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Subtitles Vs. Closed captions: What’s the difference?

Would you consider yourself to be a foreign movie fanatic? Do you take pride in watching videos in a non-native language whilst following on-screen subtitles or closed captions? Personally, I love watching foreign movies with subtitles, and sometimes even with closed captions. It makes the scenes feel authentic for me, I feel more engaged with the characters and it’s the perfect opportunity for me to embrace another language. But what is the difference between subtitles and closed captions? Some may refer to subtitles and closed captions as being interchangeable, as they are both the text version of audio in a video. However, there are a few key differences between the two. Getting these services mixed up can lead to problems…

Subtitles: What are they?

Subtitles are a form of captioning used to translate the audio dialogue from one language into another. Simply put, subtitles translate a movie, video, and other content’s language into another. You’ll see subtitles used in many foreign films and programmes. You can also have subtitles in your native language.

Video subtitling can be an instrumental tool in reaching untapped global markets and making your video content accessible to other countries in an array of languages. Do you like to watch videos with or without subtitles? Check out our blog, “Like it or Loathe it”, here for more information on the benefits of using a subtitling service. Subtitles allow people to watch videos even when they themselves don’t speak the language. With the growth of global video platforms, many video owners see the value of adding subtitles to make their content available internationally.

Closed captions: how do they differ?

Closed captions are created to allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to experience the full audio experience, so they cover background sounds and speaker changes. On the other hand, subtitles assume that the viewer can hear the non-verbal audio and as a result do not contain the background sounds or notifications for speaker changes. 

The differences between subtitling and closed captions

While video subtitles are intended for viewers who can’t understand the language being spoken, captions are intended for viewers who can’t hear any of the audio. Captions include the dialogue as well as any other relevant audio. They are used to aid the hard-of-hearing by communicating all audio sounds including sound effects, speaker IDs, and other non-speech elements.

Video subtitles – often referred to as translations – are translated dialogue and don’t include any sound effects. They are intended for viewers who can hear audio but cannot understand the language. Users can usually select subtitles by clicking the same CC icon they would use to turn on captions.

Subtitles Vs. closed captions: Should all video content have both?

Whether you choose to use subtitles or closed captions depends on the audience you have in mind for your video content. However, both are becoming increasingly popular as the internet connects and circulates your content on a global scale.

It’s not only a question of languages, but also the importance of web accessibility and ensuring nobody is excluded from your brand. It’s the online equivalent of having wheelchair access to your business property, and there’s a case to argue that every video should come with subtitles and closed captions – rather than choosing between the two.

Here at Dialogue, we have a dedicated project management team that has all the skills required to brief for and deliver individual subtitling projects to a high quality. If you think that subtitling would benefit your business, why not contact us today?


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