Original Language Subtitles: Their Effects on the Native and Foreign Viewer





Foreign language, subtitling, reception, enjoyment, immersion, perceived realism, transportation, identification with characters


This study investigates the impact of same-language subtitles on the immersion into audiovisual narratives as a function of the viewer’s language (native or foreigner). Students from two universities in Australia and one in Spain were assigned randomly to one of two experimental groups, in which they saw a drama with the original English soundtrack either with same-language English subtitles (n=81) or without subtitles (n=92). The sample included an English native control group, and Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Spanish groups with English as a foreign language. Participants used post-hoc Likert scales to self-report their presence, transportation to the narrative world, perceived realism, identification with the characters, and enjoyment. The main results showed that subtitles did not significantly reduce these measures of immersion. However, subtitles produced higher transportation, identification with the characters, and perceived realism scores, where the first language of viewers and their viewing habits accounted for most of this variance. Moreover, presence and enjoyment were unaffected by either condition or language. Finally, the main results also revealed that transportation to the narrative world appears to be the most revealing measure of immersion in that it shows the strongest and most consistent correlations, and is a significant predictor of enjoyment..



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