I have a bit of a personal gripe when it comes to those who find subtitles ‘annoying,’ so I thought I’d compile a list that I can hand to them, shutting them up, and leaving me to watch The Big Bang
Theory in peace!
1. First up, and most importantly, some people NEED English subtitles to understand dialogue (as Sara Cox is now painfully aware!). Not just Deaf or hard of hearing people, but also some foreign language speakers. They find it easier to read English than to listen to it.
2. Subtitles help everyone watch foreign language films. There are tons of films out there, made by people who speak different languages. With subtitles there is no need for that to be a barrier. And if you’re English but “hate foreign films” because you “can’t get on with the subtitles”, then go away and learn to multi task. Your bone idle ignorance is depriving you of some fantastic films. Like Tell No One, for example.
3. Subtitles help us make sense of baffling moments. If a man shouts and there are no subtitles, I want to know why, damn it! A problem solved with three simple words “Shouts in Japanese!” Ah ha! Now everything has become clear.
4. Subtitles help us understand people whose lips we can’t see. Lipreading is exhausting as it is, but what do Spiderman, Darth Vader and all the bank robbers of TV land have in common? MASKS. Mouth covering, lip concealing masks. Masks are the bane of lip reading existence, which brings us nicely to the next point.
5. On occasion, EVERYONE needs subtitles. Even if you have the hearing of a super ninja wolf, sometimes a character comes along with a bizarre accent and muffling face-mask to boot, so not even God knows what he’s saying. Go and watch The Dark Night Rises, and have a listen to Bane if you want to experience this first hand.
6. Subtitling typos, mistakes and general subtitle fails are hilarious. They make the world a better place, it’s a fact. Google it. They are also usually more entertaining than the actual crap they’re trying to transcribe. Here is a fantastic example depicting the trials and tribulations of firefighters.
7. Redundant subtitles are also hilarious. Similar to our last point, but worthy of some separate recognition, these are subtitles that are simply not necessary to the point of laugh out loud obscurity. Often in the form of time, date or location that are already printed on the screen as part of the film/programme. You’ve got to laugh, or you’ll only end up crying.
8. The sound descriptions in subtitles give deaf people the same information hearing people get. Approaching footsteps aren’t all that suspenseful when you can’t hear them at all. You see? Subtitling sounds can be just as important as subtitling spoken word…and we all have a little chuckle when someone’s out of breath and the word *pants* appears at the bottom of the screen. Don’t lie, you know you love it.
9. Subtitles help give everyone a break from sound. “Turn that (expletive) TV down!” For whatever reason, sometimes the TV can be a bit too loud. Maybe your nan’s snoring in the armchair, you’ve got a splitting headache, the kids are asleep upstairs or they’re trying to watch a scary film in bed when they’ve been told not to! Subtitles to the rescue! A blessing for all people, of all ages, no matter what your hearing level!
10. The real reason subtitles exist. Subtitles really exist for one reason and one reason only; to ruin the film experience for all that don’t need them. One day, all the Deaf/HoH people sat around and thought, “Hmm, what can we do to make everyone else’s life a bit more miserable?” Then, lo and behold, subtitles were born, destroying the lives of many since 1903! Oh wait, that’s a complete and utter exaggeration isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. So don’t hate them, folks. Love them.
Check out our supporters here.
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
- Phonak: innovative technology and products in hearing acoustics
- Ai-Media: Should sign language be taught in schools?
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Clarion: BSL/English interpreting and employment services
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- Signature: Find out about the Signature conference here.
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Hearing Direct: Online hearing aids
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Deaf Independent: Deaf care and support services
- Signworld: online BSL learning and teaching materials
- DCAL: Find out how to study at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, London
- cSeeker: Deaf-led educational communication support service
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- Sarah Gatford: BSL interpreting, training and consultancy
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- Sign Solutions:, language and learning
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people
- deafPLUS: Money advice line in BSL
- Happy: Microsoft Office courses taught in BSL and SSE by a Deaf trainer – all abilities catered for
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children