Insight into Learners’ Perspectives on Watching Movies with L1 vs. L2 Subtitles
Focusing on Language
National Changhua University of Education
This is a companion piece to Foreign Subtitles Help and Native Language Subtitles Harm
See also: Target Language Subtitles for Comprehensible Film Language Input
The study suggests that learners may improve their spelling, word recognition ability, pronunciation of new words and words they have already acquired, their understanding of spoken language, and intonation when they watch movies with the L2 subtitles.
"Watching movies with either L1 or L2 subtitles seems to be both advantageous and disadvantageous, but for lower-intermediate learners, it might be that the L2 subtitles are more beneficial. The L1 subtitles may merely enable learners to improve their language proficiency in terms of vocabulary, listening comprehension of the language and oral abilities to a very limited extent. The responses revealed from this study suggest that learners can learn simple words from what they hear with the Chinese subtitles, remember simple sentences, monitor their listening comprehension, and acquire spoken language. However, these will occur only when the words and phrases are relatively easy or sufficiently familiar to the learners. Katchen (1996b) found that the use of the L1 subtitles was beneficial for the advanced learners, but the L1 subtitles might not be so useful for the lower-intermediate learners as their vocabulary size is far smaller.
On the contrary, learners may gain more language from watching movies with the L2 subtitles. This study suggests that learners may improve their spelling, word recognition ability, pronunciation of new words and words they have already learned, understanding of spoken language, and intonation.
However, the effects of the use of the L2 subtitled movie may be still limited as this study also discovered that learners could not really accurately pronounce words with only one exposure to the L2 subtitled movie. Repeated exposure may provoke far more language learning as Chang and Read (2007) discovered that repeating the same input was the most effective. Some participants also suggested watching a movie repeatedly with the L1 subtitles first, followed by the L2 subtitles. The similar process was also recommended in Markham et al.’s (2001) paper where the researchers suggested watching the same movie three times with the L1 subtitles first, the L2 subtitles second, and no subtitles last. This sequence would allow learners to use their stronger native language reading skills first; followed by using their emerging but more or less weaker target-language reading skills. Finally, learners would be ready to rely totally on their much weaker target language listening skills.
It may be worth considering as well that whether to watch movies with the L2 subtitles or the L1 subtitles depends on the goals of teaching. For instance, if the teaching goal is to help students improve their pronunciation and spelling, watching movies with the L2 subtitles may be a choice.
Alternatively, combining watching movies subtitled with the target language with other teaching techniques may provoke the best benefits for lower-intermediate learners; for example, to supply the learners with some comprehension assistance, such as vocabulary pre-viewing and repeated exposure to the target language (Chang, 2005)."