Benefits of Close Captioning in Learning a Second Language

Recently I created a Pecha Kucha presentation with the purpose to promote knowledge and respect for diversity and traditions of different cultures. One comment I received was to consider creating the presentation in Spanish and adding subtitles in English to provide a strong sense of cultural heritage and identity. The nature of the assignment didn’t let me post my presentation in Spanish, but the suggestion lead me to search for articles regarding inclusion of subtitles or close captioning in educational videos.

I found this interesting article that had research findings about the benefits of using close captioning or subtitles in educational videos to improve students’ Reading and Literacy Skills. This has important implications in the field of learning a second language. With the popularity of incorporating videos as instructional materials, teachers have the opportunity to provide engaging activities to learn curriculum material and improve communicational skills simultaneously. The subtitles help comprehension when the same language is being used in the close captioning and also when provided with subtitles that are adequately translated from the original language to the student’s native language.

As a second language learner I experienced the benefits of watching videos, tv shows, karaoke music, audio-books, music videos, and online presentation when they were provided as close captioning or subtitles simultaneously. I improved my understanding and my communication skills and used close captioning or subtitles constantly. My attention was maintained for more time and my processing was more accurate. As a professional with interest in bilingual education I have the instructional goal to develop visual material which will include close caption on a regular basis to enhance opportunities to learn and remember better the content of the educational material I will create.

7 responses to “Benefits of Close Captioning in Learning a Second Language”

  1. Hi Rosanna,

    I agree with your assessment about using subtitles whenever possible when showing a video to students. Often times whenever I show a learning video in class, my students ask for the subtitles. It is sad that most of the older movies that I use do not have subtitles. I wish they did. Some videos have more than one of the local languages, and without the subtitles, the students who do not speak the language miss out on the interpretation of the film. You have just touched on a topic that I think is very important, and yet I have ignored the need for this in my classroom. So I did a little search to see if it is possible to edit a film online and put in my own subtitles. This would benefit me especially if there are films with more than one language being spoken. I found which is open source and needs to be downloaded onto your computer. There is a good tutorial on how aegisub works on YouTube here

    I am sure there are other sites that could help me create subtitles on the videos that I show in class. This will be a new learning project for me. Thanks for the suggestion, Rosanna!


    1. Hello Carmen, I am glad you found my reflection useful. We always find ways to improve our practice. Thank you for sharing your ideas about the topic and for the useful tool. I will try it as well.


  2. Hi, Carmen,
    Your blog entry on the use of subtitles for foreign language videos was very intriguing. On the one hand, we language teachers often avoid using translated subtitles because we want our students to somehow get the gist of video dialog without resorting to the native language. However, I agree with you that well translated subtitles can be very helpful to students and, even if they are not ready to comprehend native speech at a high level, they get a lot of cultural information from the videos. I also love the idea of using captions in the target language to help learners match sound to spelling. I find that when I do this myself, I understand videos much better. Many of our students are very visual and rely heavily on written words to get target language meanings right. The project you are working on sounds great and I hope I get to find out what the results are. If you promise to blog about them, I promise to keep reading your blog even after class is over! Many thanks!


    1. Hi, Rosanna,
      I just wanted to apologize for addressing my blog post to Carmen. I just saw her name in the reply column and typed it by mistake. 🙂


      1. Hello Patricia, no problem at all : )
        I was avoiding translating videos and also close caption videos because use them would delay my second language acquisition. I also didn’t use it during my language teaching experience for the same reason. Later I incorporated it in my own learning process and for my classes because a very experienced colleague suggested it to me. I found it very beneficial but still I was hesitant to incorporate for my students. Now I have found specialized articles promoting including them during the language acquisition process and it reminded me of my own progress. Currently I think they will be beneficial for my teaching purposes, and I will be including them as much as possible.


  3. Rosanna,
    I enjoyed reading your reflection on subtitles. It made me think of something slightly related. It made me think of a teacher that did a half day project for her second grade students using only Spanish directions. Her ESL students were able to take the lead and help the non Spanish speakers and it laid some ground work for empathy and understanding.


    1. Meagan thank you for sharing this interesting experience. I think having the opportunity to exchange experiences is a great approach to gain understanding about others’ perspectives and about our own personal process.


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