Closed caption and language learning

closed caption

Language learning with closed caption

In the world, every languages use different phoneme. They are units of sound that distinguish one word from another, as the “/s/” of “kiss”. When we are born, we are capable to differentiate every sound of every human languages, but at 12 months of age we already are less sensitive to these distinctions.
That is why learning a foreign language is so difficult!

As part of its policy on multilingualism, European Commission analyzed closed caption potential for encouraging learning and improving language fluency. This study was carried out on a sample of 6,000 individuals in 33 countries. It points out the importance of closed captions in the foreign language learning process.

Indeed, closed caption contributes to improving language skills and it also increases awareness and motivates the learning. In this way, it participates to the creation of an enabling environment for multilingualism.

Closed captions benefits:

In terms of language skills, in countries with a closed caption tradition, the knowledge-level of foreign language is closed to the mother tongue one for the sample population. While, in countries with a long tradition of dubbing, the majority of respondents declares to not exceed the level 3 on 5.

European population is mostly confident in the educational potential of closed captions (almost 72% of the respondent and in particular the 12-15 years old population) and also declares to be ready to watch films in original subtitled version if this service was available on the TV channels.

During an experiment, psychologists at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Holland, have shown that setting closed captions in the original language of the film allows to:

  • learn better this language,
  • memorise expressions,
  • seize the different intonations and,
  • develop a greater pronunciation.

Thus, Dutch spectators having watched an English film with perfect Oxford-accent actors, better repeated an extract of the film when they have watched it in English subtitled version.
Memorisation and pronunciation were less satisfactory when spectators have watched the film in the original version with subtitles in their mother tongue.
Same results have been observed with Scottish, Australian or American accent. We pronounce English differently in the diverse region of the world and we would need a simultaneous written support in order for the spectator to better understand. In this way, he memorises the meaning and the sound form of conversations what is improving the restitution.

Closed caption also offers great potential in educational context: it would reduce the anxiety felt by learners facing a foreign language. It can also work as a useful support to facilitate learning of the host country language for immigrants.

Some recommendations:

This study recommends to initiate a dialogue process between teachers, researchers and media professionals, in order to consider actions to implement for a wider closed caption diffusion.

The media could play a significant part and the study advises to encourage media professionals to create and/or make available closed caption for quality European films.

Authôt contributes to the learning of new languages through its closed caption and quality translation services (Online courses, MOOC, documentary…).


Authôt: You speak. We write.


Source: Study on closed caption use – Closed caption potential for encouraging learning and improving language fluency – by the European Commission in June 2011.