Chapter 7: English and the global perspective

7.3.3 Subtitling society (prospectus)

Tate Zeman

English 102, March 2021

The goal of my research essay is to dive deeper into an aspect of my life that I never gave much thought to. I think that when it comes to subtitling and the discourses that branch off from them, there is an excess of information that explains and describes the importance of subtitling. The stereotypes that surround certain languages due to the way that culture is displayed in the media can have a negative effect on someone who comes from that culture. I read an article that refers to the movie 50 First Dates and how the only Hawaiin Pidgin speaker in the movie is portrayed in an unflattering light. There are sensitive areas of discussion here, so I am not sure how in-depth I am going to get into this portion if at all. I do, however, plan to spend a decent amount of time talking to people I am around about their opinions on subtitling. I have already begun asking some people and the responses surprised me. I started to notice some patterns in the answers and after asking twenty people about it, I stopped hearing new or different answers. When it comes to translation and the error within it when studying the habits of people who watch with subtitles as compared to overdubs, the amount of psychological background is an untapped gold mine. While my miniscule study by no means summarizes the population and their feelings or habits as a whole, I find the concept and theory that revealed itself to me quite interesting.

I am planning to include the response my friend’s dad gave me about his opinion on subtitles and foreign films in a smooth way here. It was no surprise to me that my friend thought the same way but I still thought, however little that thought was, he might have given me a different answer. They both said, “We live in America, we watch shows and movies in English.” Some other people who gave similar answers were all around me. The lady who cuts my hair, one of the store managers where I work, and a random man at Barnes and Nobles all had the same opinion. To be honest, I was not prepared for those responses. I figured people who preferred overdubs would mention how the reading makes their eyes hurt, or the voices annoy them and give them headaches. I did not expect that they would give a close-minded response to such an open-ended question. Without getting away from my actual topic of subtitles in translation and the translation error overdubs encompass, I would really like to touch on the psychological side of this. Why do these people give such a narrow-minded response to something that could be answered in a wide variety of ways? I plan to include this information in a more numbers-based logistics section of my research essay. The statistics that I gather myself along with my sources will provide a fairly widespread opinion on what method people prefer to view foreign films in. Occasionally, people have told me that they don’t even bother watching foreign language films because they do not like the way the overdub sounds, nor do they want to read subtitles and listen to a language that is alien to them. While I do not want to make rash assumptions, I feel like anyone who responds in such a way is ignorant. America has no official language for starters and is one of the most diverse nations in the world. All the different cultures and ideologies that come from different ethnicities are a part of what makes this country great. By saying “We live in America, we speak English,” it makes one seem intolerant of and ignorant of what being American and living here means. I would like to know if this is too opinionated to include in my research essay, but I could not help but notice a pattern between the types of people who gave these responses, and their other theories and ideas about the country and the world. Additionally, I am planning on including much of the data from my synthesis essay regarding the benefits of subtitling versus overdubs. All the articles I have been reading and using for my sources contain a great amount of high-quality discourse that will help me to craft my research essay. In terms of modern scholarships and the current studies in this topic, there is a lot of information. This is mainly because the movie Parasite won a Golden Globe for best foreign language film. This has reignited the flame of debate between subtitling and overdubbing discourses. I can use this recent flooding of debate and discourse to further investigate my topic and communicate the significance of it.

Among the responses I am going to include, the one I enjoyed seeing the most came from a social media film critic, who responded, “Both!” when asked which he preferred. This made me think more about my own stance on the issue. As it is obvious which side I stand on based on my argumentative essay and other things I say, I want to give overdubs a second chance. As recommended by my professor, I tried watching a movie with subtitles for 15 minutes, and then overdubs for 15 minutes, and then switched back and forth. It was disorienting, but I made it through the whole movie, and had a surprisingly interesting time while doing it. It was like I watched two movies, with twice the number of characters. I did prefer the subtitled version more and would have rather watched the whole movie that way. Another show of interest I saw pop up occasionally was Cowboy Bebop. This show was heralded as the “king of overdubs,” as all the viewers and even creators said the English overdub of this show is fantastic and better than the original. That being said, I decided to watch this utterly unique and genre-bending anime, which had only one season, with both subtitles and overdubs. Rather than switching back and forth between episodes, I watched it through the first time with subtitles, and then the second time with overdubs. It kind of pains me to say that the overdub truly was better. I have no idea how or why but to me it simply was.

The debate and discourse that surrounds this topic is deeply layered and goes far beyond personal preference. The more articles I read regarding subtitling and overdubbing, the more I see how the debate is littered with classism and xenophobia. I never imagined this topic would be so deep and diverse with articles from all around the world discussing all aspects of subtitling and overdubbing. There was even an article I stumbled upon which solely talked about the coding that goes into subtitling, which is not very complicated, especially considering that most streaming platforms offer a subtitling generator for its creators. The reason this topic is worth studying and discussing is because I see a hidden root deep in society that can reveal a lot about why we act and think the way we do. When I first started with this topic, I was watching This goes to show that even a simple topic can reveal a lot about society and the people that govern it.

