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Review of  Listening to Subtitles

Reviewer: Yaima A. Centeno
Book Title: Listening to Subtitles
Book Author: Anna Matamala Pilar Orero
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 23.1958

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AUTHORS: Matamala, Anna and Orero, Pilar

TITLE: Listening to Subtitles

YEAR: 2010

Yaima Aimee Centeno, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, State
University of New York at Albany, Albany, USA


The book is a monographic study in which the authors combine the topic of
subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing with technological advancements in
television. The prologue discusses aspects of the new digitalization era of
television and its impact on subtitling for the deaf. The total number of
chapters comprising the monograph is fifteen. They are divided taking into
consideration the authors who wrote about many different topics within Sign
Language and the deaf and hard of hearing. The majority of the chapters focus on
criteria in the placement of subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. Only
two chapters are fully dedicated to the linguistic description of the deaf and
hard of hearing, while in the others, there is a combination of the linguistic
characteristics of this population and the technology that can be used to
improve subtitling. The authors also expose variations within Sign Language and
how to take these into consideration when creating subtitles for the deaf and
hard of hearing. The differences within Sign Language, as well as the increasing
advances in the technology of television constitute a problem when attempting to
improve subtitling. The authors discuss these problems while still covering the
contribution of many other fields to Sign Language, and the deaf and hard of

The objectives of the monograph are to approach the aspect of subtitles for the
deaf and hard of hearing, while taking into a consideration a variety of
perspectives. The first few compilations focus mainly on more general and
technical aspects of subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing, such as the
font and size of letters, as well as the position of text on the television
screen. Utray, Ruiz & Moreiro, in their chapter, specify the amount of pixels
subtitles should have horizontally. These authors also recommend Sans Serif font
as the most suitable for subtitling. The first few articles also address the
philological aspect of subtitling, which points out some examples regarding the
lack of attention given to the literacy of the deaf and hard of hearing
population. This has resulted in illiteracy among this specific population and
also the generalization that the deaf and hard of hearing are able to learn the
language of the country where they reside. Cabeza-Pereiro points out that deaf
children do not learn the Sign Writing system required to attain a certain level
of metalinguistic maturity. Therefore, creating subtitles for the deaf
population should take into consideration their linguistics abilities. These few
compilations only concentrate on the more general Spanish deaf and hard of
hearing community without focusing on a specific country.

Throughout the book, the authors touch upon the linguistic peculiarities of the
deaf and hard of hearing population, while simultaneously considering more
efficient subtitling criteria. Matamala and Orero present some ideas on the case
of deaf people in the United States, United Kingdom and Spain. They point out
the diversity within the deaf population in these countries, which is not taken
into consideration when preparing subtitles for them. Deaf people have a
distinct way of learning in comparison with the rest of the population. Since
their language is composed of signs, they are taught the grammar of the sign
language used in their country while also learning to read the lips of their
interlocutors. One of the myths clarified in the monograph is that regardless of
the knowledge of deaf people, generalizing and basing subtitling on this
generalization becomes the greatest barrier to overcome when implementing more
efficient subtitling techniques for the deaf and hard of hearing. Besides
touching upon the linguistic peculiarities of the deaf and hard of hearing, the
authors also explore some ideas about the metalinguistic knowledge of this
community, covering the basics of interactions between the deaf and hard of
hearing and the rest of the population who can hear and speak a language.

The rest of the compilations within the book concentrate on the case of the deaf
and hard of hearing population in Europe, specifically Spain. It is in these
sections of the book where one can find a combination of techniques regarding
subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, and the application of these
techniques, specifically to the deaf and hard of hearing within the Castilian
Spanish speaking community. The insertion of features from the Spanish Sign
Language (SSL) into subtitles requires special attention, since it can improve
the understanding of subtitles for deaf members of the community whose native
language is Spanish Sign Language (SSL). It is also in this section of the
monograph where Matamala and Orero differentiate between subtitling for the deaf
and hard of hearing who know sign language, and those who know SSL. Another
aspect to consider is the reading habits of deaf people. By taking on three
projects and describing the corresponding data, analysis, and results the
authors also give a broad overview about the pros and cons of the application of
their projects to other communities. This information will ultimately prove to
be helpful for future projects and research about subtitles for the deaf and
hard of hearing.


The introduction of the book previews the main ideas to be covered in a very
clear and concise way. The audience will read the introduction of the book and
have a general idea about some of the terms being exposed in some of the
chapters. However, the rest of the book is very technical in its approach to
subtitles and explanations of their use for the deaf and hard of hearing. This
actually adds value to the book since it accomplishes the mission of informing
the reader about the topic at hand in its entirety. The conclusions and
references at the end of each chapter also help those who are actively
conducting research regarding this topic to review more recent literature about
subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing. Another very helpful section for
those conducting research in this area is the list of references at the end of
the book. The authors compiled references about subtitling for the deaf and hard
of hearing while also adding literature from other disciplines which are
connected to the topic. As such, the book approaches the topic effectively in
terms of the way the subtopics are organized and also tied in with the main topic.

It is an arduous task to give a description of the many components of subtitling
for the deaf and hard of hearing while exposing the different projects that have
taken place in Europe (mainly Spain and France). However, the various
pictographic explanations complement the information and are of immense help for
the reader. However, the purpose of the book is not to provide a large amount of
information by using pictographs. This is confirmed by the fact that the book
has a great balance of print and pictographic explanations. It is also important
to point out that a lot of the pictographic explanations are in the form of
surveys and questionnaires regarding subtitling for the deaf and hard of
hearing. Throughout the book, not all the case studies and/or projects have
surveys and/or questionnaires. Only one of the studies has a questionnaire where
the participants were asked to rank a given clip among other clips. In contrast,
the majority of the studies show examples of the positioning of subtitles,
fonts, quality of transmission, and details of images.

As previously stated, each case study and project constitutes a chapter of the
book, in which a summary is included, as well as the results. The data is
explained in great detail. This shows that the book is intended for a scholarly
audience particularly concerned with the topic of subtitling for the deaf and
hard of hearing. There are other disciplines integrated into the topic, such as
linguistics, however, only those conducting research on the topic will be able
to fully grasp the content of the book. This also goes along with the main focus
of the book, which is to update the audience about the state of research on
subtitling in Europe. Therefore, the book will also serve as a guide for those
conducting research on subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing in other
parts of the world, such as Latin America. In general, the book is a great
compilation about the most recent works in subtitling for the deaf and hard of

Yaima Aimee Centeno is currently pursuing a PhD in Spanish Linguistics at the State University of New York at Albany. Her PhD thesis has the purpose of studying and describing the Spanish spoken in the Eastern part of Cuba, specifically in Guantanamo City. Her research intends to expand the linguistic knowledge of Cuban Spanish spoken in Cuba. Her main interest in this topic arose from one of her trips to Guantanamo, Cuba where she subtly noticed certain aspects of the Spanish spoken there. She has been interested in pursuing her research there ever since.

Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9783034303538
Pages: 235
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