Subtitles Are An Integral Part Of The Immigrant Experience – They Helped Me Learn English

There are two camps of TV watchers in this world: team subtitles and team dubbing. I sit firmly in the former, because as Parasite director Boon Joon-Ho famously said, you can access a richer catalogue of culture if you overlook the “once-inch barriers”. But closed captions are also hugely helpful when learning a new language. 

As a first-generation immigrant who came to the UK at six years old, I couldn’t speak the language, trailing behind my peers in my reading skills. But then I started watching TV with subs, consuming anything from CBBC cartoons to grown-up soap operas such as Neighbours and Home and Away, always with the captioning on.

Though it took me a while to be able to read quickly enough to catch the action, soon I did it effortlessly. In watching different worlds come to life on the screen, my own world began to widen as I understood language, grammar, punctuation.

Today, I enjoy subtitles because they enable me to catch details that are missed with audio-only viewing, but also because they deepen my connection to the English language. And I’m not the only one. Subtitles have closed the gap between cultures oceans apart.

One of the BTS band members, RM, who is the only fluent English speaker in the group, said he learned English through watching Friends and reading translated subtitles. 

Adrienne Houghton, who hosts TV show The Real, also went viral when she shared a story of how reading subtitles as a child while her immigrant dad learned the language, secured her career success.

Many others, immigrant or not, can relate to the practice, whether conscious or subconscious. 

The Friends cast helped RM – and many others – learn the lingo. 

Initially launched for deaf people and those hard of hearing, subtitles have grown in popularity in recent times. In fact, recent research found that young people are four times more likely to use subtitles than older cohorts.

Four out of five 18-25-year-olds prefer to have captioning all or part of the time, according to the charity Stagetext. That figure for 56-70-year-olds is less than a quarter, despite this group being more likely to be hard of hearing.

And now, youngsters want more events to be subtitle-friendly. Stagetext’s research found that 45% of young people would go to live events if there were captions on a screen in the venue. Among over 65s, this figure was 16%.

There’s certainly an appeal in having text accompanying action, not least because of how impactful it can be for non-native English speakers. 

Alp Ozcelik, who works for The New Yorker, grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, and says subtitles were “absolutely instrumental” in him learning English growing up. 

“I was already learning English in school, but subtitled American TV was what really taught me the accent/correct pronunciation of words and the slang that I really couldn’t have picked up at school,” the 31-year-old project manager from New York says.  “I also would like to credit video games with voice acting and subtitles here as well; they taught me a lot of vocabulary!”

Now, having subs is a habit Ozcelik can’t get out of. “I absolutely still use subtitles on all the TV I watch; it allows me to pick up more of what’s being said and also all of the names of people and places that sometimes get lost,” he adds.

As a child of the 90s and early 00s, Ozcelik says Friends and Gilmore Girls were big contributors his language lessons, alongside reruns of older American TV, like Married with Children and Cheers. “But I watched a lot of other primetime TV as well,” he says. “Sex and the City and Gossip Girl also come to mind.”

Alp Ozcelik learned English watching Friends and Gilmore Girls.

Like Ozcelik and myself, Steph Santa, a 24-year-old fraud investigator from Washington D.C, also picked up English by watching subtitled television.

Born in Peurto Rico, she travelled to the States when she was eight, where she had trouble learning English. But soon, from watching Disney shows and films, Santa was able to acquire the skill.

“When I was first learning English I had some knowledge thanks to my grandparents but I was nowhere near being fluent. The use of subtitles helped me learn how words are spelled and what they sound like,” she says. 

“I remember alternating shows and movies in English with Spanish subtitles or Spanish with English subtitles until I was comfortable enough to put both in English.”

And like many others, Santa has carried on using subs, but wishes they were available in more settings. “I still use subtitles, it feels like I can’t hear what I’m watching if the subtitles aren’t on,” she says. 

“I’m currently working on my masters degree and wish that the recorded lectures had closed captioning. I still struggle with some word pronunciations, but I think that’s a struggle any person that learned English as a second language goes through.”

Subtitles in lectures, or in cinemas or live events, would certainly be welcome, and not just to those who learned English as a second language, but for anyone who doesn’t want to miss all the whispers, the background detail, and the whole ambiance, not just the visual. 

Sure, dubbing has it’s benefits too. But I will forever be team subtitles.  

