Original Research

Academic, keyword, and plain English subtitles for natural sciences students: Intralingual views

Elmarie Kruger-Marais, Helena Kruger-Roux
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 8 | a275 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v8i0.275 | © 2023 Elmarie Kruger-Marais, Helena Kruger-Roux | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 January 2023 | Published: 31 August 2023

About the author(s)

Elmarie Kruger-Marais, Department of English Studies, Faculty of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and Unit for Academic Literacy, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Helena Kruger-Roux, Unit for Academic Literacy, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The study is an analysis of the reaction of students in a faculty of natural and agricultural sciences (NAS) to subtitles and also includes an investigation of their responses thereto. Reception of and responses to academic English (close to verbatim transcription), plain English, and keyword English subtitles were explored by showing participants subtitled videos related to the content of their module. Participants were then asked to complete demographic and affective questionnaires, and participated in focus group interviews to investigate their reception of the various subtitles. The results show that participants responded particularly well to plain English subtitles. The focus group interviews indicated that they found all three sets of subtitles useful for note-taking purposes, adjusting the speed at which they accessed and processed information by pausing the videos, highlighting important information in the study materials, and being able to engage aurally and visually with the materials. From a higher education perspective, this emphasises students’ readiness for subtitles as an academic mediation tool.

Contribution: This article aims to fill existing gaps in the fulfilment of higher education institutions’ language policies, which have been exposed by the thrust for multilingualism in higher education. Research into academic subtitling as an academic mediation tool can be used to bridge this gap, thereby supporting innovative research in higher education.


subtitles; plain English; inclusivity; reception; video learning; accessibility; higher education; academic mediation

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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