In an era where British TV shows dominate binge-watch lists, there’s an unexpected problem: many Americans don’t understand what it is Brits are SAYING on shows like The Crown and Bridgerton, with all those complex accents.
It’s not a lack of appreciation for British storytelling, but rather the intricate nuances and cadences unique to the Isles.
This issue has made a surprising technology trendy among many viewers, according to a recent survey: subtitles.
So let’s take a look at the British shows American viewers are finding most baffling…
Subtitles: Not Just for Foreign Films Anymore
According to a recent survey done by language tutoring service Preply, a whopping 51% of Americans are relying on subtitles when watching content.
And for the Brits reading this, no, they’re not all watching Spanish telenovelas. The real head-turner? A staggering 70% use subtitles specifically to decipher actors with accents.
While some might attribute this to the complex beauty of the Scottish lilt, one can’t help but chortle at the thought of an American puzzling over the Queen’s English.
When The Yanks Need A Hand With British Telly
Global streaming services like Netflix are making local shows international hits – but with great accents, comes great responsibility.
Here’s a glance at the shows that have made the “hardest-to-understand” cut for our friends from the US, according to the survey:
1. The Crown
The monarchy has always been a fascinating topic, and while the Brits can easily navigate through the posh accents and historical contexts of Netflix’s hit, The Crown, it seems our American buddies are royally confused.
Leading the charts, The Crown might have just added a feather to its crown as the hardest show for Americans to understand (without subtitles, at least).
At number 2, there’s a *gasp* American show – Rick and Morty, but the third place goes to…
Next up is the swoon-worthy Bridgerton, also from Netflix.
While it’s full of regency romance and ballroom dances, it seems that not everyone finds it easy to waltz through. Perhaps it’s the mix of historical English combined with high society’s intricacies?
Then we have another American show at number 4 (Modern Family), which then takes us right to…
5. Ted Lasso
Here’s an ironic twist: Ted Lasso, the show from Apple TV+ about an American football coach trying to navigate the world of British soccer (or is it the other way round?), has also made it to the list.
This delightful fusion of British and American cultures might have just taken the biscuit as a mutual source of bafflement.
Jumping further down the list, we get to…
14. Derry Girls
The quirky Derry Girls (it’s on Channel 4 in the UK, and on Netflix in the US) is set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
It’s an absolute riot for those familiar with the regional accents and 90s references. But for the Yanks? They might need more than just a wee bit of help.
Then there’s Outlander, which might be testing American viewers with its time-travelling plot combined with the rich Scottish brogue.
Historical Scotland was no easy playground, and neither is understanding the vernacular for some…
19. Peaky Blinders
Last but not least, the gritty underworld of post-World War I Birmingham, replete with thick Brummie accents and intense drama, might have our friends from the States wishing they had a Shelby family member to translate.
The Rise Of Subtitles
Interestingly, in an increasingly interconnected digital world, subtitles have become more than just an aid for the hearing-impaired.
They’re now a tool for bridging cultural and linguistic gaps. And leading the charge in this growing trend, according to the survey, are women and the younger generation.
Let’s talk numbers (in the US): among the general populace, 51% regularly turn to subtitles while watching content. But when you sift through gender-specific stats, women clearly lead the subtitle movement.
A notable 61% of women are using subtitles more frequently now compared to yesteryears.
In contrast, their male counterparts lag slightly behind at 54%. This underscores a remarkable shift in viewing habits, where subtitles are swiftly becoming a norm rather than an exception.
However, while women of all ages might be pioneering this trend, it’s the younger generation that’s truly pushing the envelope.
Gen Z viewers, those digital natives who’ve grown up in the thick of the internet revolution, have shown an astonishing adoption rate for subtitles.
A staggering 96% of them utilise subtitles in their viewing, which is a massive leap from the previous year’s already impressive 70%.
The reasons for this are surely diverse – but one, as some suggest, is that Gen Z viewers are used to doing OTHER things while watching TV – such as looking at their phones – so it’s easier to then catch-up with subtitles on the screen.
Netflix is a significant player in this movement, with 52% of Americans saying they use subtitles more often on the streaming platform compared to others.
This highlights not only the platform’s dominance but also its intuitive and user-friendly subtitle integration.
Interestingly, the use of subtitles isn’t just a solitary affair. About 1 in 3 viewers resort to subtitles when watching TV with another person, emphasizing that subtitles can indeed elevate shared viewing experiences.
It’s worth noting that in the UK – subtitles can be found on most of the US-based streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+, while the UK services are often lagging behind in this department (To this day, for example, you can’t get subtitles on Sky’s 4K content).
Aiming for robust accuracy, the study targeted a sample size of over 1,000 individuals, recognizing that larger samples bolster the reliability of results.
On May 2, 2023, this target was surpassed with 1,503 Americans, aged 18 to 76, surveyed on their subtitle preferences across various platforms.
The diverse group consisted of 49% females, 50% males, and 1% nonbinary, capturing a broad slice of the American viewing public.