Is subtitling equally effective everywhere? A first cross-national study on the reception of interlingually subtitled messages

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Series Details Volume 17, Number 2, Pages 205–229
Publication Date 08/11/2017
ISSN 1588-2519
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Recent research on the reception of interlingual subtitling revealed that it is cognitively effective: watching a subtitled film results in a good understanding of the film content, it does not require a significant tradeoff between image processing and text processing, and it leads to a good performance in the recognition of the words and expressions contained in the subtitles.

To date, the studies that revealed the effectiveness of subtitle processing have been conducted mono-nationally — e.g. d’Ydewalle and De Bruycker (2007) in Belgium; Wissmath et al. (2009) in Switzerland; Perego et al. (2010, 2015) in Italy; Hinkin et al. (2014) in the US. However, it has not yet been demonstrated empirically whether subtitle effectiveness varies depending on the familiarity of viewers with subtitles.

The cross-national study described in this paper aims to fill this gap and appraise the cognitive performance and overall appreciation of a moderately complex subtitled film by viewers with different degrees of familiarity with subtitles, i.e., viewers living in countries (Italy, Spain, Poland and Dutch-speaking Belgium) with different audiovisual translation traditions. The main findings reveal that subtitling is effective irrespective of users’ familiarity with it, although it is not enjoyed equally among the tested populations.

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