Captions can allow a person to watch a video and follow along, which can improve comprehension. It can also allow a person to watch a video and understand the content when in a noisy environment or when they don’t have speakers.

The use of captions is also more suitable for times when in a public space when an individual wants to discretely watch a video without disturbing people around them and without using headphones (i.e. laying in a park on a summers day, at a library, in a lecture or on a crowded train).

There is research to back up these claims about improved comprehension, one research study undertaken at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, found that captions  in the same language as the one spoken in the video enhanced the learning effect. The research found that Dutch students showed improvements in their ability to recognise Scottish or Australian English after only 25 minutes of exposure to video material.

Additionally, in the UK the Office of Communications conducted some research in the use of TV captions and found that of the 7.5 million people who use TV captions, six million have no hearing impairment at all. For note, in the UK the term captions is replaced with ‘subtitles’. The comments provided on the BBC website  discussing this research include:

  • I tend to lipread on what is being said and therefore had to stay focused in case I miss a word.
  • They’re especially invaluable when watching Never Mind The Buzzcocks, where Mark Lamarr speaks incredibly fast
  • Subtitles are also invaluable for people who are not completely fluent in English, often being able to clarify what they’re hearing by reading below.
  • I know several foreign people for whom they make a huge difference and it improves their English too.
  • Now I just give up on trying to hear more than 1 word in 3 (I have 25% hearing loss) and rely on subtitles to fill in the gaps.
  • None of our family are deaf, but I’ve had some hearing problems in the past, and my daughter has speech and language problems. Any help with understanding is always useful.
  • I love subtitling! For me, it gives me a better understanding of the show
  • I find them helpful, as I watch a lot of British TV and miss some words due to the “accent” issue.
  • Subtitle actually helping my family to learn English and increase vocabulary.