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How to Turn On Closed Captions on YouTube | Easy Step-by-Step

Learn how to easily turn on closed captions on YouTube with our step-by-step guide. Enhance accessibility and grow your videos' reach!
Ortal Hadad
Content Specialist & Blog Editor
Last Updated:
July 16, 2023
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

Struggling to understand what’s being said in the YouTube video you’re watching? Or maybe you’re trying to understand the dialogue in a foreign language video? 

Don't worry! In this article, we’ll show you how to enable captions on YouTube (step-by-step instructions with pictures included).  Not only will we talk about how to enable captions on Desktop and mobile, but we’ll also show you how to turn on subtitles in different languages. 

Let’s get started.

Does YouTube have automatic closed captions?

Yes, YouTube does have automatic closed captions. This feature generates captions for videos using speech recognition technology. However, it's important to note that automatically generated captions might not be entirely accurate, particularly for videos with poor audio quality, heavy accents, or technical language.

Video creators also have the option to upload their own caption files if they want more accurate captions, or they can edit the auto-generated captions to increase their accuracy.

How to turn on captions on YouTube videos on desktop

Step 1: Start playing the video you want to watch

Step 2: Look for the CC button at the bottom right-hand corner for the video and click on it. This is the Closed Captioning button. 

Turning on closed captions on YouTube

And that’s it! If the video has captions available, they will start showing up on the screen.

Optional Step 3: If you want to see subtitles in other languages, follow our guide on changing your default subtitles. Then go to your video, click on the settings icon, click Subtitles/CC, and then click on auto-translate.  

How to turn on captions to YouTube videos on your phone

Step 1: Open the YouTube app on your phone. 

Step 2: Play the video you want to watch.

Step 3: Tap on the video to show the video controls.

Step 4:  In the top right corner, tap on the CC button.

Turning on closed captions on YouTube from a phone

The captions should now appear at the bottom of the video. If you want to get captions in other languages, follow the steps detailed on languages we discuss later on in this article. 

How to turn your default to captions on all videos

Step 1: Log into your YouTube account.

Step 2: Click on your profile picture in the top right corner of the screen. 

Step 3: In the dropdown menu that appears, click on Settings

Step 4: In the Settings menu on the left-hand side, click on Playback and performance

Setting up closed captions as your default on YouTube

Step 5: Click the Always shows captions box. Also, click on the option that says Include auto-generated captions (when available). 

Turning on subtitles and closed captions as a default setting on YouTubee

Step 6: Exit out of the settings menu. Your changes will be saved automatically. 

How to style your captions display on YouTube

Step 1: Open YouTube on your browser and play the video you want to watch. 

Step 2: Click on the "Settings" (gear) icon at the bottom of the video.

Step 3: Click on Subtitles/CC

Step 4: In the following popup, click Options

Adjusting subtitles and closed captions on YouTube

Step 5: A menu will appear with various customization options:

  • Font, color, size, and opacity: These options let you adjust the look of the text itself.
  • Background color and opacity: These options allow you to change the box that appears behind the text.
  • Window color and opacity: These options change the color of the entire caption window.

Play around with the options and decide on one which you will like.

How to enable subtitles in other languages on YouTube on desktop

Step 1: Follow all the steps we covered above on turning your default settings to captions on all videos. Plus follow through on our steps on how to style your captions. Once this is done, you can focus on adjusting languages.

Step 2: Click Auto-translate and choose from the various language options available. 

Turning on auto translations for closed captions on YouTube

Remember that YouTube’s auto-translate feature relies on Google’s translation service, which isn’t 100% accurate. But it will give you a good idea, in general, of what’s being said in the video. 

How to enable subtitles in other languages on YouTube on mobile

Step 1: Tap on the YouTube app to open it and open the video you want to watch. 

Step 2: Tap on the Settings button (the one with the gear icon) on the top right of the video player to open the settings menu.

Step 3: In the settings menu, tap on Captions.

Changing the language of closed captions on YouTube from a mobile device

Step 4: If the video has subtitles available in other languages, you'll see a list of options here. Tap on the language you prefer. If the video creator has not provided captions in your language, there may be an Auto-translate option, which uses Google Translate to provide subtitles in a range of languages.

auto translating closed captions on YouTube from a mobile phone

Then select the subtitle in the language you want.

Create your own captions for YouTube videos with Riverside

If you’re a YouTube creator who wants to create your own captions on YouTube (without relying on YouTube’s automatic captions), then Riverside would be a great option. 

Well-known creators like Gary Vaynerchuk and Guy Raz use Riverside and it’s no wonder why. With Riverside you can record high-quality 4K videos without worrying about your internet connection getting in the way.

Once the recording is complete, you can download a highly accurate ai transcript, which is available for recordings in over 100 languages. You’ll have the option to download a TXT or SRT file. For YouTube, you’ll need the SRT file, as it contains timestamps. 

Using Riverside, you can even edit videos by editing the text of the transcription! So if you remove a certain phrase on the text editor, that will reflect in the video. Check out our YouTube video to see this in action. 

Here’s how you get transcriptions using Riverside

Step 1: Record your video on Riverside (you can learn how here). Once you finish, select ‘View Recordings’ to view your files. If you’d like to transcribe a previous video, navigate to the studio you recorded with and click ‘View recordings’

Riverside view recordings

Step 2: Under 'Recording files' you'll see the option to 'Download' your transcripts. You can also preview them first by selecting the three dots next to download, then selecting 'view transcript'.

Downloading transcriptions on Riverside

Step 3: You can choose between an SRT (Subtitle File) or TXT (Transcript) file. For Youtube, you’ll require the SRT file as it contains timestamps. 

Step 4: The transcript will download onto your computer. Check it for any inconsistencies or spelling errors.

Step 5: If you want closed captions, go to Youtube Studio and select Subtitles from the left menu. Upload the SRT file, and you’ve got captions on your video! 

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Key Features

Riverside captions
  • Highly accurate AI transcriptions – straight after recording
  • Speaker detection in transcription to differentiate between multiple speakers
  • Text-based video editing so trimming your video is as easy as deleting text
  • Download SRT and TXT format files for easy content repurposing
  • Transcriptions in over 100 languages
  • Add captions directly to your video and style them as you like.
  • Studio-quality recordings with background noise removal to ensure clear audio for more accurate transcripts
  • Local recording so everything records directly on your device instead of relying on your internet connection
  • Recordings with up to 8 remote participants
  • AI Magic Clips tool to effortlessly repurpose your long form videos into shareable Shorts
  • Separate audio and video tracks for all participants

Find out more, or start creating videos with automated captions seamlessly with Riverside.

Riverside’s built in transcriptions are only available on some of the paid plans. If you’re interested in trying our transcriptions for free, you can use Riverside’s free AI transcription tool. It supports MPR, WAV, MP4, and MOV files and produces accurate transcriptions in 100+_ languages. However, for the best accuracy, recording using Riverside would produce the best results. 

FAQs on How to Turn on Captions on YouTube

Why can't I turn on captions on YouTube?

Some reasons why you can’t turn on captions on certain videos on YouTube include:

  • The creator may have turned off the captions for that video.
  • The video has been recently uploaded and hasn’t been transcribed yet.
  • Youtube’s automatic transcription may not have been able to generate captions for some videos due to poor audio quality or some other factors. 

Does YouTube automatically caption videos?

Yes, YouTube automatically captions videos. However, YouTube’s auto-generated captions aren’t very accurate, so you may want to create your own captions. 

To do so, you can use an app like Riverside. You can find detailed steps on how to get these captions above. 

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