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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 7 Discussion of Findings: Towards a Comprehensive Account of Translational Salience


7.1 Introduction This chapter attempts to interpret the results described in Chapter 6 along an acquisitional perspective. First, the general impact of exposure to sub- titled audiovisual input on the short-term acquisition of L2 syntax is con- sidered. The focus is successively shifted to translation strategies and their potentially dif ferential role in the process. The chapter attempts to extract some global trends from the data. A variety of issues are tackled in response to the initial research questions. Are L1 subtitles added to L2 film input beneficial to the acquisition of L2 syntax? Is the use of dif ferent subtitling strategies, related to translational salience, relevant for acquisition? Is translational salience more ef fective for the learning of some syntactic structures as opposed to others? An overview of the results suggests that translational salience alone was not always ef fective in promoting learning. Its ef fectiveness might have been related to a series of additional features of audiovisual input and to the targeted structures themselves. Furthermore, learners’ expectations about input and translation could have played a rather relevant role. 166 Chapter 7 7.2 Subtitled Audiovisual Input and L2 Syntax Learning: General Trends The study described in Chapter 5 investigated whether the use of specific translation strategies in L1 subtitles, assumed to work as sources of percep- tual salience, could af fect the extent of short-term syntax learning in L2 English among Italian, intermediate-level EFL learners exposed to audio- visual products. The study was carried out on three experimental groups,...

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