Subtitles and Subtitling: Potential for (Foreign) Language Learning

Posted by djw49 at Dec 19, 2019 01:57 PM |
7 March 2019 - Part of the LeCTIS Series 2018/19 - Spring. A presentation on the research of Subtitling as a tool in the learning of a foreign language and its practical applications.


Date: 7 March 2019

Time: 4:30pm – 6:00pm

Venue: BEN LT5

Contact: Dr Yan Ying



Speaker: Dr Valentina Ragni, University of Leeds

In today’s globalised world, technology plays an undeniably central role in the way our society works. More specifically, the advent of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the pervasiveness of the internet have changed not only the way we communicate, but also the way we learn and teach. Information is produced, consumed and shared digitally more than ever before, and this of course includes audiovisual information, which is often multilingual. Some of this material is made available in different languages through Audio-Visual Translation (AVT), an umbrella term that includes various translation practices such as subtitling, dubbing, theatre captioning and audiodescription, amongst others. The idea of exploiting such practices as aids to learn a foreign language has existed for quite some time, but the topic remains somewhat underexplored and is still poorly understood.

My talk today will concentrate on one of the most historically established practices in AVT, subtitling. Subtitles as tools for Foreign Language Learning (FLL) and Second Language Acquisition (SLA) started to be investigated empirically at the beginning of the 1980s, and the topic has recently been experiencing a welcome surge in scholarly interest, such that more language combinations, audiovisual genres, subtitle types, language proficiency levels and, crucially, a more diverse range of foreign language skills are now being addressed through both quantitative and qualitative research. A difference will be made between subtitle use, where pre-made captions are shown to the learners to enhance various aspects of their FLL, and subtitling as a task, where the learners create the subtitles and add them onto video clips themselves. Whilst the former is now a known – if not relatively established – classroom activity in many schools and universities, the latter has only very recently started to be explored, at least in part due to certain limitations such as the cost of specialised software and the teacher training required.

The aims of this presentation are manifold: to provide an overview of core research on these topics; to look at the reasons why subtitles and subtitling may be beneficial in the learning of a foreign language and not just in the training of subtitlers; to address some pedagogical and psycholinguistic factors to be taken into account when assessing their usefulness for FLL/SLA; and finally to discuss ways in which they can be used practically in the foreign or second language classroom.

Dr Ragni is a researcher currently based at the University of Leeds, where she is working on projects in the fields of Translation Studies and Audiovisual Translation (AVT). Her core work explores the potential of AVT inside and outside the foreign language (FL) classroom, through both the use and the creation of subtitles. Her research interests include SLA (Second Language Acquisition), psycholinguistics, FL teaching, translation, statistical methods and experimental technologies, such as eye tracking. She graduated cum laude from the School of Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste before moving to Leeds, where she completed a MA in Screen Translation Studies and a PhD in experimental AVT with an eye-tracking study on the effects of reverse subtitles (L1 audio, L2 subtitles) on processing and memory. She also currently teaches a number of courses at MA and BA levels and works as a freelance translator and proofreader.

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