Magazine topic: 

Subtitles vs. Dubbing

by : 
Miranda Clark

Watching a film, whether in the cinema or at home, is often relaxing, exhilarating, uplifting and something that I, and millions of other film goers, will never tire of. Cinema, otherwise known as « the seventh art », began in France when the Lumières brothers held their first private screening of projected motion pictures in 1895.  Since then, our senses have been spoiled with an evolution of colour, sound, animation and 3D effects.  We now have DVDs and the internet to watch whatever we like, whenever we’d like to, but what still strikes me when watching films abroad is the division between foreign films in their original version with subtitles and foreign films that are dubbed.  With subtitles, the motion picture and sound track continue with the addition of a written translation of what is being said. With dubbing, the pictures are unaltered, but the sound track is mostly replaced by a translation spoken over the original dialogue by voice-over actors. In Europe, France, Spain, Germany, Russia and Italy tend to prefer dubbing, whereas Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the United Kingdom, Greece, Holland, Norway, Portugal and Sweden seem to prefer subtitles. Have you ever considered which you prefer and why ?

As a keen language learner, I enjoy watching films in their original language with subtitles, so that I can still understand what is going on but also pick up some new vocabulary, or at least familiarise myself with pronunciation.  Subtitles may preserve the film in its original language but do they distract you too much from the film? It is bound to be difficult to communicate everything said by a character in a few seconds, so what if the translation doesn’t convey exactly what is being said? Does it matter if we are missing out on the nuances? Dubbing is comparatively more expensive as voice-over actors have to be hired, thus only ‘blockbuster’ films tend to be dubbed to justify the cost. It could be argued that dubbed film reach more people: children, dyslexics, the blind, those who cannot read and those with poor vision. However, if a film becomes dubbed into another language then it could be seen as devalued, less authentic and part of the film’s artistic value is lost. The quality of the actor or actress’ performance may not be conveyed in the same way, as it is down to the interpretation of emotional, comical or dramatic scenes. What's more, dubbing varies from country to country and some bilingual actors even do their own dubbing. In France and Germany, a voice-over actor dubs a specific foreign actor in all of their films. In contrast, in Poland, a narrator does the voice-overs for all of the characters on a foreign-language TV series or film. Would you find this strange?

There is no right or wrong answer to how we should watch foreign films; subtitles allow you to HEAR the film as it was intended; dubbed to SEE it as it was intended. Does the choice of both attract wider audiences or will one always be more popular than the other? Have a think which one you prefer and let us know!


So, what's your answer to Miranda's question? Subtitles or dubbing? Let us know which one you prefer and why.


sona's picture
sona 8 November, 2015 - 18:38

I really like subtitles,because this way I can see the film originally as it is and its value isn't lost. However,when I was young I prefer dubbing,as I couldn't read quickly. When I became older and learning new languages became my hobby,seeing films with subtitles was the best way for me.

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Crystallized's picture
Crystallized 27 March, 2014 - 10:09

Subs all the way. It's always better to watch the movie in the original language.(In my opinion)

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LittleMonsterCorn's picture
LittleMonsterCorn 11 January, 2014 - 18:32

I prefer Subtitles.
For ex. With Czech Dabbing, film lost a deep,punch line. Paradoxically,sometimes films with dubbing is more funny,I don't like reading subtitles >.<

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Pitaloka's picture
Pitaloka 26 August, 2013 - 11:19

I like them both. But sometimes I prefer to subtitles, because I love to see 'authenticity' of the film, and sometimes the dubbing doesn't matches with the movement of the lips.

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MALINE's picture
MALINE 25 May, 2013 - 23:28

This is an interesting question miranda,in fact i´ve been thinking about it and i reach a decision,it depends the reason you´re watching a movie for example I watched The Miserables with subtitles so I could practice my English but other movies that I have watched have been dubbed because I like to hear mexican jokes or saids in the movies though this mean changing sometimes the meaning of a word. On the other hand I hate when the dubbing doesn´t matches to the movements of the lips and i´ts always ahead or late.

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Miranda Clark's picture
Miranda Clark 7 April, 2013 - 17:48

Hi everyone! Thanks for reading the article, I can see that we have a division between those who prefer dubbing and those who prefer subtitles!

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klodi-lodi's picture
klodi-lodi 8 March, 2013 - 10:27

These mixed me like many that are for Dee Jay and I have more fun to become a Dee jay.

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Ash&#039;Oosha's picture
Ash'Oosha 5 March, 2013 - 16:04

For me, subtitles are better. The dubbing annoys me, because I hate it when the movement of lips isn't matching the words or the voice.

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Starlette Lady's picture
Starlette Lady 10 June, 2012 - 13:02

I used to watch dubbed films most of the time 'cause I felt I might not understand everything the characters said. But not so long ago I discovered the pleasure of watching movies with subtitles :) And I enjoyed those much better. For example, I watched the whole English TV series (90 episodes!) with subtitles and now when I'm re-watching it in Russian translation, I feel that the original version was way better. So I can say I prefer subtitles - but only in the case the film I watch is in the language I know. If the movie is in a language I don't know, like Italian or Spanish or any other ('cause I'm learning only English and German at the moment), then dubbing is more suitable.

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