Dubbing vs. Subtitling: Which Should You Choose?

Written by Mo Stone

Imagine you’ve just completed your short film, web series, or documentary. Now, you’d like to get your passion project to a wider audience by translating it into another language. For this, you have two choices: dubbing or subtitling. Which is the best option? Read on for more information about these two translation methods for media and entertainment. 

What Is Subtitling And Dubbing?

First of all, what is subtitling and dubbing? With subtitling, dialogue is translated into the target language of the audience, then written and superimposed over the bottom of the screen. With dubbing, the original spoken language of the work is recorded by voice actors into the target language of the audience. 

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It’s important to note that one method is not necessarily better than the other, although both certainly have their strong supporters and critics. To determine which is best for your particular project, there are many factors to consider. 

Weighing The Pros And Cons

Fans of subtitling feel that it keeps the dialogue more authentic since the audio is being presented in the original language, and, if the translation is good, the text can be more precise with this method. Subtitling also makes media more accessible for the hard of hearing, and language-learners find it’s a useful tool for studying content in their target language. However, some find it cumbersome to read and watch simultaneously, and feel that it is harder for them to get into the story of what they are viewing. Also, because it takes longer to read than to listen, the text may be condensed for time, and some of the original dialogue may be lost in translation. 

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Supporters of dubbing appreciate that it creates a more immersive experience since the audio is in their native language, which can be aided by talented, professional voice actors. But if the voice acting is overly dramatic or the audio doesn’t sync with the video well, some people can find dubbing distracting. In addition, the dialogue might have to be altered a bit from the source language in order for the audio in the target language to sync with the actor’s mouths on screen, making for a less literal translation.

Further Considerations

Cost can be a huge consideration when it comes to choosing subtitles versus dubbing. Subtitles are much cheaper, since you only need to worry about producing a written translation. If you go with dubbing, not only do you have to translate the script, but you must hire voice actors and then take the time and spend the money to create a completely new audio track for your project. When it comes to feature films, dubbing costs around ten times as much as subtitles, and adds anywhere from six to twelve weeks in post-production. However, if the costs can be recouped, then the expense of dubbing may well be worth it. 

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Other important factors include the age and country of the target audience. If your project is geared towards young children, it should definitely be dubbed, but for older children or adults, subtitling may be more appropriate. Depending on where your project will be viewed could also affect your decision as to whether you should go with subtitles or dubbing, as audiences in some countries are more accustomed to one over the other. Looking at European countries for example, in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, audiences tend to prefer dubbing, but in Greece or Scandinavian countries audiences are used to reading subtitles. 

Which Should You Choose?

When it comes to choosing between dubbing or subtitling for your media project, there are many factors to consider, including cost, the target audience, and which method will fit the integrity of the work better. To take the next step, check out our services here at Borderless Translations or contact us for more information.

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