Empirical Study of Subtitled Movies
In our research we studied the attitude of the young with reference to subtitled movies. As for the results, it can be emphasized that Hungarian young people watch the original film for the language in contrast to Finnish respondents, whose motivation was entertainment instead. In the study we deal with the history of subtitling and touch upon previous research. At the end of the study strategic recommendations are offered for program directors of TV channels.
At the end of 2008 and early 2009, according to the plans of the new media law, articulated as a technical suggestion, 'the dominant television networks in Hungary (Tv2, RTL Klub, Viasat3) must subtitle all their TV programs between 6 PM and 10 PM (Hungarian audio with Hungarian subtitle). Moreover, during this time, these media service providers must broadcast 25% of their purchased programs with the original audio and Hungarian subtitles.' There has been some heated technical debate about the successive variants of the recommendations.
In the early and mid-90s many people watched South American soap operas and Italian TV channels in Romania in order to learn the other two Neo-Latin languages, Spanish and Italian.
How do young people perceive subtitled movies? How will or would they respond to subtitled films? Would there be a demand for such kind of programs? If the answer is yes, what films should be subtitled?
In the beginning of the 19th century, the spreading use of mass media increased the demand for foreign films and news. The translation fever started in the 1920s and 30s. In the era of talking pictures, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain were the first to decide on dubbing, while the other European countries had their movies subtitled. The reason for this choice was the high costs of dubbing, which had to be covered by a number of viewers large enough to make it profitable.
There are three ways to remedy the problem of the suddenly grown demand for imported movies:
In dubbing, the translated text is spoken by the country's voice talents.
The original audio of the film, the effects, dialogues, and background noises are dubbed or replaced with other audio signals. For the translator it is hard to translate the original text into the local language while matching the lip movements. Better translators do try "acting"; they attempt to lip-synch the text in order to get fairly similar lip movements. Pronunciation also matters, for the text spoken by the voice talent is allowed to be neither longer, nor shorter than that of the original actor.
In the case of dubbing, Hungarian TV channels get scripts from film studios when they buy movies. These scripts are sent to dubbing studios. "This way it is cheaper and faster"a Viasat3 (one of the Hungarian commercial TV channels) employee said.
Dubbed films distract viewers' attention to a lesser extent, and dialogues are much more understandable. However, dubbing costs are higher compared to subtitling.
2. Cultural restraints of translating an unknown language
Dubbing is not about the translation of the original script but about the cultural adaptation of the language (Luyken, 1991).
Translating a different culture's language in the movie and spoon-feeding the translation to the actors, however, can become neither understandable nor true, and therefore useless. The difficulty of translating humor (sitcom  series like Friends, which is specifically mentioned in the research) is so great that the punch lines almost need to be recreated.
Antonini (2005) dealt with the difficulties of translating humor. He pointed out to many examples from sitcoms from Italian and British cultures, using which he demonstrates how wrong a translation can be, or how the punch line can be totally killed. In dubbed films, verbally expressed humor can be hard or impossible to deliver. Laughter on screen often loses its meaning.
3. The "voice-over" solution
In "voice-over" programs a narrator or a reporter speaks along with the original audio signal. Narration helps understanding what is seen on television. The reasons for applying the "voice-over" solution can be one or more of the following:
In this role, the narrator is absolutely the premier, trustworthy source from the audience's point of view . The audience often believes the information provided by the narrator, rather than the pictures.
4. The method of subtitling
Subtitled movies are actually bilingual: the language of the country of destination appears along with the original language.
According to Gottlieb's research results, the countries importing TV programs can be divided into two groups: the traditional subtitling groupScandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Portugal, Greece, Israel, Egypt, and the Arab countries. This group has expanded since then . The other group consists of the subtitling countries: France, Germany, Italy, and Spain (Dries, 1995).
The lack of subtitled films in Hungary presumably correlates with the level of command of foreign languages, as well as with the fact that, since 1957, 99% of TV programs have been broadcast dubbed.
Overall the cost of translating a one-and-a-half-hour-long movie into Hungarian can be estimated to be at about 2,5-4 million Hungarian Forints [8,9-14,2 thousand Euro]. Therefore only 15-20% of the approx. 220 foreign movies can be seen on screen dubbed; for the rest, distributors subtitle rather than taking the risk of the extra expenses, (Antenna Magazin, 2007).
6. The process of subtitling
The process of subtitling can be divided into three phases. In the first phase, the original language script is split into scenes. In the second phase, the text is extracted and translated. The third phase comprises the substantive part of the process: professionals attempt to time the translated part to the film.
In the case of dubbing, lip movements become more important, while captioning is influenced by the composition of audience (e.g. the subtitle is not the same for the hearing-impaired).