Annotated Bibliography

Non-Scholarly Sources

Davies, Hannah. “Lights, Camera, Caption! Why Subtitles Are No Longer Just for the Hard of Hearing.” The Guardian, 25 July 2019,

In this article, the author provides data and studies that contradict some of the other claims made by people in recent years regarding the popularity of subtitles and overdubs. Davies brings up how techniques that ‘silent’ film makers used over 100 years ago are being recycled and modernized today to grab people’s attention. The connection between this article and my topic is less direct than most in my sources but provides relevant information due to the topics it discusses. People are quoted in this article that give their opinion on subtitling in productions. A much hotter take that starts this article off, however, is the debate of having movie theaters caption all the movies they show. This issue is long-lasting and more complicated than I believe it to be but provides a great segway into the greater landscape of this article. This article discusses computerized captioning as well, noting the downsides as well as the benefits that come with it.

Drum, Kevin, et al. “Let’s Have Another Go at Subtitles, Shall We?” Mother Jones, 11 Feb. 2020,

I include this article because it was written by one of the content creators and political bloggers referenced and quoted in “The Debate over Subtitles or Dubbing, Explained.” In this article, Drum defends his stance and explains his thought process as well as the deeper meaning of what he said. He lists several questions that people asked and sent him as a response to the tweet that he posted regarding Parasite and subtitling. Drum mentions many things about his personal life, including his diminishing hearing as well as the cancer he has, to explain why he does or does not do certain things. The information I pulled from this article provides a modern and controversial take from a popular media figure regarding my topic and its connection to literacy.

Nguyen, Hanh. “Critics Debate How They Prefer Their Foreign-Language TV.” IndieWire, 17 Apr. 2018,

In this article, Nguyen provides responses from many movie critics and film advocates when it comes to subtitling versus overdubbing. Many of the responses that came back were in favor of subtitling over dubbing. The lines of reasonings were uniform for the responses that were in favor of either one. The response that stands out the most is the first one, where the response from Pilot Viruet said both are good. Having a response that is in the middle but then explaining what you like about both sides is impressive. Where everything is so black and white and mine vs yours, it is nice to see someone who appreciates the aspects of both sides involved in a debate. Seeing multiple different responses from different people provides good lines of reasoning and data to use in my research essay.

O’Falt, Chris. “Subtitles Vs. Dubbing: The Big Business of Translating Foreign Films in a Post-‘Parasite’ World.” Indie Wire, 25 Feb. 2020,

It has become clear to me that Parasite winning the highest award possible for a film sparked a massive debate and battle regarding subtitles, overdubbing, and everything in between. In this article, O’Falt gives information and quotes from someone very experienced and relevant in the professional field of production translation. The person of interest, Chris Carey, recounts the different processes and requirements for subtitling and overdubbing. The great part about this article is that it tells the behind-the-scenes action of translating productions into other languages from a primary source. Additionally, the author does some summarizing as well as includes his own information and data he has gathered from the interview and study. The major questions and statistics that people normally debated are discussed in a simpler way than some other articles I have read, but nonetheless contain useful information that I draw on for my essay.

Romano, Aja. “The Debate over Subtitles or Dubbing, Explained.” Vox, 20 Feb. 2020,

In this article on Vox, the author brings pros and cons from both sides of the subtitling vs. Dubbing debate into play. He begins by giving a brief history on the origins of both subtitling and dubbing as well as how it has progressed to where we are today. Originally, unless a foreign production was widely popular and made a considerable sum of money, it would not be accessible overseas. A solution to this was introduced when people began to illegally translate and then caption the production to be marketed in a different region. On top of that, Romano brings in two popular figures in social media as well as references to another article that one of the figures responded to in order to include players on both teams. While I do see a bit of bias towards subtitles in this article, I believe that both sides were represented, and good points were made regarding the experience and quality of subtitles vs. dubbing. The best part about this article is how everything is laid out, and that there is valuable information and quotes from both sides that give me a lot of useful, current information to work with.

“Subbing vs. Dubbing.” TV Tropes, 1 Jan. 2021,

In this article, which had no clear author or publication date, the author gives a raw and unfiltered account of the debate between subtitles and overdubs, as wells as why one is easier than the other. Like every other article, this one has its own set of unique information that makes it relevant and useful to my research essay. Specifically, the author brings up examples of times when a creator or director for a production said the overdubbed version of it in a certain language is better than the original. They mentioned how the voice acting seemed more authentic and captivating. Additionally, the author brings up how some companies have shut down or rebranded themselves due to the fact that the cost of producing a dub for some shows or movies was a negative investment. This has caused the script to flip in recent years, as there has been a lack of dubbing for many productions that are subtitled in the U.S.

