Subtitling in the Nigerian Film Industry, Informative or Misleading?

Andrew Ali Ibbi


Subtitles are captions displayed at the bottom of a cinema or television screen that translate or transcribe the dialogue or narrative. Nigeria and indeed Africa should be a major beneficiary of the subtitles considering the number of ethnic groups in the continent. The emergence of different film industries in countries around Africa has helped in showcasing Africa to the international community. Hence, subtitles came in handy, considering the fact that most viewers cannot understand the language with which the movies were produced. This paper explores the battle for meaning by English subtitles to movies produced in African languages especially the Nigerian film industry. The paper will look at the Hermaneutic Theory of Mass Communication to buttress the relevance of deriving meaning out of movie subtitles. The Hausa and the Yoruba film industries are the subjects of this study because of the large viewership they enjoy by people even outside Nigeria. The research came up as a result of the persistent errors which I have noticed while watching Yoruba and Hausa films with subtitles. Subtitles convey a summary of the dialogues taking place in a movie. Viewers who cannot understand the language used for the dialogue rely on the subtitles to make meaning out of the movie. If they are unable to make meaning out of the subtitles because of some inadequacies as a result of carelessness in the process of production, the aim of having the subtitles is defeated.


Kannywood, Intertitles, Subtitles, Yoruba films, Hausa films, Spotting

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