Got subtitles?

Got subtitles?

Oskar is playing a new game on the PS5 – Ghost of Tsushima. It’s a game about a Japanese Ronin hell-bent on avenging his uncle. Or something like that… the graphics are so good you’d think you’re watching a live-action movie.

But that’s beside the point.

On setup, he was given options for play modes – normal, cinematic, in English, or in Japanese with subtitles. He chose the latter.

It’s an intense way to play a video game.

Oskar wielding his katana in a standoff against travelers in the woods…

Not only does he have to pay attention to the action on screen – oncoming threats from Mongol bowmen, feudal lords, and the story itself – he also has to read the subtitles from all the dialog. And there’s a lot.

To recap – he’s playing a video game, with audio in Japanese and subtitles in English – and as usual, doing amazingly well.

Why? How?

First the why… Oskar and his sister watch a lot of anime that’s often in Japanese, and not dubbed into English. Subtitles are a must to access that content. They’re used to it.

They’re also in the habit of adding subtitles to normal programming – English/English – as it helps them pick up on accents or new words. They’ve been doing this themselves without prompting for years.

When I asked Oskar why he chose subtitled Japanese audio for Ghost of Tsushima, he said it was because he “wanted to; it was more fun that way. And it was a more complete, the full, experience.”

And the how… practice. They do it all the time, and reading subtitles are now part of their skill set. There’s no missing out on the show, and they often pick up subtle hints on plot lines, tricky names, and whispered lines easier than I do.

As a side note, I used to watch a lot of programming that was subbed, too. Growing up in Sweden in the 1980s, we had Swedish TV1 and TV2, and since we lived close enough geogrpahically, Danish TV1 and TV2 also. This was all antenna broadcasting, of course, as cable TV didn’t arrive until much later.

All of the McGyver, Dallas, Top Gun, Cocktail, and Pretty Woman I adored as a kid were in English (American), subtitled in either Swedish or Danish. So there’s that…

I’m excited they’ve both picked up a useful skill – decoding and translating on the go – as it will no doubt benefit them later in life.

What about subtitles when working with people? What if you could have running subtitles below each conversation in person, so you never miss a word, a phrase, or an intent?

It’s not possible, of course.

But you can get better at recognizing the signals others send when speaking with them or interpreting emails, text messages, or social media snippets.

The game Oskar’s playing has built-in time for reflection. A quick pause to process new skills, level-up competencies, or gaze at the horizon. Here’s your chance, too…

#ProTip – did you know automatic subtitling is available in most YouTube videos and Google Meet Calls? Yes, Google Meet calls that are happening live, in real-time… They call it ‘Captions’ and here’s how to turn them on. You’re welcome. 😉