Belfast Telegraph

Fifty Shades star Jamie Dornan the latest Northern Ireland native to gets subtitle treatment on TV

By Amanda Ferguson

Holywood actor Jamie Dornan has become the latest Northern Ireland native to be subtitled on TV.

Entertainment broadcaster E News did not think viewers would be able to make out what The Fall and Fifty Shades of Grey star was saying, so used subtitles over an interview with him.

The Co Down man is the latest casualty.

The BBC was accused of being 'anti-Irish' last year when Castledawson blacksmith Barney Devlin - the inspiration for Seamus Heaney's poem, The Forge - was subtitled on the Countryfile rural affairs programme, and pop singer Nadine Coyle from Londonderry has previously been deemed to have an accent too strong for audiences outside Ireland to understand, her voice regularly accompanied by subtitles in America.

E News viewers took to Twitter to share their thoughts.

One woman said: "Embarrassed for ENews that they used subtitles for Jamie Dornan piece... Come on, our accent isn't that bad?! #50Shades"

Belfast PR account director, Fiona Brown, was among the TV viewers stunned by what they were seeing when Jamie appeared on screen.

"I think the subtitles were a bit unnecessary, especially in this day and age when you think of the number of high-profile people from Northern Ireland, like Liam Neeson and Rory McIlroy, who have been hugely successful around the world," she said.

Linguistics expert Dr Catrin Rhys, an Ulster University lecturer in language and social interaction, says the question of whether subtitling is required should boil down to intelligibility - how easy it is for the audience to identify the words that a speaker is using, from the speech signal.

"However, intelligibility is not easy to measure," she added.

"The key factors that are known to affect how easy it is to understand another speaker's accent are: 1) familiarity with the accent, 2) degree of difference from home accent, and 3) attitude towards the accent.

"In other words, it is very clear from the literature on intelligibility that there is both a perceptual component to intelligibility and an ideological component.

"If we are considering the subtitling of Northern Irish accents for a non-Northern Irish audience, we therefore have to consider: a) degree of familiarity for the audience and b) degree of difference from home accents for the audience before assuming that the subtitling is ideological."

Dr Rhys says measuring degrees of difference between accents "turns out to be a fairly thorny issue".

A spokesperson for E could not be contacted at the time of publication regarding their decision to subtitle Dornan.


Co Down actor Jamie Dornan is the latest person from Northern Ireland to be subtitled on TV.

Last year, when Castledawson blacksmith Barney Devlin was subtitled on BBC programme Countryfile, unionist and nationalist politicians said it was unnecessary and offensive.

Former Girls Aloud singer, Nadine Coyle, from Derry, has also been subtitled.

Read more:

Fifty Shades star Jamie Dornan: 'I fear I'll get murdered, like John Lennon' by crazed fan on red carpet

Who was the biggest winner at the Golden Globe Awards? Well according to social media it was Jamie Dornan's beard...

Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan defends claims film is anti-feminist 

Jamie Dornan to Rory McIlroy: Northern Ireland celebrities of 2014 ... and the headline makers of 2015 

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