Asian Fangirl, Hallayu Wave Fandom

The Truth Behind Why U Shouldn’t Avoid Subtitles

YOU: Dani, is this another plug for watching K-dramas?! ME: Umm yes? This isn’t ONLY about K-dramas though… watching subtitles is a USEFUL SKILL that can also be applied to anime and foreign films!

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Or How Reading Subtitles is like Driving a Car…

Many people don’t watch foreign films, NOT because they aren’t good movies but because they are too bothered to try to read subtitles! This is a travesty! And it’s very easy to apply all those reasons to K-dramas too…

The fact is that reading subtitles is something you LEARN to do and it’s one of the EASIEST skills you can acquire…

and it can become as important as driving a car! #kiddingNOTkidding

Talking Spoilers Line 1Myth #1

It’s too HARD to read subtitles AND watch!

While it is true you are reading AND watching at the same time… it IS NOT stressing your brain to do two things at once! In fact we all multi-task everyday and the brain is VERY used to doing so. Just as we can process where to turn and when to stop when driving home we can also watch the other drivers and keep from hitting them (for the most part!)

Truth! Your brain does need time to get used to reading and taking in what is happening. So the first time you watch an episode will be a little like the first time you drove. You’ll feel a little anxious, not because its hard but because its NEW! The second episode will be easier and by the end of the 16 episode series you’ll be totally comfortable!

Talking Spoilers Line 1Myth #2

Because you’re reading you miss too much!

Due to reading subtitles being a NEW skill to you, it won’t be comfortable to do at first. Because of this you feel like you may be missing things, like there isn’t enough time to take in expressions, movements PLUS read the dialogue! When we drive we may notice a dog watering a bush but it isn’t important, it’s okay to miss even though it is within our view.

Truth! Subtitles for K-dramas are especially easy to read as they are on the screen for plenty of time… even slow readers won’t have trouble. They are on the screen for so long as it gives you enough time to also take in expressions and movements. I’ve watched MANY shows and I’ve only had trouble during 1 or 2 shows with the speed of the subtitles.

Talking Spoilers Line 1Myth #3

Anything with subtitles is TOO foreign…

Well this one is true to a point. (You didn’t expect me to say that did you?!) It is true that we don’t generally watch American TV with the closed captioning on so ANYTHING you watch with subtitles is bound to be different than the typical fare. In the same manner that some drive Hondas or Hyundais and some drive Fords or Chryslers foreign TV has many commonalities too! A car is a car after all.

Truth! You are experiencing another culture so there will be differences in the way the people live their lives, but their will also be many things you can relate to! And in fact you will find there are many themes that Asians still prize that are missing from American television. Plus it’s FUN! Yes… you’ll find there are some words you start to pick up and stars that you fall for!

Talking Spoilers Line 1Benefit #1

You know EXACTLY what was said!

When we read a book we get this sense of being inside a character. You know their thoughts and you don’t have to guess or intuit. When we listen like with a television show there is A LOT that we miss. When you need to read subtitles you’ve had contact with EVERYTHING! Driving Mariokart is NOT the same thing as driving a real car… while both may be enjoyable its hard to pass on the real thing.

Truth! You no longer can multi-task blogging or book reading while you watch a K-drama because frankly you’re already multi-tasking, but when you do watch you feel the same emotional punch as when you read a book!

Talking Spoilers Line 1Benefit #2

You’re MORE engaged with the story!

A back seat driver may FEEL like they are driving and may try to tell you what to do but they aren’t the one with 2,000 pound weapon in the palm of their hands. As you read subtitles you connect to the emotions behind the words. Much like reading a book you get sucked into the story. You connect to the characters and what is happening to them! Since there is still sound you reap the benefit of tone and intonation, it’s the best of both the visual and word filled worlds. In a way you feel like you BECOME the characters!

Truth! You CAN’T be passive reading subtitles like you can watching American TV. Yeah, it’s easy to get bored when you’re absentmindedly listening to what is playing on your screen. You don’t even have to look up, you can move around the room and even leave for a minute or two and not feel like you missed a thing. In truth you’re slowly slipping away from caring about watching more…

Talking Spoilers Line 1Benefit #3

Subtitle addiction is a real thing!

