You would have probably come across Subtitling/Dubbing while watching a foreign language movie, TV series or YouTube documentaries/short films. Though both these terms are familiar, many may not know the meaning of these terms or the difference between the two. So, mainly what is the difference between subtitling and dubbing? The debate arises, which is better? In some countries, they prefer watching a dubbed film rather than those with subtitles and vice versa. So, to summarize, the debate is mainly over – Text versus Audio.
Subtitling is a word-for-word translation of a movie script or a documentary and then placing it as subtitles at the bottom of the screen. In a subtitle, a limited number of characters can be put, as there is a limited amount of time for a subtitle to be visible on screen, i.e., depending on the duration of a particular scene. Therefore, time is a big factor that has to be kept in mind. Furthermore, subtitling can be done in the same language (to provide clarity) in which the film has been shot, or can be done in some other language for better understanding of the foreign audience.
Subtitling is also referred to as ‘captioning.’ (*)
Dubbing can be termed as the process of replacing the original soundtrack by a translation, spoken over the original dialogue by voiceover artists in various native languages. This is commonly done to re-voice actors in order to give the lines more clarity or to provide dialogues in another language for foreign viewers. Furthermore, time is also a big issue here – not the same as for subtitling, because this timing should match up with the actor’s mouth movements (lip sync).
Is it all a matter of preference?
Both these approaches relate to document translation, hence needs further insight. Subtitles keep the original language of the scene/movie alive. At the same time, it is said that reading subtitles from the screen distract the viewer and he misses what’s going on screen.
Dubbing usually solves this problem, people can follow the movie in their native language without any hassle. Also, a dubbed film happens to be quite helpful for the blind, dyslexics, those who cannot read, etc. However, the process of the latter is very expensive because it requires many high-end equipments. Also, the movie can lose its credibility as it becomes less authentic and a part of the film’s artistic value is lost.
Perhaps there will be no conclusion to this debate because there is no restricted correct way to watch a foreign film. Subtitles enable you to hear the film as it was intended; dubbing ensures you to see the film as it was intended. This decision solely depends on the choice of the viewer, to which he/she is comfortable with.
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(*) Read more on this in our upcoming blog.