Having subtitled the program, the subtitle can be: fixedthe movie is broadcast in such a way that the subtitle cannot be turned off; or optionalin the case of digital TVs, the viewer can choose to watch with subtitles on or off (and, in the first case, choose the language of the subtitle).
8. The research problem: the viewers' attitude towards subtitled movies
The attitude towards subtitled movies as a research topic cannot be found solely in international literature. Watching TV has been stated to have a positive effect. It has been found that reading skills have improved in Holland, thanks to children watching more and more subtitled movies (Kolstra, van der Voort, van der Kamp, 1997). To be able to comprehend subtitled movies, you need to read the lines fast and accurately.
Table 1: Method and sample of the research in 2007
The sample consisted of young people only because for them it is important to be proficient in a foreign language. On the other hand, because of technological improvement, more and more people get information via the Internet, and especially for them, using a foreign language has become common. Only those people who could speak English were chosen to participate in the research, as some selections of the movies in the analysis were also in English.
Preference for English has been confirmed by a study by the Hungarian Ministry of Education called "Reforms in Education," according to the reported results of which 67% of the students in high and vocational schools study English, while 31% study German.
A qualitative research company helped us organize and work with the online focus group . The data of the quantitative research were analyzed by the SPSS software.
Having visualized the qualitative data and particularly demonstrated the whys, we dealt with concrete numbers in the quantitative research part.
The questions of the quantitative questionnaire are almost the same compared to what was applied within the online focus group.
Qualitative study in connection with subtitled films
The online interface of the focus group discussion conducted on the Internet opened the door to applying many interactive tools (e.g. playing films and rating them on a semantic differential scale), that would have been difficult or maybe impossible to execute offline. An online focus group conversation was conducted in a chat room. The interface of a chat room allows the users to see one another's utterances promptly and to react on them as well as in the case of a 'real' focus group. Moreover, the online interface makes it possible for the participants to express themselves more freely than they might in a personal meeting, since they do not see one another directly.
The negative aspect of the online method is speed; such a fast chat-like opinion survey can be carried out only with people who can handle speed well; otherwise they have difficulties in following the tempo, and the message gets lost. This had to be taken into consideration during recruitment and moderating.
The focus group discussion included:
In the focus group, an entertaining series (Friends) and an informative documentary subtitled (Animals Are Beautiful People) were tested. With this, the popularity of subtitling informative and entertaining programs became measurable.
The extracts were shown dubbed and subtitled, and then the participants were asked to rate their impressions on a scale.
Miles and Huberman (1994) distinguished three levels of analyzing the data of a qualitative research:
Visualization and the representation is the result of the subjective coding. The data, the answers, and the opinions were arranged into categories, and the relations were traced.
The popularity of subtitled films depends on what you watch (what kind of internal and external variables arise) and how you watch TV.
The sizes of the circles were arbitrary; they carry no information. In addition, we did not deal with the strength of the alternate effect and did not define the relative roles represented by the circles.
The opinions mentioned in connection with subtitled films were divided into three sub-groups (see Figure 2):
The comments from the members of the online focus groups and from the in-depth interviews are shown in small type.
In the category of cognitive ability, there are those factors that influence information processing. On the one hand, pictures are easy to comprehend; on the other hand, pictures carry more compact information, than text does.
As far as subtitling is concerned, a maximum of forty characters in a line can be comprehended. The shape of the subtitle is country-dependent; for instance the Hungarian subtitles are hard to read, according to the respondents.
Regarding readability, not only the speed of speech, but also the shape of the letters should be taken into consideration. Therefore we would like to demonstrate two examples, one for the easily readable subtitling and one for the hard readability.
"it is well-timed, it tells all it should, but still, it can be read in the time provided"
"don't show too much at once, don't be miniature, be well separated"
Figure 3: Example of a poorer quality subtitle
Figure 4: Example of a more readable and better quality subtitle
Reading and interpreting the stimuli seen at the same time easily becomes annoying, regardless of the type of program.
"Reading sometimes takes away the movie experience."
Needs based on inner motivation
In the second coding unit, the viewer's activity and motivation are mainly considered.
The following belong to this coding unit:
A parallel can be drawn between the Finnish and the Hungarian situations, as they both are countries with small populations and a unique language. However in the past 17 years (since in Finland it is mandatory to broadcast with the original audio), a new generation has grown up, and today most Finns speak excellent English, which makes their (economical) life easier. The public television channel of Finland began subtitling, and the commercial channels have followed suit. That is why we asked five interviewees for their opinions about subtitling."Subtitles are good. They allow you to listen and enjoy the voices of the original and professional cast/actors/actress. Subtitles also improve language skills."
"I don`t like dubbed movies at all! It is not natural when someone else is talking for another person and it sounds stupid."