As you learn this wonderfully easy and fun skill it quickly becomes natural to read subtitles. Just as you started reading picture books, then chapter books, then 300 page books and now you read 500 page YA books without blinking an eye reading subtitles will develop the same way! You’ll more easily pick up on what is happening and read the subtext in events. Just like how driving is a part of you… a skill you CAN’T live without reading subtitles will improve your daily life!

Truth! Now when I watch American TV (crime dramas!) I watch with closed captioning on. I miss the concrete knowledge of what is being said, my eyes feel odd not having more than one thing to do and it helps me focus my wandering attention. It’s the best feeling when something you thought you’d NEVER be able to do has become something you couldn’t live without!

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Have you watched Foreign Films with subtitles? Do you avoid subtitles?

Did I dispel any of your myths about subtitles? Do you have a concern I didn’t mention?

Is reading subtitles similar to driving a car or being a bookworm?

Dani Signature


33 thoughts on “The Truth Behind Why U Shouldn’t Avoid Subtitles”

  1. I enjoy entitled movies, so long as the subtitles make sense. I’ve watched some anime that had horrible translations! Watching in a language or similar language to one you are learning is very helpful. In my case Italian or Spanish, for Italian.
    My favourite subtitled movies is probably Pan’s Labyrinth.

  2. Great post!! I try to not avoid films with subtitles cos I’ve *loved* films with subtitles in the past!! Pan’s Labyrinth, or really “Labyrinth of the Fawn” is one of my all-time favourite films and I don’t speak a lick of Spanish- and you’re right the subtitles weren’t distracting. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m trying to learn French, so I really should try to watch more French films (I just often don’t have much time to watch anything!) And you’re right that it’s fun to watch things from other cultures!! And you are so right that you can’t be a passive viewer with subtitles, which makes the experience better cos so often I switch off in movies and then wonder what was going on after- but foreign films don’t give you that excuse!

    1. I love Pan’s Labyrinth too Orangutan! ♥️ YAY so nice to meet another language learner! Why French? I use this new app to quiz myself on vocabulary which is so helpful! AWWWW it’s great that you understand all the benefits of subtitles! Good luck on your language learning!

      1. Yes!! I LOVE that film so much!! ❤ Well I guess just cos I wanted to learn a language and I had a basic knowledge of it from school (I’m also relearning Hebrew, partly for the same reason, but mostly cos that will actually be more useful to me, with the French it’s more cos I’m just a Francophile… And I’m prattling away 😉) ooh that’s great- which app? I’m looking for more of them 🙂 thank you!!

      2. Wokabulary is what it’s called. It’s free to download and try and has a slew of languages. You can input 100 words then you have to pay $5 for unlimited for each machine. I find it well worth the money. And I liked being able to try it out first to see if it’s effective. The only drawback is you do input your own words but there is a sound bit so there is a tradeoff.

  3. This is a really interesting post– it never occurred to me that people might be adverse to subtitles! I don’t mind watching film/TV with subtitles, honestly. I started my experiences with subtitles when I was a teenager watching Anime. There are some series which might be dubbed into English, but the Japanese voice actors were much better (and vice versa, too! Trigun has MUCH Better English voice actors…).

    You’re right that it takes some getting used to it, but I think it’s fairly easy to acclimate to. It’s like watching an Opera, but easier! When you watch an Opera the subtitles are usually quite far from the stage (up, to the side, down, where ever), but I find that by the end of 3 hours of opera I have it down. It only takes me a few minutes now with TV/Film. So yes, it’s a bit like driving a car, or well, riding a bike? Once you get used to it you don’t forget, I guess. 😉

    1. Gah! Jackie this is the best comment! ♥️ yes, anime is better in Japanese, (Had to say that first!) so anyone who watches will be familiar with subtitles. I don’t think people unfamiliar with subtitles realize that there is really plenty of time to read them! I LOVE your opera analogy too. Ive never seen an opera but it sounds more feasible with subtitles…

