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Benefits of Closed Captioning


Updated August 11, 2009

Did you know that closed captioning benefits people other than the deaf and hard of hearing community? For hearing children learning how to read and people learning English as a second language closed captioning is very valuable. It has even been proven to help viewers retain information!

Hearing Children Learning to Read

Research on using captions for instruction has shown that that using text captions with audio and video helps student motivation, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. After participating in a study in which they had watched programs with captioning, learning disabled students said that they had enjoyed watching the captioned programs and, more importantly, the captions had helped them to learn language. Using captioned videos in the classroom has also been shown to motivate students to read books on the same topics explored in the videos.

Another study involved reading deficient students (including mildly disabled students e.g., those with learning disabilities). These students were either assigned captioned videos (with captions displaying at an average or a slow pace) or printed text only. The results showed that the students learned more with the captions; furthermore when the pace was slow, they retained more information two weeks later. The authors of the study concluded that students actually learn more from captioned video than from print material on the same topic. A different study with learning disabled students found that captioning improved understanding (comprehension) and that comprehension actually decreased when captioning was stopped.

Children and Adults Learning a Second Language

A study done with bilingual students found that bilingual students who viewed captioned programming did better with word recognition. As reported in ERIC Digest, adults learning English as a second language (ESL) and adult Russian language learners improved their vocabulary skills. The Digest also reported that when captioned material was used with Asian and Hispanic ESL students, they improved their word knowledge and recall skills.

Another ERIC Digest sums up research showing the benefits of captioned programming for adult and high school ESL students: improved sight vocabulary, vocabulary reinforcement, and even better acquisition of spoken English. In one research project, adult ESL learners repeated captions to themselves and paid close attention to the captions.


This research is from decades ago, but is still relevant today. It clearly demonstrates the academic benefits of captioning. Using text captions with video and audio aids and reinforces language learning. Therefore, captioning can serve the needs of many people beyond the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Related blog posts:

Introducing Caption Action 2


These source materials can be downloaded free from ERIC, http://www.eric.ed.gov.

Kirkland, C. Eric., Elizabeth M. Byrom, Mary Ann MacDougall, and Miriam D. Corcoran. The Effectiveness of Television Captioning on Comprehension and Preference. American Educational Research Association, 1995 Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Koskinen, Patricia S., Robert M. Wilson, Linda B. Gambrell, and Susan B. Neuman. Captioned Video and Vocabulary Learning: An Innovative Practice in Literacy Instruction. National Reading Research Center. Summer 1993.

Meyer, Martha J. and Young-bin Benjamin Lee. Closed-Captioned Prompt Rates: Their influence on reading outcomes. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 1995.

Parks, Carolyn. Closed Captioned TV: A Resource for ESL Literacy Education. ERIC Digest. 1994.

Spanos, George, and Jennifer J. Smith. Closed Captioned Television for Adult LEP Literacy Learners. ERIC Digest. 1990.

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