YouTube English Subtitles Not Working? (3 Common Reasons)

YouTube is a platform that’s been a mainstay of the internet since the earliest days of the viral video sensation.

Among its many features, YouTube offers closed captioning to make videos more accessible to those who are hard of hearing or who need to watch at low volumes, as well as for people who do not speak English fluently. 

Sadly, like all the best features of technology, the captioning system does not always work flawlessly.

So if you’re trying to figure out why you can’t get the captions to work on YouTube, look no further, because that’s precisely what we hope to help you troubleshoot today!

No Captions Here: Video Author Didn’t Add Any

To fully understand why you might not be seeing subtitles/captions on any given YouTube video, we’ll have to break down exactly how those captions get generated in the first place.

When a creator uploads a video, they have the opportunity to add hand-crafted subtitles themselves.

This means they personally transcribe what they said in the video into text, and add that text manually as subtitles.

This is something every creator can do, but sadly, not something that every creator chooses to do.

There is also an automated system intended to fill in subtitles on videos where the creator did not do it manually, but more on this in a bit.

For the moment, the point is that the number one reason you might not be seeing subtitles on a video is quite simple: the video’s creator did not add any subtitles.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a fix for this one, because it’s not something within the viewer’s control.

Our best suggestion would be to reach out to the creator of the video and ask them directly if they’d consider adding subtitles.

Alternatively, if you’re willing to do the work yourself, you could offer to transcribe the video for them and let them upload the results.

Of course, that won’t be viable for everyone, and there’s no guarantee the video’s creator will respond favorably or even at all.

Subtitles May Be Disabled in Your Settings

The good news is, it’s entirely possible that the case of the missing subtitles could be solved a lot closer to home than you might think.

That is to say; it could be solved within the options menu of your very own YouTube profile.

That’s because you might not be seeing subtitles simply because they are turned off.

There are two ways to enable closed captioned subtitles: on a given video itself, and in your settings menu.

The most easily accessible way to turn subtitles on is while you’re watching a video.

  1. To do this, simply hover the mouse over the video you’re watching and look for a “CC” icon in the bottom-right corner of the player.
  2. The “CC” of course stands for “Closed Captioning;” click on it, and you should now have some subtitles appear on-screen for your viewing convenience.

Note, if you don’t see the “CC” icon, then it means that the video does not have any captions available.

Moreover, turning captions on or off in a specific video will only affect that particular video. The next time you click on something else to watch, you’ll have to manually turn them on again.

If you want to change your global settings so that you always see captions whenever available, you’ll have to dig slightly deeper.

  1. To do this, first, click on your profile picture in the top-right corner of the screen; if you’re watching a video fullscreen, minimize the player first to see the website interface.
  2. In the submenu that appears, click on the settings gear.
  3. Find ‘Playback and Performance’ in the list on the left.
  4. Now find the options ‘Always Show Captions’ and ‘Include Auto-Generated Captions (When Available),’ and turn them both on.

Now, every time you watch a video, if there are any captions available, they should appear automatically.

System Error: Subtitle Auto-Generation Failed

We alluded to the automatic generation system earlier, but now it’s time to give it a little more attention.

That’s because if you’ve read this far and nothing you’ve tried has made captions appear on a given video, there’s one final reason left why it might not be working.

YouTube has a system that allows A.I. to automatically generate captions when the video’s creator has not added them manually.

This technology isn’t perfect, of course, and as a result, the subtitles it generates may not always be correct, but if the uploader isn’t going to add them manually, it’s better than nothing.

Sometimes, however, auto-generation can fail on occasion.

It can also take some time to kick in, so if the video is brand new, it may just not have auto-generated captions yet.

Give it some time, a few days tops, and you may find that the captions have suddenly appeared.

However, sometimes they never do, for no apparent reason. Some users speculate that, like the YouTube algorithm in general, the auto-caption system does not treat all channels fairly.

That is to say, the most popular channels with the most views and subscriptions could be getting preferential treatment.

This is speculation, so we cannot confirm one way or the other, but if it were true, it could explain how lesser-known videos might be ignored by the automatic systems.

Regardless, there’s no fix for this particular issue because if you’ve enabled auto-generated captions and you still aren’t seeing any, there’s nothing you personally can do to change that.

At that point, the only possible hope is that either the automatic system eventually gets around to it, or the video uploader suddenly decides they want to add them after all manually.


Google Support: Manage YouTube Subtitle Settings

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