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Subtitling Matters

New Perspectives on Subtitling and Foreign Language Learning


Elisa Ghia

Drawing on recent theoretical developments in second language acquisition, this book proposes a new approach to the learning of foreign languages through subtitled audiovisual input. Subtitled text is explored as a source of language acquisition, and its dialogue and subtitle components are focused on as sources of linguistic input. The primary focus of the research is subtitling and the impact it can have on learners’ noticing and acquisition of linguistic structures. The concept of translational salience is introduced, a phenomenon that can occur due to an accentuated contrast between L2 dialogue and L1 subtitles. Two experimental studies on the acquisition of English syntax by Italian learners are used to test the role of translational salience in both noticing and L2 learning. The results lead to a definition of salience particular to the audiovisual medium and raise challenging issues in the pedagogic applications of subtitling.


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Chapter 1 Introduction


If one word had to be chosen to describe the nature of text in the twenty- first century, that would be multimodality. Every day of our lives, we are surrounded by multisource information coming from television, the web and digital media supports. More and more people are gaining access to these resources and, along with them, to the worlds they project us into. Dif ferent types of multimodal texts of fer a powerful means to get in touch with dif ferent cultures and dif ferent languages. Being the dominant lan- guage of the media, English is the primary language to be accessed multi- modally, and carries with it the whole cultural universe it is immersed in. The role of multimodality as a tool for learning languages is the focus of this book, which targets one specific multimodal genre, i.e. interlingually subtitled video. This genre refers to audiovisual texts in a foreign language (L2) integrated with subtitles providing a written translation of the text into the native language of the viewers (L1). Interlingual subtitles are primarily added to audiovisual dialogue in a foreign language to grant wider-scale access to the audiovisual product by individuals speaking a dif ferent L1. Subtitling is opposed to alternative modes of screen translation such as dubbing and voiceover, where translation is provided orally, and is char- acteristic of subtitling countries – a label which is generally used to refer to all such countries where subtitle translation is the preferred option to make foreign cinema and television products...

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