To Dub or Not to Dub - That is the Question

With the rising popularity of foreign TV shows comes the difficult question about the best way for non-natives to enjoy the media. To dub or not to dub - the debate on dubbing vs. subtitles.

Innez Merrett
18th November 2021
Credit: IMDb
From Deutschland 83 to Money Heist, Norsemen to Squid game, the number of incredible foreign TV shows is constantly growing, and with this growth comes the debate of how you enjoy non-English shows – with subtitles or dubbing?

Dubbing is seen as the option of convenience and ease, meaning the addition of new audio over the original footage. Sometimes keeping up with subtitles can be stressful or for ease of viewing - dubbing can certainly be the more convenient choice. With dubbing, the viewer still gets the opportunity to enjoy the show's original dialogue, as subtitles often have to be shortened to fit onto the screen properly – a problem dubbing doesn’t face.

Hearing how the director intended a line to be delivered is definitely worth the slight inconvenience of reading the subtitles.

Dubbing does have its own problems though. Some issues include the distracting way the words and mouths don’t always sync up well or the strange disconnect between facial expressions and vocal expressions which sometimes occurs.

Credit: IMDb

Subtitles, on the other hand, allow you to hear the original intonation and emotion of the actor. Even if you don’t understand the language, emotions are universal, and, although you could argue that dubbing lets a new actor give their take on a character’s emotions, hearing how the director intended a line to be delivered is definitely worth the slight inconvenience of reading the subtitles.

They also expose you to foreign languages, which (if you’re thinking about learning other languages) is a great way to immerse yourself. Subtitles do, however, require constant attention – you can’t look away from the screen or you’ll miss information, and you can’t fully pay attention to facial expressions or visual information as you have to keep reading.

Subtitles often have to be shortened to fit onto the screen properly – a problem dubbing doesn’t face.

Overall, subtitles give you more of a feel for the original story and feelings but dubbing makes foreign shows more accessible and easier to watch. Regardless of where you stand on the matter, both dubbing and subtitles are doing wonderful things in the way of opening up new media forms to audiences who might not otherwise be able to access it.

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