Subtitles vs. dubbing

by 11 Mar, 2024

Subtitles are the dialogue of a film or television programme in the text form. Post-recording or dubbing, on the other hand, means recording a soundtrack afterwards, and it is often used for translation purposes. In this text, I will discuss the differences as well as the pros and cons of subtitling and dubbing.

The pros of subtitling

Subtitles are often used in small countries that do not have as many viewers as large countries, such as France or Germany.

If dubbing is used, the original sound will be lost. The viewer sees the actor’s gestures and expressions, but does not hear the voice. In this case, a part of the role performance is lost. Of course, voice actors are skilled professionals, but the replaced voice cannot match the original exactly.

The movements of the lips do not coincide with the speech, which looks funny. As animation techniques have developed, cartoons are increasingly accurate. I’ve sometimes wondered how my child thinks it looks when a character’s lips don’t move in sync with the voice. It bothers me a bit and draws my attention away from the story because I try to follow what is being said in, for example, the English dialogue in the original by reading the character’s lips.

The original actors always have their own voice, but one voice actor may play the voices of many characters. It can confuse and disturb the viewer. This especially happens in dubbing projects with smaller budgets. This can be confusing for the viewer. With subtitles, on the other hand, no voices have to be changed.

Subtitles help viewers learn another language. What could be better than listening to speech that is immediately translated on the screen? When I was learning a new language myself, the subtitles helped a lot, and I also got practice in listening comprehension.

In addition to the previous points, it is also worth noting that subtitling is much cheaper than dubbing.

The pros of dubbing

Even though subtitles have many good features, dubbing is not automatically always a bad option. For instance, those who can’t read or forgot their glasses can more easily follow a dubber version. Thanks to the sound, even the visually impaired can follow the programme or movie. Furthermore, children can follow the story better when they don’t have to focus on reading. The little one’s can’t read at all yet.

Dubbing also does not cover the picture like subtitles. You can hear it even if you are looking at something else. I have to admit I often knit while watching TV shows, so it’s convenient if I can hear the dialogue while checking the knitting project.

Lastly, subtitles must be concise due to lack of space on the screen, which is why some information will definitely be missing, while dubbing can include more. On the other hand, fortunately the professionals know how to summarise and everything essential is included in the subtitles.