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Turn on the Subtitles campaign

Call for permanent subtitles on children's TV to improve reading

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AP
AndrewPSSP

I can't help thinking some advocating this, think putting subtitles on programmes, and children will learn a richer knowledge of the English language in this way. It won't.

I think the main outcome of burning subtitles onto programmes will help children to increase the speed at which they read, instead of having a richer knowledge of the English language - indeed some programmes may arguably decrease knowledge of the English language.

Quote:
I'm not sure just what can really be learnt by reading the script on the bottom of the screen of old editions of Tracy Beeker or Fireman Sam.

It's not quite the same, but I did learn to speak and understand quite a bit of Hindi through subtitles.
SP
Steve in Pudsey
I think that's the difference. This is about improving reading, in the same vein as the Thomas the Tank Engine storybook and cassette I had as a kid. Your speaking and listening skills develop before your reading ability.

My experience is that it's the opposite with foreign language. Your reading skills are better than listening, particularly with a native speaker at full speed. I'm learning Spanish and I can generally follow something with subtitles where I couldn't hope to understand enough of the dialogue. But I pick up on new vocabulary from the context - often things you wouldn't find in textbooks.

Where it gets strange is when Netflix dub a programme and the subtitles have obviously been done from a different translation to the dubbed dialogue.
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WI
william Founding member
Yes, if you want to learn French or German or whatever once you grow up when your native tongue is English, it's considerably harder than it would be if you were single digit age. I studied French at GCSE level, didn't have a clue (neither did the rest of the class in all honesty), didn't really like it and surprised myself when I somehow managed to get a Grade C in it. I suspect I could have scribbled whatever the French is for "b*llocks" across the exam paper and still get an F.

It can be done as an adult, learning a second language, you just can't use the methods that work for children, as they have nothing to fight against. You do. If you want your kid to be able to speak four languages, immerse them in it while they're still young. As an adult you have to put a heck of a lot more legwork in.


Agreed.

I'm currently learning French (at well beyond school age) - TV subtitles continue to be incredibly helpful, in part because it takes many, many hours of listening for your ears to adapt to the subtleties of the pronunciation. (Though when it does happen it's kind of automatic, as though your it's allocated more neural pathways or whatever for processing the language and you've suddenly got more bandwidth. That or it's grown used to different syllables, phonics etc.)

Also, French numbers are (in my opinion) - a nightmare. I was forever confusing various pairs (14 and 40, 6 and 16, 1,000 and 1,000,000…) and if you concentrate too hard on decrypting the number, you miss the rest of the sentence.

For these reasons I've found Franceinfo brilliant, because there's plenty of on screen text backing up what's being said, plus all the repetition.

My other observation from learning a second language in large part through broadcasting, is that presenters and correspondents speak it significantly better than everybody else - be it guests on programmes, or just random people you meet when visiting the country: considerably slower, with greater care and clarity, and the vocabulary is much easier to grasp than that in some of the newspapers.

There are a couple of major problems with subtitles though - they're almost always a rewritten, more concise version of the spoken dialogue. Also, I've found on French TV especially it's rare for a programme, even recorded, to have them correctly timed. It's especially frustrating where the subtitles suddenly stop for 10 seconds or more, and then you get two or three phrases flash up in quick succession and you have a second or two at most to read them. Though French TV doesn't have the number of subtitling errors I remember UK programmes having.

YouTube's auto-generated captioning solves these issues and the timing is incredibly precise, except, because it's auto-generated, it's often total nonsense.
Last edited by william on 5 March 2021 1:02am
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LL
London Lite Founding member
Nothing beats living among people who speak the same language I've found.
MW
Mike W
Jonwo posted:

What can be learnt from Fireman Sam is being a fireman is a cushy well paid job, you live in a big naff off house, you get to drive around in a big red truck all day, occasionally put out a small fire in two seconds and fix all of the village's problems in the space of a day, then be able to clock off at 4pm. If fiction looked anything like the reality we wouldn't have a firefighter shortage, lets put it that way Wink


What I learnt from Fireman Sam is that PontyPandy has more fires and accidents per week than the average rural Welsh village does in a year!

