When watching any video-based content, I tend to automatically switch on subtitles/captions (apart from live shows…those auto-captions are not very good).
And when (it’s available), I also make use of any transcription if listening to a podcast or watching a video online.
It just makes my life easier, and I can consume the content with ease and enjoy the experience better.
But I have realised it’s not just d/Deaf people, as there are many benefits of subtitles (or captions depending on what you prefer) as well as transcriptions that everyone can take advantage legislation.
Below are the benefits of subtitles/captions and transcripts:
- Learn new languages faster and follow along easily
- Easier access to other cultures across the globe
- Provide clarity of any technical terminology, full names and brand names
- Better experience for those with learning disabilities, attention deficits or autism
- Online videos with subtitles provide better user engagement and experience
- To comprehend any strong accents, mumbling, loud background noise
- An easy way to watch videos in sound-sensitive environments, like offices and libraries
- Improves your SEO on YouTube
- Easier to translate to other languages
- Allows you to repurpose your content
- Improves your literacy rate
- Adhere to laws such as the Disability Act and the Communications Act
- Reduce the likelihood of concentration fatigue
- Access related links and sources with ease
- Well-written subtitles can create a better watching experience
You can either watch the video below or scroll down to read more about it:
1. Learn new languages faster and follow along easily
I’ve lost count how many times people have said to me that they have learnt a language by watching back-to-back episodes of a popular TV series or by listening to music.
If you have an interest in learning or improving your language skills, part of your learning experience can be to watch movies or listen to music in the language that you are learning.
After all, reading textbooks can get a bit boring, so you may as well enjoy that experience by watching or listening to something entertaining.
But that can only work if that foreign movie has subtitles or you have access to lyrics which pieces of research to your spoken language.
2. Easier access to other cultures across the globe
The other fun part of learning new languages is that you get to experience and learn more about that new culture. And part of that culture is to watch local programmes or movies.
And I can speak from personal experience than learning to speak Spanish has allowed me to engross the Spanish culture at a deeper level than I would have ever imagined.
Having easy access to other cultures is something that we all take for granted, and if we want to watch award-winning foreign movies, you can either spend years perfecting that language…
hasor you can just switch on the closed captions.
3. Provide clarity of any technical terminology, full names and brand names
This can happen to anyone, regardless of who you are.
Even when I interview individual on the podcast, there are times where I have been thrown off by certain medical terminologies about their hearing, or you are not quite catching the name of the company that they work has.
But you don’t have to worry about missing out on any jargons or names that you’ve never heard of.
Otherwise, you will have to repetitively rewind and repeat that segment to understand what is said…and that’s not fun.
Sure, they can spell it out for you, but how many times have you struggled to keep up with the spelling of a long word.
And you know when you’re watching films, like Lord of the Rings, where the fictional names of places and characters are not very obvious?
It’s slightly easier to keep up with the story about how “Glorfindel leaving Rivendell” or when “Beregond sees the light in the tower of Minas Tirith” with subtitles.
4. Better experience for those with learning disabilities, attention deficits or autism
According to one research, captions and transcripts are extremely helpful to those with learning difficulties.
A whopping 75% have reported to captions as a learning aid, and many of them have found it to be a useful aid.
And there are countless other researches, including one by The University of South Florida St. Petersburg Distance Learning Accessibility Committee, where there is strong support for captions in their online courses because of how beneficial they are to all students, with or without disabilities.
5. To comprehend any strong accents, mumbling, loud background noise
This is another area which can affect anyone when listening to anyone speaking
If you are learning a new language, you may struggle to understand the local accents.
If a person who is learning your language and is speaking to you with a strong accent, you may struggle to understand.
If anyone in the group is mumbling, then we will struggle…and if that happens in the middle of loud background noise, then I think we’re all screwed.
You get the idea.
(Is it just me or is anyone else thinking about ways to add subtitles in mid-air in real-life when at a noisy restaurant?…. Just me then?)
6. An easy way to watch videos in sound-sensitive environments, like offices and libraries
We’ve all been there, where we are in a quiet place with so many “Quiet Please!” signs everywhere, but you want to watch a video.
Sure, you can use your headphones. But what if you’ve forgotten it? What if the sound still leaks out of the headphones and everyone can hear what you’re listening to?
You can continue to enjoy the videos with the help of subtitles.
Just remember to get back to work. You are not in a library or office to watch the latest cat videos.
And it doesn’t have to be in a quiet environment either.
If you are in a noisy environment like public transports, you can risk the wrath of your fellow passengers by ramping up the volume.
(Also, it’s rude, so don’t do that).
7. Online videos with subtitles provide better user engagement and experience
Did you know that a staggering 85% of Facebook video is watched without sound?
And according to Facebook, closed captions can increase video view time by an average of 12%.
Some of the reasons may be because of the reasons above, like being in sound-sensitive environments.
Regardless of the reason, this makes it an even bigger challenge for you to capture the attention of your viewers instantly. Because if your viewers are not in a position to turn on the volume and you don’t have closed captions, you’ve lost them.
And since we live in an era where video contents are everywhere and consumed even more than ever before, creating a positive user experience is even more critical than ever before.
8. Easier to translate to other languages
Since you already have the files where your transcriptions and captions are written, they can easily be translated by sending it off to a translation service like Rev.com.
And once you have received the file back translated in the languages of your choice, you have further opportunity to reach to another target market if you upload onto YouTube or if you want it for personal reasons like for learning languages.