      I didn’t think about mentioning that once you get used to it you can ALWAYS readjust to subtitles- it’s totally true! And riding a bike would have worked well instead of the car… I chose car because I feel like driving a car is an essential skill…

      1. Haha. Thanks! Oh, man, I LOVE opera and I definitely recommend seeing it live to everyone. You need to find the right story for your interests, but man. There are some great dramas. Mozart is my favorite. ❤ Technically, at an Opera they are called surtitles since they often appear more often above or to the side of the stage, but tah-mato, tah-matto.

        Bingo! readjusting doesn't take long at all. I find the hardest thing is adjusting to new fonts or font colors, rather than reading them. Isn't that odd?

      2. Gah! One time they changed the subtitles to yellow instead of white and I had to change streaming services because it was too hard to read 😭 so yeah, I know exactly what you mean… it is quite odd that minor changes cause more problems… I feel that happens either my smart phone too!

  4. Totally valid points. Funny thing is… I also put subtitles for any movie I watch… Hahahaha I just feel like sometimes you can miss out on simple things that might be said too fast, or just bad accents. What I also love about subtitles is that it can help develop your own skills as a writer… I mean.. you see how spoken words are written and how to construct certain particular sentences! While people should be cautious about this point since someone people really talk funny hahah Great plug-in for korean drama though!! 😉

  5. In most of Europe subtitles are pretty standard so I have always found it odd that so many people are opposed to them. Knowing how translation and transliteration can subtly change the meaning, I much prefer hearing the original and reading the subtitles!

  6. Hi Dani!! I love this post and I agree with all the benefits you listed! Like you, I also love subtitles, even when I watch English tv shows and movies. Maybe this is because I watched a lot of subtitled anime before, or because I watched a lot of subtitled Tv shows with my immigrant parents growing up (their English wasn’t as good as mine). I also feel like I miss so much when I watch shows and movies without captioning. Is it me or do some actors mumble a lot? How do you understand them without captions? (I sometimes wonder if I have a bit of hearing impairment haha…)

    I do know what you mean because I heard some people say “I don’t watch foreign tv because I can’t read subtitles and watch what’s happening at the same time!” The first time I heard that, I literally cranked my head to look at them because I had no idea that was an issue, since I was used to subtitles all my life haha…

  7. Oh I love this post!! I am a huge anime watcher and you made some pretty valid points. It’s very easy to follow along and watch a foreign film or anime and read subtitles at the same time. It just like when you have that foreign character in an American movie or show that only speaks a different language and maybe only knows 2 words of English but you still enjoy it just the same. I think I can agree with reading subtitles is like driving your car cause when you’re driving you are looking in front of you but you also consistently (if you’re a good driver anyway) check your mirrors so you’re aware of what’s going on on the sides and behind you during the entire drive.

  8. I have never watched any K-dramas before, I was just never drawn to them. However I do watch a lot of anime and everything I watch is subbed! 😀 I don’t find it hard to follow at all, but I have been watching anime that way for many years so I’m very used to it!
    Well for me English is a foreign language, most of the movies and tv shows I watch are in English and I don’t watch with subtitles. It’s the same with German for me! Guess I’m lucky to be fluent in both! 😀 Great post!!

    1. Thanks Anna! ♥️ I bet you got used to subtitles quickly… and you never lose the skill 😁 anime are quite fun and my brothers have caused me to watch quite a few… my favorite is Sayuki… I just LOVE Sanzo and the gang… I could watch it again and again…

      VERY COOL YOU ARE BILINGUAL! I am learning a Korean so I need to borrow your language skills, please, thank you, lol.

  9. Agreeeed!

    Watching K drama is one of the most pleasurable things to do and reading subtitles doesnt lessen the experience a bit! (Btw, is that So Hyun?) 😁

    Im not Korean but I can understand some individual words due to excessive watching. Watching k dramas is not only a learning experience for me but also a spiritual one. Hehe!

    Also, they are so cute! Omo!

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