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Dubbing or Subtitling for Children?

According to YouTube, almost 5 billion videos are watched every day on YouTube alone. Many videos are viewed in an abundance of languages. If you post a video on YouTube or any other site, you might want to consider creating that video into another language to broaden your audience. You are then confronted with the question: should I record a voice over in that language or add subtitles? What if children are the target audience of your video?

The answer to the question might be obvious, that dubbing for children is the best option.

Yes, dubbing is easier for both children and adults alike. The viewer can watch the video or movie without having to read the text on the screen. Reading subtitles always takes a bit more effort. Many adults won’t even go to the movies or watch a show that has subtitled content, so your chances of getting children to do so are slim. Kids get bored easily; if a subtitle contains an unfamiliar word or a harder one to read, a child’s attention span might be broken and he or she will step away from it.

Subtitling is, however, less expensive than paying a voice actor and a studio. The question ‘When can we use subtitling even for kids?’ is a legitimate one.

Each child is different. Some children learn to read faster than others, some at an earlier age while others need additional time.

In countries where subtitling is more common, children start to read earlier. Traditional subtitling countries are countries with not so common languages, like the Scandinavian countries just to name one geographical area. Using Scandinavia as an example, international movies and shows will have subtitles in Danish, Finnish, Swedish or Norwegian. Because not many people outside of Scandinavia learn any of the Scandinavian languages, most people in these countries speak English. Children start learning English in Kindergarten and grow up listening to a lot of English on television. Watching movies in English also helps everybody get more proficient in English, but reading subtitles might still be needed to fully understand a show.

A dubbed video will always be easier to watch than one with subtitles. If the video is short, children will be more likely to watch the video and try to read the subtitles.

One exception would be if the subtitled video is a cartoon. Some children even prefer subtitles, along with the original sound of the voice actors to dubbing as they have come to like the original voice of the cartoon characters rather than the dubbed version.

Some parents take advantage of subtitled videos and watch the shows together with their children and read the text out loud to them. Since children like to watch videos over and over again, it is easy then to encourage kids to step in and read the subtitles back to the parents out loud. This is a great way to learn the language and to learn to read.

In countries where children are exposed to a lot of subtitles from at an early age, it is more likely that you will be able to sell a kid’s video with subtitles. However, keep in mind that children do not read subtitles the same way as adults do, especially when watching action oriented cartoons. For a translator to translate a cartoon, more creativity is needed; it is necessary that the translator convey the right message to the young viewers. For such a subtitle translation, localization is needed. It is necessary to match the translation to the culture of country. Translators are often required to create a different image of a cartoon character so children can identify with the culture of that image.

Children in the United States. learn to read screen text as soon as they start watching TV or playing games on a hand-held device. Shows like Sesame Street teach them to identify numbers and letters at a very early age. However, it is difficult to get children to watch an entire foreign movie with English subtitles. We strongly advise the use of voice overs instead. For short educational videos, subtitles can be a great way to teach kids at an early age to read.

To further discuss the differences or to answer any questions about subtitling versus dubbing, please email: info@worldtranslationcenter.com or call 800.270.7674
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