The Solution: Subtitles
The Scandinavians and the Dutch know better: Subtitles are the perfect compromise to preserve the cinematic experience while ensuring that contents are being understood. Movies are being shown in their original language, and if viewers understand very little or nothing of the language, they can read the subtitles. That does increase reading ability, listening and hearing comprehension – why else do Scandinavians speak such flawless English?!
Many dubbing-spoiled people are reluctant to watch subtitled movies, because they believe subtitles are a distraction from the movie. They assume having to concentrate on the text, they’d miss half the movie. That’s completely untrue (unless they suffer from dyslexia) – it’s certainly possible to concentrate on both things at once, and therefore enjoy movies in foreign languages. This doesn’t only strengthen perception, but is also culturally educative. Where else has one the opportunity to hear what Xhosa and Afrikaans (e.g. Tsotsi), Serbo-Croatian (e.g. Black Cat, White Cat) or Lebanese (e.g. Caramel) sound like? Of course the majority of movies are English-language Hollywood-imports, but even that’s educative; in times of globalization and the internet, it’s becoming more and more important to speak and understand English fluently.
Subtitles have economic advantages as well; it’s much cheaper and less time-consuming to subtitle a movie, as opposed to dubbing it. Therefore, movies and TV shows can be released rather sooner than later.
SAP (Secondary Audio Programming)?
What happened to secondary audio programming? In many countries, it’s possible to transmit TV programs with two audio tracks. This technology used to be used in Germany, but it seems that these days, TV networks have stopped using it altogether. Why is that? The technology is there, transmitting two audio tracks wouldn’t be a problem, yet hardly any TV program is shown with a secondary audio track. Especially in times of DVD, which usually include several audio tracks, it’s questionable why TV stations don’t transmit SAP.