Bilingual subtitling in streaming media: Pedagogical implications

Katerina Gouleti
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

This article explores bilingual subtitling, a relatively under-researched mode of audiovisual translation, and its role in the ever-evolving landscape of global media streaming. Originally used for cinema productions in officially bilingual countries and international film festivals, bilingual subtitling has now resurfaced as a response to the growing affordances of streaming media. This article investigates the proliferation of bilingual subtitling tools and practices in different contexts, from PC-based tools and Chrome extensions that add bilingual subtitle features to streaming platforms (Netflix, YouTube) to amateur (optionally bilingual) subtitling streaming services (Viki Rakuten), video sharing websites (Bilibili), and online channels with open bilingual subtitles embedded in their videos (Easy Languages). Bilingual subtitling is further promoted as a pedagogical tool for foreign-language learning that matches the expectations of contemporary learners, especially ‘digital natives’ who have grown up with new online modalities. The conventional ways in which audiences used to engage with audiovisual content have, arguably, been superseded as streaming platforms that offer an abundance of options in terms of language and content are gradually reshaping viewing patterns. Shifting away from long-established patterns of passive TV consumption, this article also sets out to present online collaborations and initiatives that seek to incorporate bilingual subtitles in language learning while promoting the active participation of the audience within the emerging media streaming landscape.

Publication history
Table of contents

In recent decades, the field of audiovisual translation has seen a series of changes that have had a profound and multifaceted impact on audiovisual industry practice – from new devices and mediums to novelties in the patterns of production and consumption. The rapid technological development and worldwide expansion of audiovisual translation is now seen as an “inevitable concomitant” (Bogucki 2020, 1) to any discussion on audiovisual translation research and practice. Viewers can now engage with audiovisual content from different locations and on various devices – from the screens of their mobile phones to immersive 360o projections. The major shift from a once TV-dominated world to electronic communications has completely transformed audiences’ interactions with media today as we have entered, according to Jenkins (2006, 24), an era of prolonged transition and transformation in the way media operates at the intersection between old and new media.

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