9. Allows you to repurpose your content
Something else you may have noticed on this site is that most of the captions or transcripts created are also be used within a blog post.
So if you podcast transcripts or video subtitles, you can use the same content and place it on your site.
This will not just give you a new way to reach more people, but it will also give your audience the option of whether they want to watch, listen or read your content.
And there are also SEO benefits to doing that.
10. Improves your SEO on YouTube or your site
Since YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world (after its owner, Google), it’s essential to make your videos easy to find when anyone is searching for it.
Even though there are many ways of doing that, there’s no doubt that having closed captions on your YouTube video can have an impact in your SEO (search engine optimisation) and make it easier for your videos to be discoverable.
But when I say captions, I don’t mean those terrible auto-captions (which are only around 70% accurate) that are readily available.
No, you can do better than and upload a proper file to get the right captions displayed to avoid any issues of words being lost in translation.
According to research by Digital Discovery Network, they have seen “an increase in views by 13.48% in the first two weeks and 7.32% overall”.
And if you have your video captioned as well as placed on your site, you have a more significant opportunity of appearing high on Google ranking.
11. Improves your literacy rate
There had been several researches carried out which proved that using captions and transcriptions can improve literacy, particularly around
- Reading speed and fluency
- Word knowledge
- Vocabulary acquisition
- Word recognition
- Listening comprehension
As a result of these researches, some educators have recommended students and their parents to turn on captions/subtitles at home to maximise exposure to reading.
Another research have shown that 71% of students without hearing difficulties use captions occasionally.
And I have even interviewed one particular individual who runs the campaign ‘Turn on the Subtitles’, where he is encouraging broadcasters to turn on subtitles by default as evidence has shown that it will improve children’s literacy.
So now you can say that you have to watch the new Batman movie so that you can improve your literacy (disclaimer: actually, don’t do that. I cannot be held responsible for any Science exam failures because you have watched back-to-back episodes of The Big Bang Theory).
12. Adhere to laws such as the Disability Act and the Communications Act
Without getting too involved with the legal side, there is various legislation which you may have to follow depending on where you are based and the type of content you are creating.
For example, the US has Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 and part of the legislation covers the use of technology to help those who are deaf. For example, one Final Rule requires movie theatres to:
“…have and maintain the equipment necessary to provide closed movie captioning and audio description at a movie patron’s seat whenever showing a digital movie produced, distributed, or otherwise made available with these features”.
In the UK, the regulatory and authority for the broadcasting, called Ofcom (short for Office of Communications) must follow the Communications Act 2003 which deals with the provision of subtitling, where the Act prescribes quotas for subtitling on applicable television services and programmes.
13. Reduce the likelihood of concentration fatigue
I have talked about in concentration fatigue in a separate post and how d/Deaf people tend to use their cognitive energy more than hearing people. This is because when listening, it requires extra resources on the brain to work extra hard to listen and process the information.
This is hard enough when having a conversation with one person, so imagine what it feels like to watch a long movie, and you are trying to focus extra hard to keep up with the storyline.
And the struggle is real when there are fictional names, strong accents, loud background noise, etc.
14. Access related links and sources with ease
This mainly applies to transcriptions, but when you are listening to a podcast watching a video online, the person speaking sometimes refers to a specific link if you want to learn more about a particular topic.
Rather than going out of your way to find the related resources, ideally, you should have links already available within the description or show notes already available, and you can just click on it.
And as you can imagine, this is especially handy if you are using your mobile phone.
15. Well-written subtitles can create a better watching experience
Below is one of my favourite tweet:
PRODUCER: Kevin can you please just write “monsters growling”
SUBTITLE WRITER: how dare you stand between me and my art, you damn philistine pic.twitter.com/YblxPksaaq
— cAM1200 Suey (@josefkstories) July 23, 2017
It’s not just about allowing d/Deaf people to have an immersive experience, but just like I mentioned above, if you are watching a video clip in a quiet environment, you might be dependent on the quality of subtitles.
This is especially the case when there is a sound effect.
For example, if the subtitle states [Rumbling noise] but it’s clear that it requires further context in the video, that can be quite annoying because ‘rumbling’ can be:
- [Thunder rumbling in the distance]
- [Tummy rumbling]
- [Low sound of earthquake rumbling]
- [Sound of train approaching]
You might argue that you can see what’s going on without needing the additional description, but that’s not always the case as it will depend on the scene.
Picture the scene: if the video clip consists of a person is indoor, looking outside the window and there is a [Rumbling] sound, based on the above examples, you don’t know whether that person is:
- about to be in the middle of a thunderstorm
- feeling hungry
- about to be in the middle of an earthquake
- near a train station
It could be anything!
Therefore, quality subtitles/captions help to improve the watching and even reading experience if you prefer to read the transcripts.
You may have noticed that there are some overlaps when looking at the advantages of using subtitles where in some cases, there are multiple benefits.
For example, you can 1) watch foreign movies, which means that you can 2) learn a new language, 3) learn about a new culture, 4) follow along with the names of characters and locations, and 5) enjoy a better watching experience.
And that is all because of the use of subtitles/captions.
So before you dismiss the idea of having subtitles, think about how everyone can benefit from them and not just a person who is d/Deaf. And then you can so think about how it can benefit you, because you will miss out.
But I would like to ask you: am Ii missing anything else? Are there any other benefits that I have left out?
Do leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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- ‘CODA’ movie review: my thoughts on the latest deaf movie to be released - October 13, 2021
- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021