Research Key

Pronunciation and Intralingual Subtitling in the university Environment

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International: $20
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Qualitative and Quantitative research
Analytical tool
Descriptive research
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1.1 Background to the study

When we watch some films on television, we notice a series of words displayed usually at the bottom of the television screen. These words are called subtitles. It was not long after the invention of film that efforts were made to convey the dialogue of the actors to the audience.

They started with what we now call intertitles: texts, drawn or printed on printed paper, filmed and placed between sequences of the film. They were first seen in 1903 as epic, descriptive titles in Edwin Stanton Porter’s Tom’s Cabin. (The technique may have been invented by cartoonist and filmmaker J. Stuart Blackton).

The titles were from 1909 on called sub-titles as they were used in the same way as subtitles in for instance a newspaper. Early, but rarely the subtitles were placed in the moving image, for instance as in Porter’s College Chum (1907) or the French film Judex (1916) or Mireille (1922). In fact, the very first ‘’subtitles” in the modern sense saw the light of the already during the silent film era.

In 1909 M.N. Topp registered a patent for a ’’device for the rapid showing of titles for moving pictures other than those on the film strip”. With this method, the projectionist using a sciopticon (a kind of slide projection) showed the subtitles on the screen below the intertitles.

However, this was never much more than a curiosity, although similar techniques, with the titles on a film strip instead of slides, have been used from time to time up to the present day ( From the year 1927 on, with the invention of sound film, the audience could hear the actors, so the titles inserted between scenes disappeared and the problem assumed new dimensions.

Of course, one could make several language versions or have the film post synchronized (dubbed) in another language. However, some film producers and distributors found this technically complex and expensive. They thus, became what we now called subtitles, and since this technique is comparatively cheap.

It became the preferred method in smaller language areas. In the early day of film subtitling, the main problem was to place the subtitles on the distribution copies, as the negative was usually in safekeeping in the country of origin.

Norway, Sweden, Hungary, and France quickly took the lead in developing techniques for subtitling films.

However, the first attested showing of a sound film with subtitles was when the jazz singer (originally released in the U.S. in October 1927) opened in Paris, on January 26, 1929, with subtitles in French. Later that year, Italy followed suit, and on August 17 1929, another A1 Jolson film, The Singing Fool, opened in Copenhagen, fitted with Danish subtitles. (Gottlieb, pg. 210)

Subtitles are most often used to help viewers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or people who have accent recognition problems to follow the dialogue or commentary in films. Recently, it has been used in the language teaching field and also in interpreting.

Nevertheless, as a linguist, I am out to seek how one can use subtitled films to learn and teach appropriate English pronunciation, which will be helpful in everyday conversation.

The manner in which native speakers of English pronounce words is undoubtedly different from that of non-native speakers (NNS). Thus, this study will look at how one can use subtitles to enhance pronunciation.

The film that is to be used in this investigation is The Sound of Music produced and directed by Robert Wise, based on the musical book written by the writing Of Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, and screenplay by Ernest Lehman; and it is also based on the book: The Story of the Trapp Family by Maria Von Trapp.

This is because this film has been professionally subtitled, so it will leave learners and teachers with a qualified choice.                                     

The reason for choosing this topic is because it has been noticed that many people like watching films but do not know that it can be academically helpful. This would make students create language within a familiar and motivating context that is, using its audio-visual extract, like the films.

The students will also feel as if they were playing an active role in their own learning process, thus their language learning is enhanced. The use of sophisticated computers is hardly used in our context.

This is because it is expensive and so, the use of subtitles would be a cheaper way in achieving this goal of learning a second language and also because technology which is very motivating to students is not used in Cameroonian schools, therefore subtitles would be a substitute.


This topic should be studied because many people watch films but do not know that it can be helpful in language learning and teaching especially pronunciation which is the point of focus of this study. As a result, this study sets out to investigate how subtitles can be used to enhance pronunciation among learners of English phonology.


Although research has been carried out on the use of intralingual subtitles in language learning and teaching, it is not adequate and most of it has been done abroad. This, therefore, requires that an investigation be conducted into the influence intralingual subtitles have on the learning of a second language in Cameroon.


The primary objectives of this research are:

  1. To describe the benefits of intralingual subtitles in the learning and teaching of pronunciation.
  2. To recommend to teachers and policymakers the implementation of monolingual subtitles in teaching English pronunciation.
  3. To advocate for other viewers on the use of intralingual subtitled films to learn pronunciation.

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