Again if fiction was reality, Pontypandy would have a fire risk area far exceeding LFB and the WMFS and therefore would warrant a wholetime brigade of 5 watches made up of over 3,000 firefighters...

I have to say that if parents are that concerned and think this will help, use Ceefax channel 888. Does it really need to be on all the time?

As others have said books are free from a public library; most schools these days have a library and all primary schools have reading activities for homework (and will give children a book to read and change it every week - for free!). If you can afford a television you can afford books.
JO
Jonwo

Again if fiction was reality, Pontypandy would have a fire risk area far exceeding LFB and the WMFS and therefore would warrant a wholetime brigade of 5 watches made up of over 3,000 firefighters...

Most of the problems seem to be caused by Norman Price, clearly there is no police or social services in Pontypandy....
BA
bilky asko
I have to say that if parents are that concerned and think this will help, use Ceefax channel 888. Does it really need to be on all the time?


How many people are going to be that bothered about having subtitles on screen that can't be turned off? The benefit far outweighs the mild, insignificant amount of annoyance for what would surely be a very small number of people.
JO
Johnr
I often struggle to watch TV without the subtitles on, especially drama where the actors seem to just mumble everything!
SP
Steve in Pudsey
I have to say that if parents are that concerned and think this will help, use Ceefax channel 888. Does it really need to be on all the time?


How many people are going to be that bothered about having subtitles on screen that can't be turned off? The benefit far outweighs the mild, insignificant amount of annoyance for what would surely be a very small number of people.


Small but significant. For some people with certain conditions it's more than just an annoyance but causes a cognitive overload because they can't process the subtitles and everything else on screen and in audio, and they can't ignore them either.

I forget the specifics, whether it's certain types of dyslexia or certain autistic spectrum conditions but I believe it is a genuine problem for some people.
FL
Flux
Where it gets strange is when Netflix dub a programme and the subtitles have obviously been done from a different translation to the dubbed dialogue.


It might not always be a different translation, but rather a further adaptation. I don’t know the exact details for Netflix, but traditional broadcast subtitles have quite strict guidelines for things like how long each word should appear on screen, or a limit on line length (I think the BBC is 37 characters) so often a subtitler might need to tweak the exact wording of a translation to fit those guidelines
SP
Steve in Pudsey
My suspicion is that it's easier/cheaper to subtitle once in the native language and get that translated, keeping all of the timings for each caption, than to do them from scratch in each language.

And yes there are plenty of guidelines on how to write subtitles https://bbc.github.io/subtitle-guidelines/
NJ
Neil Jones Founding member
Flux posted:
Where it gets strange is when Netflix dub a programme and the subtitles have obviously been done from a different translation to the dubbed dialogue.


It might not always be a different translation, but rather a further adaptation. I don’t know the exact details for Netflix, but traditional broadcast subtitles have quite strict guidelines for things like how long each word should appear on screen, or a limit on line length (I think the BBC is 37 characters) so often a subtitler might need to tweak the exact wording of a translation to fit those guidelines


Also of course Netflix (and Amazon and Disney+) don't use traditional "block" subtitles (ie Ceefax style, or the style we know them for). They use a regular font, Arial style, so a letter i for example doesn't take up an entire character block like it does on "traditional" subtitles (ie the spacing between the letters is more normal/natural looking), so there is probably more scope to fit more text on the subtitle if it has a load of narrow characters. Spacing or Kerning I think the technical name for it?

For Prime you can customise the subtitles appearance in your Amazon account (you can pick a colour and a background if you wanted to, and I believe even pick Comic Sans as a font or a more traditional "blocky" font, which I think they call a typewriter font). Netflix for what its worth doesn't let you pick Comic Sans but you can have typewriter.

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