Reception of non-professional subtitling

Image: Anderton sf [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
CTIS research seminar by David Orrego-Carmona, Aston University, on reception of non-professional subtitling

What do users think? Exploring the reception of non-professional subtitling

Thursday 16 February, 14.00-15.20, St Peters House Chaplaincy Auditorium, University of Manchester. All welcome.


People all over the world, especially young viewers, rely on non-professional subtitles to access audiovisual content. In a study in Spain, a group of young participants with different levels of proficiency English were shown three video clips with interlingual subtitles. The three excerpts were taken from The Big Bang Theory. Three versions of subtitles were included: the professional DVD subtitles distributed in Spain and two non-professional subtitle versions, one Spanish and the other Latin-American.

An initial survey, which obtained 332 responses, was used to screen the population and test their level of English. For the second stage, which consisted of an eye-tracking experiment and an interview, 52 participants (26 with a low level of English and 26 with a high level of English) had their eyes tracked while they were watching three clips from a popular TV show. Each clip was shown with a different type of professional or non-professional subtitling and participants answered a comprehension questionnaire after each of them. Once the eye-tracking session was completed, the participants were interviewed for about 20 minutes.

The results from the eye-tracking data and the interviews indicate the type of subtitle does not affect the reception of the audiovisual product. There are differences in the number of attention shifts, indicating that the spotting of non-professional subtitles does affect the subtitle-reading process. Additionally, the reception capacity scores produced surprising results: while the scores for the professional and Latin-American non-professional versions are similar, the Iberian non-professional, which uses a language variation that is closer to the participants, produced lower scores. This difference was found to be more prominent in the answers related to verbal attention. The participants were not able to tell the professional from the non-professional subtitles; however their opinions on non-professional subtitling, based on their experience, are mostly negative. The findings point at the range of variation in non-professional subtitles and the similarities in reception of professional and non-professional subtitles.

Speaker biography

David Orrego-Carmona is lecturer in Translation Studies at Aston University. After completing a BA in Translation at the Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia) and working as an in-house translator, he gained an MA (2011) and a PhD (2015) in Translation and Intercultural Studies from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona (Spain). Prior to joining Aston in January 2017, he taught translation at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of the Free State (South Africa).

David Orrego-Carmona’s areas of expertise include audiovisual translation and translation technologies. In particular, his research analyses how translation technologies empower users and how the democratization of technology allows these users to become non-professional translators. He explores the production and reception conditions of professional and non-professional subtitles and how non-professional subtitling impacts on professional translation and translator training. Other interests include translation process research and the cognitive exploration of translation production and reception, mainly using eye tracking technologies.