Finns considered the original language as part of the film, regardless whether the film is English or Japanese; they are fond of watching the film the way it was meant to be watched. They are not only interested in hearing the original voice of the actor or actress, but in the whole film itself. For them the film and the original audio are inseparable.
"I like subtitles, 'cause I like to understand all that is said in the movie. But I also want to hear the original voice, which is equally important. It's very easy to read and watch at the same time!"
The majority of Hungarian respondents mentioned subtitles in connection with learning languages in contrast to most of the Finns, who referred to the originality of the film. Among Hungarian people, in the case of art movies, the need for uniformity of the work of art arose, that is to say, the audio is part of the artistic tone of a film.
"I've never given much attention to subtitles, rather to the enjoyment of the movie."
The idea on which the research is based came from the question: what could broadcasting subtitled movies, primarily English-language films, provide to Hungarian viewers. Both research results confirmed that young people in Hungary watch subtitled films mainly to learn languages.
"subtitles can be dangerous because you keep looking at it, but for starters it can be good."
"you meet the living tongue; it brings you closer to the meaning of language learning."
"I watched English movies subtitled, and I just read them, then I started downloading series which didn't have subtitles yet, and I learned in an instant, because I need some sort of pressure, too"
On French TV channels (e.g. TV5) subtitles are used; the main reason for this is the peculiarity of pronunciation of the French language. BBC broadcasts are also often subtitled, on the one hand, because of the pronunciation in Great-Britain, on the other hand, because it helps the hearing-impaired to understand. People living in a former British colony watch subtitled movies for language learning, for example in India (Kothari, Pandey, Chudgar, 2005), since there are more than thirty dialects existing there and English is a mediator language that helps people understanding one another.
There is software for helping viewers themselves to create subtitles, so it is common, that enthusiastic fans are the first ones to translate the newest episodes of their favorite programs (e.g. South Park, Pokemon, Gilmore Girls: programs provide fans with the chance of creating their own subtitlesthis phenomenon is called: fan subs.) Before the research we did not reckon that 10% of the participants take advantage of this opportunity.
The following variables were differentiated with reference to subtitled films:
So far we have been talking about English in general; the focus group was also formed so that the members of the groups spoke English at least at a beginner's level, or were just able to speak because the films were in English.
What happens if neither the language of the dub nor the subtitle of the program being watched are in the viewer's mother tongue and the viewer only knows one of them?
"Traveling to Prague I had the opportunity to enjoy Friends with Czech subtitles, which was still better than the other version: Czech languageEnglish subtitles"
It may be weighed, and may lay the foundations for further research, which variable is more significant regarding language learning: the audio or the written text? If we take the former example: English audio and Czech subtitle, could the program have been understood better than conversely?
Is the text read or the spoken language (audio) more important in understanding?
The chance on watching movies subtitled decreases when the viewer is accompanied; for example someone does not speak the foreign language or reading disturbs him/her in the company of friends. Subsequently the company in which movies are watched has an effect on how it is watched.
"It doesn't bother me, but it bothers my friends. Unfortunately, some of them aren't willing to watch subtitled movies."
"I watch romantic movies with a girlfriend and not friends, so that's better off being dubbed."
The intensity of TV watching can be divided into three categories (superficial, attentive, and devoted watching (Gálik-Urbán, 2008). It is regarded as devoted, committed watching, when you are not doing anything else, and want to do nothing else, but watch TV. Watching subtitled movies belongs to the third group, since reading and keeping track of the subtitles demand a kind of active, receiving involvement. (Some researches mention the use of subtitles when you only watch a movie subtitled due to a phone call.)
It was studied how the respondents evaluate subtitling regarding program types.
The categories were taken from Terestényi's study (2004)  and supplemented with art movies.
The following program types were used as categories.
"I think subtitles make documentary films more genuine than dubbings."
"Every foreign movie should be watched in its original language. Subtitles max. That's what I think."
"Entertaining, so mostly movies. (and I include movies carrying an artistic value.)"
Subtitles would be appreciated as far as informative programs are concerned, because that would be more authentic; although it would reach a much wider group of viewers, if they were dubbed, as in this way everybody understands them (children, elderly).
The situation of art movies was highlighted, as differences were experienced among the participants (Miles and Huberman, 1994). For example, the respondents in the focus groups disagreed with one another on the judgement of art movies, whether subtitles are beneficial or not in this case. The quantitative results also carry this dichotomy; on the one hand, many people do not even know what an art movie is; on the other hand, if they know, the reason for uncertainty is the understandability of the movie. Original art movies are considered to be more complicated; because of this, the respondents recommend subtitling to be able to understand everything. However the art movie category took third place behind the historical film and the comedy.