Related...10 Common Words You're (Probably) Mispronouncing Without Realising ItEverything We Know So Far About The 27 Fatalities In The English ChannelThe Comfort And Joy Of Making Afghan FoodNewsnight's Reality Check On Whether The UK Is Really In A Migrant Crisis Might Surprise You
Read full article on:
Man arrested in connection with fatal crash in Belfast
Two men died following the collision on the Ravenhill Road on Saturday night.
The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide...
Pep Guardiola earmarked for Netherlands managerial role when he leaves Man City
Plans have been drawn up by the KNVB (Dutch FA) to target Pep Guardiola as Netherlands manager.
Manchester Evening News: Number one for...
‘I feel very gross’: WWE star Shotzi apologises for Meat Loaf tweet after backlash from fans
Fans have supported her after some backlash. News, Sport, Showbiz,...
Killer dad of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in prison transfer - but reports of attack dismissed
ARTHUR LABINJO-HUGHES' killer dad has been moved to a different prison, Government officials have revealed.
UK News | World News | Breaking News and...
Ukraine: Man named by UK as Putin’s choice to run Kyiv puppet regime says claim ‘fake news’
Yevhen Murayev says he will sue over London’s assertion he is colluding with Kremlin
The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide...
Rio Ferdinand trolls brother Anton over moment in Manchester United vs West Ham
Marcus Rashford settled the scores for Man United against their top-four rivals West Ham at Old Trafford.
Manchester Evening News: Number one for...
BBC panel laugh at ‘appalling on every level’ Boris as Frenchman slams ‘terrible partner'
A BBC panel erupted in laughter after a French journalist launched a brutal takedown of Prime Minister Boris Johnson branding him a "terrible partner" for France during Brexit negotiations.
UK News | World News | Breaking News and...
Trigger Point: Is it linked to Line Of Duty?
The new ITV drama starts tonight. News, Sport, Showbiz,...
Dusan Vlahovic makes Man City vs Arsenal 'decision' and more transfer rumours
Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic has been linked with several clubs during this month's transfer window.
Manchester Evening News: Number one for...
Masked Singer's Tom Chaplin shares reason Poodle was the perfect costume for him
Tom watched his performances snuggled up at home with his golden doodle - a golden retriever and poodle cross
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Champions Cup ties offer hope of glorious knockout stage
The competition has been hampered by Covid issues but the knockout stage will deliver some fascinating ties in the springThis season’s Heineken Champions Cup has been a logistical nightmare but the tournament’s knock-out stages could yet offer some seriously good viewing. Despite the Covid issues that prompted the cancellation of several games in the past month, some potentially fierce two-leg contests now await in the last 16.Leicester, the current Premiership leaders, now face a fascinating home and away duel with Clermont Auvergne while the English champions Harlequins will be up against Montpellier, who have managed to sneak into the last eight despite shipping 89 points at Leinster in round three. Continue reading...
News, sport and opinion from the...
Missiles thrown at Antonio Rudiger in Tottenham clash as Chelsea player becomes latest victim of fan disorder
Antonio Rudiger appeared to have missiles thrown at him from the crowd during Chelsea’s 2-0 win against Tottenham.
London News | London Evening Standard -...
British fishing industry defies EU's Brexit scaremongering predictions amid soaring trade
THE BRITISH fishing industry has defied all predictions of its collapse after Brexit, amid soaring international trade and a huge jump in the support among British customers.
UK News | World News | Breaking News and...
Former banking boss appointed NHS chairman promises to donate wage to charity
He will be paid £63,000 a year for working two to three days a week. News, Sport, Showbiz,...
Man dies after being punched in the head at social club
Greater Manchester Police said Paul Ologbose is thought to have been hit in the head once.
London News | London Evening Standard -...
Man dies after being punched in the head at social club
Greater Manchester Police said Paul Ologbose is thought to have been hit in the head once.
The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide...
Washington DC hosts huge anti-vaccine mandate protest with thousands of demonstrators
Thousands gathered in Washington D.C. - a city that mandates vaccines - to protest vaccine mandates, with protesters blaring ballads by Meatloaf, who died of suspected COVID.
Home | Daily Mail Online
Thomas Tuchel urges fans to ‘show respect’ after Antonio Rudiger hit by lighter
The German defender was struck by the object thrown from the away supporters during the 2-0 home win over Tottenham.
The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide...
UUP leader condemned for tweeting ‘joke’ involving DUP minister’s wife
Doug Beattie apologised and deleted the tweet referencing Edwin Poots and his wife.
The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide...
Hakim Ziyech thought his Chelsea wonder goal vs Tottenham was going over the bar
The former Ajax man was Chelsea's brightest spark as they welcomed London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to Stamford Bridge in what was a crucial clash for both sides
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Who is Matthew Willson, the British astrophysicist killed by a stray bullet in Georgia?
‘This world is so unfair’. Friends, family and colleagues react to the tragic death of Matthew Willson
The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide...
Katie Price breaks silence after arrest insisting she still has 'sparkle and drive'
Former glamour model Katie Price has exciting announcement as she shared a glimpse of her sparkling new converse trainers on Instagram following her recent arrest
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Antonio Conte sends Daniel Levy pointed transfer message after Chelsea defeat
