juan luis
Subtitles to learn a new language

It is said that subtitles help in a language learning. Do you think that they should be in your mother tongue or in the target language? Does it depend on student's level? I usually watch films with subtitles and they are very useful in order to improve my level, but when I do not have them I really miss them and I feel really insecure.

The point is that I sometimes wonder if it would be better not to use them and push myself.

Nov 20, 2015 9:43 AM
Comments · 1

Watching movies with subtitles might be the most popular technique of improving listening. After all, who doesn't love watching movies?!


However I think a lot of students don't exploit them as much as they could. I think a great way to improve listening is to watch a movie in your target language, preferably one you roughly know the story to or have seen in your language, and watch it with NO subtitles. Yes, even at lower levels!


This may sound crazy unless you consider that movies don't have to be watched in one sitting - indeed, 90 minutes is way too long for a single listening practice session. So why not split it into nine 10-minute sessions? Better yet, watch a 5- or 10-minute piece of film with no subtitles a few times, then watch it again a few times with subtitles in your target language, then once in your mother tongue to check your understanding, and finally one more time with no subtitles to see how much more you can follow it now. If you're a beginner and you only understood a couple words without the subtitles, good job! That's still more than nothing! Next time you might catch four words, then ten, and so on.


But watching a whole movie with subtitles in your mother language? Almost totally useless, I think. 99% of the time your brain switches out the listening, because it's just too hard to read the subtitles and follow the film's plot and while keeping your ears open for the target language.

November 20, 2015