Subtitles: On or Off?

Subtitles, on or off? A rather amusing topic that doesn’t seem as if it would be something that is debated. Subtitles are useful for little parts of watching TV or movies, especially when the media that you’re consuming happens to be in a different language. They help to expose whole new worlds of culture to the everyday person who maybe doesn’t speak languages like Korean, Tagalog, and Spanish as well as other similar languages. The real debate can seem to really come in when the media, for the sake of argument, let’s say a movie or TV show, is already in the language that you speak. Now, I didn’t realize that this was a topic that was debated, I had just assumed that everyone watched TV with subtitles on. I mean, if you’re watching something quiet, how are you going to figure out what they’re saying? What if you simply don’t understand what the person is saying? I mean, if you’re watching on a streaming service, sure, you can just rewind, but after a couple of rewinds, what if it’s still unintelligible? You’d think that subtitles are a lot more convenient then. I think my opinions on this topic are obvious, I don’t feel the need to argue my point any longer… no, actually I do. Let’s see what some common complaints against subtitles are:

They distract you from the action on the screen- I believe this is a pretty valid argument, I won’t bash on it if you think that they distract you from what’s going on behind them, but have you considered simply building the skill to multitask? Maybe this is just a thing that I’m used to. I was raised watching Filipino shows since I could read because I don’t know the language, and I have since mastered the art of reading the subtitles while also being able to focus on the events on the screen. My best argument against that is really that reading subtitles on the screen while watching a show is a skill that has to be learned. Though I understand that not everyone is up for the challenge, and if that’s you, well then that’s an issue of you not being disciplined enough to learn it.

They’re hard to focus on- This is another one that I won’t exactly argue against, they certainly can be hard to focus on, but this just like the last complaint is made from a lack of experience with subtitles. This is just a need for you to become more accustomed to those little words that live at the bottom of your screens, I promise they won’t bite. And besides, they can’t possibly be that difficult to focus on. You don’t even have to focus on them, half the time if the program or show is in English, you’d be able to understand it just fine, without the need for them. The subtitles are there for a better understanding of whatever you’re viewing.

And besides, moving past the arguments against them, there are other benefits to having subtitles besides the obvious ones that help with comprehension. Every so often the people who make the subtitles mess up what the people are saying, and how are you possibly going to catch these fun little mishaps if you don’t even have them on? Usually, they even have the benefit of telling you who is saying what, in case you can’t differentiate the voices.

Of course, both arguments against subtitles are valid, I can understand if you can’t focus on them, and leave them on, or turn them off, that’s your choice. It’s your opinion, and it’s not my fault that you aren’t disciplined enough to be able to have one-inch lines of words people are saying at the bottom of your screen. The simple fact is that the benefits greatly outweigh the determinants of subtitles, and if you have them off, you are simply not correct.