Tottenham boss Antonio Conte suffered defeat for the first time since his appointment, with goals from Hakim Ziyech and Thiago Silva condemning Spurs to a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Woman's fury over husband buying £30 Tesco leg of lamb sparks hilarious debate
Rozalia Linder was "absolutely mortified" when her husband told her he paid £30.86 for a leg of lamb at her local Tesco supermarket in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Dancing On Ice 2022: Ben Foden first star to be eliminated after tense skate-off against Ria Hebden
We're sad to see them go. News, Sport, Showbiz,...
Dancing On Ice 2022: Ben Foden is FIRST celebrity to be booted from show
Regan Gascoigne and professional skater Karina Manta earned themselves the highest score of the series so far on Sunday when they were awarded an impressive 33 points.
Home | Daily Mail Online
Man United legend David Beckham sends Kevin de Bruyne message after matching record
Kevin de Bruyne is level with Man United great David Beckham for Premier League assists.
Manchester Evening News: Number one for...
Trigger Point: Is Vicky McClure married and what else has she been in?
Vicky's starring in a new drama. News, Sport, Showbiz,...
Coleen Nolan was about to ditch Tinder but swiped right one more time and found love
The Mirror's Agony Aunt, Coleen Nolan, who split from Ray Fensome in 2018 after 11 years of marriage, met new man Michael Jones on Tinder last summer
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Erik Ten Hag making moves to put himself in front of Rangnick for Man Utd role
Ajax chief Erik Ten Hag's impressive defensive record could give him an advantage over Ralf Rangnick and Mauricio Pochettino in the race for the Manchester United job
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Dancing On Ice's Ben Foden first to leave ITV show after skate-off against Ria Hebden
Dancing On Ice 2022 aired the first elimination of the series, as two celebrities battled it out in the dreaded skate-off
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Gemma Collins plummets to the ground after being thrown off horse during riding lesson
Former TOWIE star Gemma Collins took to Instagram to detail her fall from a horse as she enjoyed an adventurous day out with her fiancé Rami Hawash and his son
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Fortnite launches first virtual art show
The online game Fortnite is a smash hit with young gamers, with an estimated 400 million players worldwide.
Channel 4 News
Fortinite launches first virtual art show
The online game Fortnite is a smash hit with young gamers, with an estimated 400 million players worldwide.
Channel 4 News
Spice Girls ‘expected to reunite at Brooklyn Beckham’s wedding’ as all members are invited to April nuptials
Wonder if they'll get up on karaoke together? News, Sport, Showbiz,...
Gemma Collins falls off horse during wholesome day with fiance Rami Hawash and stepson but vows to ‘not give up’
Bless her for trying. News, Sport, Showbiz,...
Nine Greater Manchester boroughs now have coronavirus infection rates lower than the national average
Coronavirus infection rates are continuing to drop in all of Greater Manchester's ten boroughs, with hospitalisations down 21 per cent
Manchester Evening News: Number one for...
NEW: Former Ukrainian MP denies Russia plot
A former MP in Ukraine has told this programme he could sue the British Foreign Office after it said the Kremlin was plotting to install him as a pro-Moscow leader in Ukraine. 
Channel 4 News
Eoin Morgan urges Joe Root to continue as England Test captain after Ashes defeat
England's white-ball captain Eoin Morgan has backed Joe Root to remain Test skipper
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Cruise ship changes course after US judge orders seizure
A cruise ship with hundreds of passengers has diverted to the Bahamas after a U.S. judge granted an order to seize the vessel as part of a lawsuit over unpaid fuel
The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide...
Antonio Conte hits out at ‘incredible’ decision to disallow Harry Kane’s goal in Chelsea defeat
Antonio Conte said the decision to disallow Harry Kane’s goal in Tottenham’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea was “incredible” but reiterated there is significant gap between the teams.
London News | London Evening Standard -...
Allegations made by Muslim MP require independent investigation, says Tory peer
We spoke to the Conservative peer Lord Sheikh, founder and president of the Muslim Conservative Forum. 
Channel 4 News
Dancing on Ice fans spot Liberty Poole's 'swipe' at Love Island ex Jake Cornish
Love Island star Liberty Poole was cheered on during her Dancing on Ice performance by fellow Islanders Kaz Kamwi and Faye Winter from the masked audience
1 h
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Boris Johnson's fresh crisis as calls intensify for Tory Islamophobia inquiry
Boris Johnson’s government plunged into a new crisis yesterday, after Nusrat Ghani claimed she lost her job as Transport Minister in a reshuffle due to her “Muslimness”
1 h
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
'Liar Boris Johnson's rancid regime is now rapidly collapsing around him'
Lying about lockdown parties could do to Johnson what dodging tax did to Chicago gangster Al Capone as his rancid regime rapidly collapses around him, writes Kevin Maguire
1 h
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Conservative MP claims Muslim faith made colleagues ‘uncomfortable’
The government is embroiled in a row over the treatment of a former minister after she claimed that she'd been removed in a reshuffle over concerns her Muslim faith was "making colleagues uncomfortable". 
1 h
Channel 4 News
Rishi Sunak 'trying to woo Red Wall Tories' who want to oust Boris Johnson
Sunak, frequently tipped as favourite to replace the embattled premier, is said to have met with ringleaders of the so-called “pork pie plot” to jettison Johnson
1 h
Mirror Online: The intelligent tabloid....
Roy Keane insists Hakim Ziyech must deliver more consistent performances to keep his place in Chelsea side
Keane wants more from one of Chelsea's goal scorers.
1 h News, Sport, Showbiz,...