The Language of Subtitles for Arabic-English Bilingual Speakers in the United Arab Emirates


This paper investigates the use of subtitles by Arabic-English bilingual speakers in the UAE. While extant research on the effects of subtitles on language acquisition focuses on either first language acquisition by children or second or foreign acquisition by monolingual speakers, this study examines bilingual speakers and their preference for the language of subtitles in different contexts via an online questionnaire. Results from 28 Arabic-English bilingual speakers revealed that subtitles were used more frequently for foreign language films and English language films over Arabic language films, and English was the preferred subtitle language regardless of the language of the film. Higher dependence on subtitles for English language films in contrast to lower dependence on subtitles for Arabic language films suggests the participants’ lower English proficiency and higher proficiency in Arabic. However, an analysis of self-reported language proficiency revealed that participants were more dominant in English, which also accounts for the selection of English as a preferred subtitle language. The paper concludes that such contradictory findings reflect linguistic dualism between English and Arabic that prevails in the UAE, which is due to the proliferation of English especially in the education sector in the country.


Ji Young Shim and Sarah Zahaf


Arabic, bilingual, English, interlingual, intralingual, subtitles