One of the most debated topics: Dubbing vs Subtitling. For over seventy years, this topic has been on the table. Whilst there’s not a right or wrong method of how you enjoy watching translated video content, it is good to understand the pros and cons, particularly if you are planning to localize your media.

What are Dubbing and Subtitling?

Dubbing, often confused with voice-over services, replaces dialogue with a spoken translation. The process is very technical and involves directors, voice-over actors, translators, sound mixers and more.

Subtitles are the written translation of the dialogue in a piece of content. Subtitles are placed at the bottom of the screen and are timed with the actor’s lines.

Dubbing vs Subtitles – What’s best for my content?

Whether you choose to dub or subtitle your content you should have an understanding of your target audience’s preferences. Unfortunately, it is not a one size fits all situation.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both audiovisual translation services. The main factors that should impact your decision on translation methods are:

  • Cost
  • Timeframe
  • What your target audience prefers
  • The type of content you are translating

There is also a range of exceptions. For example, you wouldn’t be able to add subtitles to content for young children that don’t know how to read yet.

And, whilst subtitles are a quick and cost-effective option, they may not be widely used in the region you’re targeting – so knowing your target audience is key.

For example, in Europe – Spain, Germany, France and Italy prefer dubbing to subtitles for film and TV, as they have a richer history with it. See the European map below:

Dubbing vs subtitling map of countries using translation techniques

Dubbing vs Subtitling Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of each service below should paint a better picture.

Subtitling Pros

  • Subtitling is cheaper than dubbing as it eliminates the cost of hiring native-speaking voiceover artists.
  • It’s a great way for the viewers to learn a new language and absorb another culture.
  • You can hear the original version with the voices and emotion of the original actors.
  • It is easier to understand technical terminology when written.
  • The convenient translation process supports a lower budget.
  • It’s usually a faster process than other localization options.

Subtitling Cons

  • Audiences don’t focus as much on the image of the content as they are consumed with reading the audiovisual translation.
  • If subtitles are badly done, they don’t always convey the right translation.

Dubbing Pros

  • It allows an audience to follow the story in its entirety, without the distractions of reading the translation.
  • All countries follow different codes in regard to censorship. When you add audio dubbing, the art of synchronization allows you to comply with the censorship laws easily, country by country.
  • Often many struggle to keep up with subtitles, making character development harder to follow when parts of the story are missed. Dubbing creates characters that people can relate to, as the new dialogue displays complex emotion in a way that the textual representation may not.
  • Dubbing gives a sense of authenticity to an audience, as newly recorded dialogue is directed for a specific region or audience. This allows you to moderate the emotion in a scene or piece of content, depending on how the target audience will react.

Dubbing Cons

  • Dubbing is expensive compared to other localization services. This is a result of hiring voice-over artists, engineers etc.
  • Badly dubbed content is unbearable to watch. When the lip synchronization and sound is off, it’s very distracting.
  • A good dubbing service will take more time than subtitling as it is a very technical process that requires perfection and closer attention.


No matter the service you choose to translate your content, there’s no right or wrong. The right service is the service that is the best for your content and your target audience. So, delve deep into understanding the market or speak with a localization expert who understands your market, in order to guide you in the right direction. Let’s not forget the third option: Subtitles and Dubbing.

Want to reach more audiences with your content? SPG offers voiceover services in over 40+ languages. Speak with one of our experts today:

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