Do You Prefer Dubbing or Subtitles for Foreign Films/Shows?

It looks like we’re going with a poll theme this week! Yesterday we debated the species identification of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid (the people have spoken, and he’s a crab!), and today I have a question about how you prefer to watch foreign films and TV shows.

Earlier this year, we watched the first two seasons of the German show, Dark, on Netflix, and we really enjoyed it. Megan really didn’t like the dubbing, though; while it didn’t bother me, I have to agree that some of the voices weren’t a great match for the characters.

So we watched the final season with subtitles instead, and the real actors’ voices worked much better. However, something unexpected happened: As much as we enjoyed the show, reading the subtitles made us really sleepy. If we watched more than one episode at a time, we inevitably fell asleep during the second episode. This happened multiple times.

I’ve heard people have strong opinions about dubbing vs subtitles, particularly with anime. I’m pretty much fine either way, and I think I may lean towards voiceovers because I don’t always need to look at the screen to understand what’s being said. Also, the subtitles sometimes show the sound effects and music cues, which I understand is important for some, but I don’t need to read those parts.

What do you think? What’s your preference?


6 Responses to “Do You Prefer Dubbing or Subtitles for Foreign Films/Shows?”

  1. Alex Schmidt says:

    I suspect I’m in the minority but definitely dubbing. I realize it’s a lot harder in live action and I’ve mostly wanted foreign anime, but if I want to read text I’ll read a book or play a pause style video game.

    Subtitles completely pull me away from the drama of the medium of the show, or if there is little of that, it’s probably something I’m watching while doing something else like painting minis, and reading subtitles is completely incompatible with that.

    Generally speaking, though, I would rather watch something else than watch something with subtitles.

  2. John McCartan says:

    I used to feel strongly that subtitles were the only way to go, but since having a kid I’ve come around to dubbing. It’s nice to have both options as it’s hard to find focus time for a movie.

  3. Paul says:

    Walter Presents on Channel 4 here in the UK is my most watched set of shows and is all foreign language with subtitles.

  4. Zinnaca says:

    Subtitles always!

    The reason is simple, i live in Finland and here we have never dubbed anything but tv-shows for really young children. So i have been “using” subtitles all my life. All the anime i watch must be original Japan dub or it sound really weird to me.

    There are benefits (which was the reasoning for the subtitles originally here). Hearing foreign languages helps learning foreign languages!

    Guess why finns speak and understand english so well.

  5. Subtitles every time. I want the performance from the original actors.

    Something to think about is the show Switched at Birth, which has a large number of deaf talent, that use ASL during the show. There are large swatches of episodes that are almost silent, because the actors are talking with their hands. I can’t imagine anyone would ask to have the options of spoken words of dialogue at that time, to make it easier for the viewer.

  6. Mikolaj says:

    Dubbing is a blight, not only do you the actors’ performance, but also if you speak some of the language you could actually try to understand and compare with subtitles, dubbing takes that away, assumes people don’t speak any languages.

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