 2,350 children, 34% became good readers with schooling alone. But when exposed to 30 minutes a week of subtitled film songs, that proportion more than doubled to 70% – a copy of the study (in the above folder). This was conducted on children as well as adults +15

The first and foremost benefit of using subtitles is that they make authentic resources accessible in the target language, regardless of students’ proficiency level. Subtitles offer a new approach to language comprehension. In fact, a study by Holger Mitterer (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics) and James McQueen confirms that when used as a supplement to regular studying, subtitles help students learn a language faster.

One of the main findings of this study was that hearing and reading a foreign language at the same time helps a person’s phonetic understanding of it. Additionally, it helps build familiarity with the vocabulary and sounds of the language.

Students can pause and rewind whenever they need to. Subtitles help students to have broadened vocabulary about specific subjects (e.g. YouTube videos about science, cooking, politics, business, pop culture, etc.).

Watching foreign films and news videos with subtitles are great for understanding when to use formal/casual language, and knowing when and when not to use certain words.

Since the ultimate goal of language learning is to be able to understand native speakers, it’s important to listen to real media and speech by natives. However, for beginning students, this is often too challenging. Subtitling makes that type of content comprehensible even for beginners.

Below are the benefits of using subtitles/captions and transcripts:

  • Learn new languages faster and follow along easily

  • Easier access to other cultures across the globe

  • Better experience for those with learning disabilities, attention deficits or autism

  • Online videos with subtitles provide better user engagement and experience

  • To comprehend any strong accents, mumbling, loud background noise

  • Easier to translate to other languages

  • Allows students to repurpose their content

  • Improves students literacy rate

  • Well-written subtitles can create a better watching experience

In order to learn English efficiently, it is important that learners choose videos in English with English Subtitles. There are several benefits to this approach. First of all, it exposes learners to the spoken language, familiarizing them with the sounds native speakers use. It’s sort of like training wheels for foreign language comprehension. Learners will also start to build associations between target language words and their meanings.

However, learners may want to use this method sparingly, with attention to how much it’s working for them. A study suggests that students with good listening skills might actually be slowed down by using native-language subtitles. Plus, slang and idioms can be more challenging in this context.

ELT Expert – Sensatins English

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