Comparing the impact of automatically generated and corrected subtitles on cognitive load and learning in a first- and second-language educational context


  • Wing Shan Chan Macquarie University
  • Jan-Louis Kruger Macquarie University
  • Stephen Doherty University of New South Wales



educational subtitling, subtitle, subtitling, automatically generated subtitles, automated subtitling, cognitive load, language barrier in learning, English as Second Language, ESL


The addition of subtitles to videos has the potential to benefit students across the globe in a context where online video lectures have become a major channel for learning, particularly because, for many, language poses a barrier to learning. Automated subtitling, created with the use of speech-recognition software, may be a powerful way to make this a scalable and affordable solution. However, in the absence of thorough post-editing by human subtitlers, this mode of subtitling often results in serious errors that arise from problems with speech recognition, accuracy, segmentation and presentation speed. This study therefore aims to investigate the impact of automated subtitling on student learning in a sample of English first- and second-language speakers. Our results show that high error rates and high presentation speeds reduce the potential benefit of subtitles. These findings provide an important foundation for future studies on the use of subtitles in education.

Author Biographies

Wing Shan Chan, Macquarie University

Wing Shan Chan is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University in Australia. Her main research interests include learning through second language and audiovisual translation with a focus on cognitive processing of subtitled products.

Jan-Louis Kruger, Macquarie University

Jan-Louis Kruger is Head of the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University in Australia. His main research interests are the reception and processing of language in multimodal contexts, including investigations on the impact of audiovisual translation products on cognitive load and psychological immersion combining eye-tracking and subjective measures.

Stephen Doherty, University of New South Wales

Dr Stephen Doherty is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, Interpreting, and Translation at the University of New South Wales, where he also runs the Language Processing Lab. His research is based in language, cognition, and technology. With a focus on psycholinguistics and language technologies, his research investigates human and machine language processing using natural language processing techniques and combinations of online and offline measures (task performance, eye tracking, psychometrics, and electroencephalography).


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How to Cite

Chan, W. S., Kruger, J.-L., & Doherty, S. (2020). Comparing the impact of automatically generated and corrected subtitles on cognitive load and learning in a first- and second-language educational context. Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series – Themes in Translation Studies, 18.