23 Oct


In the U.S., Europe, Canada and other countries with nearly 100% literacy rates, dubbing vs subtitling is certainly a matter of preference. But one very common question customers ask a subtitling and dubbing company is: “Should I subtitle my video or dub it?”

The simplest response is “what is your budget?”. But really, the answer can be more complicated than that.

Of course, I’m watching the brilliant American drama television series Game of Thrones now with English subtitles, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When watching grown-up TV shows and movies I prefer to hear the original voice of the actors in their original language, no matter if I understand it completely or not. But here I’m not talking about cinema and television per se, but about bread-and-butter work: public information content, corporate and training videos, web promos, etc.

To choose whether to dub or subtitle, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1) Who is your audience?

Clearly, you’re not going to subtitle a Disney movie, when half of the audience can’t read yet! Likewise, highly educated engineers are more likely to be willing and able to read subtitles than audience with low literacy levels.

2) How committed are your viewers to watching the video?

If what you want is catch their attention and sell something, don’t make them work harder by reading subtitles. Make it easy for them and use dubbing services.

3) How much emotional content is there?

Is it important for the viewer to hear the actual speaker, rather than a dubbed voice pretending to be them? If so, by all means, subtitle it! On the other hand, there are documentaries with very good dubbed interviews – proving that good translation and great voiceover acting can make a strong impression.

4) How are the viewers watching?

Is there something they may be watching out of the corner of their eye while multi-tasking? Or do you expect them to focus exclusively on your video? When I’m watching informational content on the web, I know that half of the time I’m just as likely to be listening to the video while looking at something else. With a subtitled video, it’s impossible. But if I’m watching, say, a video of a corporate event, I am much more likely to focus on the video exclusively.

So, before choosing either to dub or subtitle your media, you need to think about its content and context. And if you’re not sure, you can always reach us out at ComTranslations where we offer dubbing and subtitling services.