Subtitling science: An efficient task to learn content and language


Abstract - The current study aims to investigate the potential of subtitling (i.e. creating subtitles) as a means to teach/learn specialised content and a foreign language simultaneously and attempts to measure its impact by comparing creating subtitles to watching subtitled video. This was operationalized in the following research questions: Does creating subtitles help the acquisition of scientific content? Does creating subtitles help the acquisition of scientific vocabulary? How does creating subtitles compare to watching subtitled video? And, does creating subtitles increase the student’s interest in science? In order to answer these research questions, two experiments were carried out: a group of students created English and Italian subtitles for a set of short videos in English about chemistry and physics. Subsequently, some of the videos were shown to a different group of students, accompanied by English and/or Italian subtitles. All the students were tested on the contents and language in the videos. The students who created subtitles were assessed about seven days after completion of the work, while the students who watched ready-made subtitles were tested immediately after watching the video. The study showed that both activities (watching ready-made subtitles and creating subtitles) helped content understanding and language memorization. It also suggested that creating subtitles is probably a much more effective activity for language and content acquisition than watching subtitles. Finally, it showed that, though both activities increased students’ interest in science, creating subtitles increased the students’ interest to a higher extent.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v15p7

Keywords: subtitling; subtitles; content learning; vocabulary learning; science


Alves G.A. 2014, Os filmes como recurso didático para o ensino de geografia no Ensino Fundamental II, Monografia, Bacharelado em Geografia, Universidade de Brasília, Brasília. (10.08.2015).

Baltova I. 1999, Multisensory language teaching in a multidimensional curriculum: The use of authentic bimodal video in core French, in “Canadian Modern Language Review” 56, 32-48.

Berk R.A. 2009, Multimedia teaching with video clips: TV, movies, YouTube, and mtvU in the college classroom, in “International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning” 5 [1], pp. 1-21.

Beseghi M. 2013, Having fun in the classroom: subtitling activities, “CercleS” 3 [2], pp. 395-407.

Bianchi F., Ciabattoni T. 2007, Captions and subtitles in EFL learning: an investigative study in a comprehensive computer environment, in Baldry A., Pavesi M., Taylor-Torsello C., Taylor C. (eds.), From DIDACTAS to ECOLINGUA: an ongoing research project on translation and corpus linguistics, E.U.T. Edizione Università di Trieste, Trieste, pp.69-90.

Čepon S. 2011, Interlingual Subtitling as a Mode of Facilitating Incidental Foreign Language Acquisition, in “English for Specific Purposes World” 33.

Chapple L., Curtis A. 2000, Content-based instruction in Hong Kong: Student responses to film, in “System” 28, pp. 419-433.

Danan M. 1992, Reversed subtitling and dual coding theory: New directions for foreign language instruction, in “Language Learning” 42 [4], 497- 527.

Diaz-Cintas J. 2008. Teaching and learning to subtitle in an academic environment, in Diaz-Cintas J. (ed.), The Didactics of Audiovisual Translation, John Benjamins, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, pp. 89-103.

Efthimiou C. and Llewellyn R.A. 2004, “Physics in Films.” A New Approach to Teaching Science. (4.10.2015).

Fazilatfar A.M., Ghorbani S. and Samavarki L. 2011, The effect of standard and reversed subtitling versus no subtitling mode on L2 vocabulary learning, in “The Journal of Teaching Language Skills” 3 [1], pp. 43-64.

Garza T.J. 1991, Evaluating the use of captioned video materials in advanced foreign language learning, in “Foreign Language Annals” 24 [3], pp. 239-250.

Hayati A. and Mohmedi F. 2011, The effect of films with and without subtitles on listening comprehension of EFL learners, in “British Journal of Educational Technology” 42 [1], pp. 181–192.

Kluzer S., Ferrari A., and Centeno C. 2011, Language Learning by Adult Migrants: Policy Challenges and ICT Responses. Policy Report, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Koolstra, C.M. and J. W.J. Beentjes 1999, Children’s vocabulary acquisition in a foreign language through watching subtitled television programs at home, in “Educational Technology Research & Development” 47 [1], pp. 51-60.

Kumar D.D. and Scarola K. 2006, Nanotechnology and closed-captioned videos: Improving opportunities for teaching science to ESL students, in “Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching” 7 [2], Article 3. (19.11.2015)

Mahlasela J.T. 2012, Improving comprehension in physical science through mother-tongue subtitling in secondary education, unpublished MA dissertation, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa.

Markham P. 1989. The effects of captioned television videotapes on the listening comprehension of beginning, intermediate, and advanced ESL students, in “Education Technilogy” 29 [10], pp. 38-41.

Mathews C.S., Fornaciari C.J. and Rubens A.J. 2012, Understanding the Use of Feature Films to Maximize Student Learning, in “American Journal of Business Education” 5 [5], pp. 563-574.

Montero Perez M., Van Den Noortgate W. and Desmet P. 2013, Captioned video for L2 listening and vocabulary learning: A meta-analysis, in “System” 41, pp. 720-739.

Neuman S. and Koskinen P. 1992, Captioned Television as comprehensible Unit: Effects of incidental Word Learning from context for Language Minority Students, in “Reading Research Quarterly” 27 [1].

Talavan N. 2010, Subtitling as a task and subtitles as support: pedagogical applications, in Diaz-Cintas J., Neves J., and Matamala A. (eds.) New Insights into Audiovisual Translation and Media Accessibility, Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp. 285-299.

Vanderplank R. 1988, The value of teletext subtitles in language learning, in “ELT Journal 42” [4], pp. 272-281.

Williams H. and Thorne D. 2000, The value of teletext subtitling as a medium for language learning, in “System” 28, pp. 217-228.

Zarei A.A. 2009, The Effect of Bimodal, Standard, and Reversed Subtitling on L2 Vocabulary Recognition and Recall, in “Pazhuhesh-e Zabanha-ye Khareji” 49, Special Issue, English, pp. 65-85.

Full Text: pdf


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.