Scholarly Sources

Fukushima, Tatsuya. “Translation Course in Film Subtitling.” Translation

This article was incredible for many reasons and stood out to me in several ways. The mixture of information here contains equal parts stats and logistics, as it does opinions and contemporary perspectives. Without bringing down either preference to lift one up, Fukushima successfully provides an extensive list of both the benefits and shortcomings of subtitles and dubbing. Fukushima also does this while explaining the purpose of her article, which is to theorize the best and most forward-thinking ways to train students going into translation majors. The studies done are different each year, as the curriculum and studies being done vary with the past knowledge of what works and what does not. Fukushima gives an overview of subtitling and an extensive background on the effort that goes into it. She does not spend as much time discussing overdubs but includes much more information on it than I need. The relevance this article has to me is very apparent as it discusses many of the points I make and want to discuss.

Gee, James Paul. “What is literacy.” Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning  across languages and cultures (1998): 18-25. Accessed February 25, 2021.

In this scholarly article, the author, James Paul Gee, describes the definition of literacy by defining other words and giving specific examples relating to his own experiences and knowledge. In particular, he discusses discourses through different perspectives and positions, showing primary and secondary settings that can cause literacy to branch off in different directions and discourses. This article is beneficial to me because it gives me a better knowledge of what literacy means and how discourse is simply a medium for people to communicate with. Gee repeatedly mentions how one person can acquire more than one literacy, and he defines discourse as an “identity kit.” For example, he talks about the social skills and ideologies every human obtains within their family. Since no family is the same, this creates a multitude of different discourses in society that people are born into. This categorizes people into an “identity” set by the norms of standard English.

Harden, Jordan. Development of Language Attitudes, 3 Nov. 2019,

In this article written by a student at the University of Oregon, Harden talks about the role that a culture or ethnicity is portrayed with in a production can have an incredibly devastating effect and create false stereotypes that lead to an avalanche of people forming wrong ideas about other cultures. I can relate this article to many other pieces of literature and the effects of them on people in the past. Looking back to our past, especially during the Jim Crow era and Reconstruction, it can be noted how the extremely dramatic and exaggerated portrayals of black people had a terrible effect on their progression as a race and our progression as a country. The posters, theatre shows, books, movies, and everything else, created awful stereotypes and ideas of people that were not true. The reason this is something I choose to cite and use in my article is that literacy and the translations that surround it must be done without false stereotypes and ideas of these people, otherwise the translation will not be accurate.

Harrison, Lucia. “Foreign Films In The Classroom: Gateway To Language And Culture.” Clute Journals, Southeastern Louisiana University, 8 Nov. 2009,

This article/assignment given out to students around the world is a truly captivating and informative work. Harrison begins by bringing up many studies done regarding foreign films in classrooms and the different effects it may have in different areas of education. The teacher has several different pre-viewing activities and ideas to encourage concentration and focus on the film she brought in. While the film nor the class is important to why I like this little article, it is worth noting that this comes from an Italian course at Southeastern Louisiana University. The prompts and activities mentioned here are applicable to all sorts of different things regarding literacy and translation. They provoke the viewer or reader to consider many things they may have never imagined before, and that could very well be a catalyst in their understanding of culture and literacy. The entire design and purpose of the assignment is very intriguing and I would love to do something like that in a future class of mine.

Ranzato, Irene. “Reassessing Dubbing.” Google Books, Google,

In this book, Ranzato discusses a multitude of ideas, studies, and opinions that revolve around dubbing as well as its past, present, and future. To begin, the data and studies provided in this article are extremely accurate and informative, as they give you an excellent idea of what diverse cultures and regions think of subtitling vs. dubbing. Additionally, the quotes used by other scholars in this book when describing various aspects of dubbing, subtitling, as well as the literary practices that accompany it, are exceptional and thought-provoking. This book is directly relevant to my topic as it describes the differences in the discourses that accompany subtitling and dubbing. The data provided also gives me great statistics to include a when looking at the actual numbers that describe both sides, without discussing and exploring the more contemporary and artistic aspects of the debate.

Woolf, Judith. “Writing About Literature.” Google Books, Routledge, 16 Feb. 2005,

This book illustrates all the components and complexities of a great essay about literature. While it does not relate to my topic on the surface, the information is necessary and helpful to effectively communicate what my topic is. It provides a plethora of information regarding formal research essays and many incredible tips that can be utilized to increase the quality of any essay. The major points that stand out to me revolve around common practices that should not be followed. Much of the advice given to students at younger ages and in less advanced classes can end up hurting how they write in the future. Additionally, there are multiple sections that show any one how to craft an essay that opens the mind of someone on the opposite side of a topic without offending or attacking their own ideas. This is extremely relevant to any two-sided debate where you want to voice both sides without letting your own opinions interfere.

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