Jain: Using subtitles will expand your world

Priyanka Jain, Staff Writer

While I hope this doesn’t apply to you, many people have this inexplicable aversion to subtitles. Although it might simply be a sliver of dialogue at the bottom of a screen, people build it up to be a large obstruction like the grandiose doors of a palace. At one point, I also had a pessimistic attitude towards subtitles; I thought it would impede my enjoyment of a movie or show. Why read a movie when you can read a book? 

While these apprehensions are understandable, they are unnecessary. Once you decide to walk through the ostensibly daunting barrier of subtitles, you will be awestruck by the treasure trove of foreign entertainment that surpasses its American counterpart.

My endeavor to overcome the fear of subtitles began when I started watching Japanese anime. I only gravitated to English-dubbed shows because I believed reading subtitles would be mentally taxing. Through this line of thinking, I was robbing myself of many of the worthwhile anime and captivating plotlines that Japanese entertainment offered. Thus, once I steeled myself to watch subtitled shows and movies, I gained a new appreciation for this new genre.

Rather than watching Hollywood shows and movies, I found myself gravitating towards entertainment from other parts of the world: Japanese anime, Korean dramas and Chinese dramas. While it initially took some adjusting to adapt to the pace of subtitles, after some exposure, reading subtitles became second nature. One moment I would read the flitting dialogue and next, the words would vanish before my eyes leaving me utterly immersed in the plots and characters. From then on, new paths unfolded, and I found myself walking an exciting and unfamiliar journey. Every time I discovered a new form of entertainment from a different part of the world, it felt as if I had stumbled upon a shiny gold coin—marveling at the new insights it offered. I had the opportunity to watch many fascinating Japanese anime like the romantic comedy, “Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku,” or the heartrending coming-of-age movie “A Silent Voice.” Following that, I discovered Korean entertainment and became hooked by the refreshing storylines, the stylish and emotive characters and the stellar soundtracks. Along with the insanely popular “Squid Game,” I was enamored with K-Dramas, like the poignant romantic comedy “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” or the comic medical drama “Hospital Playlist.” 

From using subtitles, I not only had the opportunity to experiment with foreign entertainment, but I also learned to admire other languages and even picked up new phrases and words. Up until this point, I have watched countless Korean dramas, and I am not exaggerating when I say I can understand much of the dialogue and certainly speak many words and phrases. You begin to appreciate the cadence of different languages, and the tonality that foreign dialogue adds to the characters and their story—an aspect you certainly miss when viewing English dubs. Watching subtitled entertainment is a strategic way of learning a new language in a captivating format; it is a great tool for anyone who wants to extend their knowledge and visit other countries. 

Most importantly, from utilizing subtitles, I found myself becoming more of a worldly person. Watching numerous foreign shows and movies, I learned more about cultures apart from my own Indian heritage and grew to respect their distinct practices. For example, from the Korean dramas I watched, I retained much knowledge about their normative customs: how they conduct funerals, the traditional food they eat and how they address elders. Additionally, once you begin watching foreign entertainment, you won’t want to stop there: you will find excitement in listening to foreign music, whether it be catchy K-pop songs or cheerful anime soundtracks, and even crave their cultural cuisine.

As such, I cannot urge you enough to cross over to the other side, the side beyond the fear of subtitles—the side that is more vivid, more hopeful and new. From embracing the use of subtitles, I found a deeper, unforgettable appreciation for the world, the different backgrounds of the people on our planet and the unique perspectives that each one has. Using subtitles certainly expanded my world, and I know it will do the same for you.