Subtitles: beyond translation

Subtitles are often associated solely with translation, but they have a wide variety of uses and benefits. Have you ever had trouble understanding a video's dialogue, even if it's in your native language? Do the music and sound effects drown out the speaker at times? If so, then subtitles can help.

Subtitles or captions are text transcripts displayed onscreen, that represent what’s being said (or sung) in videos as well as non-speech elements such as phones ringing, background noises, etc. For many, subtitles are a necessity to understand video content.

For those with hearing problems, subtitles ensure that they hear every word. For those who don’t speak the language, foreign-language translations/subtitles come in handy.

But beyond the practical benefits, adding subtitles can improve engagement and boost search visibility as well. Let’s look at these and other reasons you should subtitle your videos:

1. Subtitles make videos accessible to more people

When creating videos, it’s essential to consider those with disabilities and how they could experience your content. Subtitles give the hearing impaired an opportunity to watch videos, while those with visual difficulties can listen and read at their own pace.

Subtitles can help them understand what the characters are saying and doing in a video just as much as subtitles aid second-language speakers or those who don’t speak English fluently. The more accessible and accommodating your videos are to viewers, the better.


When it comes to translating subtitles, there is the professional human translation route, or there are online tools that let you add subtitles and translations for 100+ languages. It doesn’t matter what your content is about or the type of video you are creating. By adding subtitles, whether professionally translated or using automatic tools, you’re giving viewers more options to choose from and enjoy your videos to the fullest extent possible. It’s all beneficial for them and for your brand!

What kind of audience depends on subtitles?

  • They’re used by people with hearing disabilities or when they face difficulty understanding spoken words because of unclarity or different accents
  • The audience with cognitive and learning disabilities who understand better when they get to see the spoken words
  • People from all over the world who don’t speak the same language can access different videos through subtitles in their native language

What are the additional benefits of ensuring video accessibility?

  • With subtitles, you can watch videos in loud environments and still understand what’s going on
  • Subtitles help viewers concentrate better on the dialogue being spoken instead of getting distracted by other sounds. They are also perfect for enjoying videos in public places, with sound muted
  • Subtitles are useful  for those who have trouble understanding the language being spoken
  • Subtitles, text-based content, caption files, and transcripts are indexed better by search engines

2. Adding subtitles for videos serves an educational purpose and helps when learning new languages

What if we told you that watching your favourite show in a language you don’t know could make learning it substantially easier? You’d probably say impossible. But, in fact, putting English subtitles on the show would help with both listening and reading.

Studies have shown that when you add subtitles to foreign language videos, learners report feeling that they understand more and having a greater enjoyment of the subject matter.

Here’s how:

When we’re exposed to another language in a meaningful context (e.g., our favourite TV shows), we not only gain exposure to new vocabulary items but also how they are used in everyday conversation.

When we hear a character on screen say “jump!” in a foreign language, our brains are able to process the context of the situation and infer that the word means “to leap.” But if we just hear this phrase without any visual clues, it is difficult for us to latch onto this new information. When you read subtitles, your brain gets two channels of language input which makes it much easier to understand what’s being said.

3. They can help students learn to read and spell better by slowing down the pace of the video

According to multiple surveys, YouTube and Facebook videos with captions are more popular than those without. The accessibility of subtitles on these platforms makes them an excellent way for viewers who cannot read or speak that language to understand and enjoy your content!

When foreign language video is paired with subtitles, you can read along with the spoken words to improve your own pronunciation of the words and phrases on screen. Vocabulary acquisition is only one piece of the language learning puzzle.

Many learners also struggle to understand how certain words are pronounced, no matter how many times they listen to them or practice saying them out loud. Reading along with subtitles provides visual information that helps learners perceive how words are pronounced.

You can also slow down the pace of the video and focus on the subtitles to help you with your comprehension and pronunciation.

4. Subtitles are helpful for those who have difficulty hearing or understanding spoken words

Probably the most obvious reason to use subtitles is for learners who have difficulty understanding what people say. These students may not be able to hear certain sounds or distinguish between two words that sound very similar, such as “a” and “the.” Additional support in the form of translation can help these learners process language more effectively, which frees up their cognitive resources for comprehending meaning.

Subtitles also help:

-EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students who are learning to speak and imitate native speakers, but don’t understand what they’re saying.

-ESL (English as a Second Language) students who want to pick up on colloquialisms or local vocabulary that might not appear in their textbooks.

-Advanced learners who want to improve their listening comprehension skills .

5. Adding subtitles can help with video SEO

Using subtitles also gives you the opportunity to drive traffic and boost search engine rankings as your content will be more visible in YouTube searches. This increases organic viewership by adding keywords around certain topics, which can help with SEO and drive traffic to your site.

YouTube and Google both use subtitles as a ranking factor for videos, so it can help you rank higher in search results if done correctly. You can include keywords in the subtitles, which helps with search engine optimisation and makes your content easier for people to find.

6. Create a continuity of experience for viewers

Viewers will get more out of your videos if they can follow along with the text throughout the entire video, rather than having to pause and look something up or missing important information that is covered in dialogue without subtitles.

That includes any special effects, so be sure you add them when necessary. Things like explosions and sound effects should also have their own captioning whenever possible too. After all – it’s not just what characters are saying but how they say it as well.

This means adding captions for both spoken language (dialogue) and nonverbal cues (sound effects). Make sure everything comes across in text on screen in an engaging way whenever possible too: people want to be entertained!

There are several subtitle generating apps out there that also transcribe audio files automatically and are not only affordable but also guarantee 99% accurate subtitles and captions for videos.

Some important closing insights

Adding subtitles to videos has become incredibly popular. It’s a huge part of the viewing experience for many people. Perhaps the most obvious reason is accessibility. If your video contains dialogue in another language or uses an accent which may be hard for certain groups of people to follow, subtitles make it easy for them to enjoy the content without needing their reading skills.

If you’re an English teacher or professor with foreign students in your class, this can also help them immensely in their studies! Also, if you think about how much more effective television advertisements can be when they include text, you’ll understand how adding subtitles to your videos will benefit your audience.

Interested in professional subtitles or captions? Contact us for a quote.

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