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Voice-Over vs. Subtitle: Which Is Best For Learning Retention?

Voice Over vs Subtitle Which Is Best

You’re already familiar with the benefits of eLearning localization, like how it facilitates translations for international audiences. However, choosing between voice-overs and subtitles to pass your message to your target audience can be challenging. If you offer several e-learning courses, it’s better to implement both systems, but the cost might be the constraint here.

This article addresses the differences between voice-overs and subtitles. But making your choice depends on two primary things – your target audience and budget. We’ve addressed some other vital aspects of both systems, such as their pros and cons.

Find out more below.

Differences between Voice-Over and Subtitles

E-learning is now more accessible, with options to project subtitles or provide pre-recorded audio. But the question is, which of these options is best for an eLearning localization service?

These key differences will help you identify which is best for your task.

1. Operation

Voice-over – The system of operation in voice-over eLearning programs involves the provision of a translator’s audio version. The target audience listens to the translated audio to get the message from the video in play.

Subtitles – In the case of subtitles, the translated language comes as texts placed at the bottom of the video. Subtitle eLearning programs don’t need to be re-recorded. Here, the target audience reads the subtitles to understand the message from the original audio.

2. Mechanism

Voice-over – Voice-over eLearning programs require the assistance of an expert in the preferred languages. The expert listens to the original audio and translates it in the target language as another audio.

Subtitles – Here, the translator must listen to the original audio and transcribe it in texts to the target language. These texts display on the screen for the audience to read as the video plays.

3. Cost

Voice-over – The cost of organizing voice-over eLearning programs is usually high compared to those of subtitles. On average, voice-overs cost about $150 per minute.

Subtitles – Here, it’s easy to manage cost considering the lesser engineering tasks required. You can pay an average price of $7 per minute for subtitle eLearning courses.

4. Time

Voice-over – This form of eLearning takes more time than compared to subtitles. The reason is that it demands a high level of engineering to get a good lip-synching result. Moreover, translators must go through the necessary scripts to translate each statement. This is also time-consuming.

Subtitles – Not so much time is needed in subtitle eLearning courses. However, it gets pretty slow when multiple sounds come from the video.

Pros and Cons of Voice-Over (Dubbing)

There are essential benefits of using voice-overs to communicate with your audience, such as a better connection. However, there are some disadvantages to this option.

Here are its pros and cons.


  • Using voice-over simplifies the ambiguity of eLearning programs with several on-screen texts.
  • The voice-over system provides the leverage to choose any option that meets your needs. These options include:
    • Lip-synching, which is also referred to as dubbing.
    • The UN-patterned narration – adding the original audio underneath the voice-over version.
    • Off-camera dialogue.
  • The leverage to add more than a single language option in the voice-over makes the eLearning localization hassle-free. Moreover, it facilitates the learning experience – giving it a professional feel.


  • Cost is a major challenge with the voice-over option
  • A translation script is required for a voice-over recording, which can be time-consuming if the script is lengthy.
  • You can get the best relatable audio from lips synching, but this requires time and good engineering skills.

Pros and Cons of Subtitles


  • You can easily manage costs using the subtitle in eLearning
  • If your listeners already have a primary understanding of English, subtitles help with advanced vocabulary.
  • There’s no need to alter the original audio version of the eLearning program.


  • Spacing becomes more challenging when it comes to language expansion
  • Adding subtitles to a video obstructs the visuals of the course.
  • Creating subtitles is difficult when there is more than one speaker at a time or many graphics and on-screen texts.

Which Is Best for Translation?

One of the necessities of eLearning localization programs is to help the listeners to recall what they’ve learned. While this depends on individual preferences, it’s easier to recall what was taught with voice-over than subtitles.

But choosing the best option depends on your budget and audience. Some listeners feel more comfortable connecting with audio than reading subtitles. If this is the case for your audience, opting for voice-over translations would be your best option.


ELearning localization programs are now simpler with voice-overs and subtitles. Often, the main challenge with these systems is which one is best for the task at hand. While that mostly depends on individual preferences, your audience and budget are the main factors.