"It's different with an arts movie, where dialogue is so important. Which reminds me of another point of view: to someone who doesn't know the language, translation (dubbing) can be very important especially in dramas and art movies, where sentences have meaning."
The sample consisted of 413 third-year students of Corvinus University of Budapest. 63% were women, 37% men. The average age of the group was 21 years.
In addition to the general distribution, factor and cluster analysis assisted in the assessment of this phenomenon.
For what kinds of program would you recommend it?
The respondents had to answer the question: For what kinds of program they would recommend subtitles. The count of 'yes' answers are represented cumulatively. 86% of the sample is of the point of view that subtitles are appropriate regarding movies in cinema. Subtitling documentaries is less popular (recommended by 65 percent of the sample) .
Figure 5: For what type of programs would you recommend subtitles?Data distribution of the answers
The factor analysis is preferred for reason of data redundancy. By using this method the statements in the questionnaire were decreased to more, minor factors. 
S: own research
Might the broadcast of subtitled movies be the new modern forerunner of edutainment because of its effects on language learning?
Watching subtitled TV demands activity from the viewer; in this case, it demands energy and time from the young, but if this would be offset by the amusement of language learning or the enjoyment of the original film, then demand would exist.
At the end of the research two strategies were provided:
The great benefit of thematic channels opposite the general broadcasting channels is that the program supply can be adapted to the viewers' needs (the target group's affinity index is high). Thus the series and movies also watched otherwise could be broadcast subtitled, too.
The times during which American, British, German, French, Italian series and movies are broadcast, would be measured by a specialized research firm. In this way, it would become possible for subtitled movies, (as a consequence of fortuitous high ratings point)as an alternativeto get into the commercial channels.
It would mean a separate option, with the assistance of digital TV, if TV channels submitted their movies subtitled. These subtitles could be optional, and the viewers' rating could be measured by a research firm.
2. Redefinition of public broadcasting services
As the Hungarian public radio network was redefined by the management of the Hungarian Radio (Magyar RádióMR), as "formats (programs) should not be broadcast only on one radio frequency, considered public. for all target groups that are considered to be important." According to that process, the three Hungarian public radio channels, which formerly had a format structure targeting society as a whole, were segmented to three well-differentiated radio stations in order to cover the entire audience. MR1 is targeting older people with its classical music, MR2 is playing pop music for the youth, and MR3 is dealing with mainly informative programs.
The same segmentation related to the redefinition of public services can be executed in the field of the Hungarian Television (Magyar Televízió-M1-M2). The main reason is the similarity of M1 and M2 programs. With the lower ratings point, M2 could be turned into a youth channel by modifyng the program supply. Such programs would primary be broadcast on M1 (after clear and accurate positioning) targeting the 14-35-year-old. Segmentation could be achieved even by days, for example entertaining movies on Mondays, art movies on Tuesdays, and subtitled films could be broadcast on Wednesdays in prime-time.
According to the results of qualitative and quantitative research, Hungarian young people watch subtitled movies mostly for learning foreign language easily. Only in the case of art movies do opinions differ because this type of program is characterized by its originality. Finnish respondents favour subtitling because they consider each foreign movie an entity, and therefore they do not ask for dubbing. In summary, 'Learning in Hungary, amusement elsewhere.'
 Thus it is possible that more audio affects disappear or are transformed, adopted to the local culture. For example the Hungarian nursery rhyme 'csip-csip-csóka' is likely not to be the same or is less common in other cultures. However there are other cultures' specialties, for instance the Halloween nursery rhymes.
 Sitcom: situation comedy (generally short, twenty-minutes-long programs).
 Here appears the literary art role of the translator, the understandability of the story, i.e. the question of accurate translation. Many of the respondents in the focus group claimed that dubbing should be avoided if the film contains humor, since the translator's inappropriate approach and lack of specialized knowledge distorts the story.
 Albania, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Australia, Belgium (region of FlandersFleming and Dutch, region of WalloniaDutch and French), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cuba, Croatia, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan (live programs only), Macedonia, Montenegro, Peru, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine (Russian programs are broadcast subtitled, although the difference is not so significant), Great-Britain (Welsh and English in Wales).
 The software developed by the firm Meroving was used. Dr. István Síklaki, Viktor Borbély and Márton Balog helped us in working with the focus group online.
 The content classification of ORTT [National Radio and Television Commission] : non-musical fiction, drama, literature, non-musical entertainment, music, sport, news, actual political, economical, informative, art, science, cultural, education, religious, other.
 More answers could be marked. The figure shows the answers summarized.
 The minimum requirements of factor analysis are that the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin index must be over 0.5 and the Bartlett's test must be significant. Both conditions are met. The table of the rotated factors resulted in the following.
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Published - April 2010
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