Is Watching Movies With Subtitles Really Listening practice?

Hey folks!

In an attempt to improve my Portuguese listening comprehension I thought it may be a good idea to watch films dubbed in Portuguese with the Portuguese Subtitles also enabled.
I wanted to ask anyone if they have found that doing this actually improves their listening ability?
I ask this because, whilst I can understand what is being said with the help of the subtitles, it feels like because I am constantly reading the subtitles, I’m not actually listening to what’s going on in the background. It feels more like a reading exercise than a listening one. Any advice would be much appreciated.

If you have enough time, it’s the best way - to watch the same film in a foreign language for 3 times:

  1. Just watching and listening to receive the general idea about the heros and the achtion.
  2. watching with subtitles in the target language, stopping in the most difficult places for reading the subtuitles and receiving more detailed information. Some words could be looked up for better understanding.
    In my opinion, watching with the subtitles in your native language gives nothing for the language study.
  3. watchuing again without subtitles - and you can see a big difference to the first time if you worked well during the watching with subtitles before.
    But anyway you have to obtain some basic vocebulary before watching films. It isn’t usefull to watch films at the very beginning.

I don’t think you will get too distracted, if you understand more because of the subtitles then go ahead and add subtitles is what I would suggest.

I think it would be more helpful to find shows or films written in the language we’re trying to learn. It is better to see what native speakers look like when they speak, than to see English speakers but hear another language. We can learn from lip and face positions, as well as the body language of native speakers.

I enjoy foreign language films, so I don’t really watch them with studying languages in mind. If the film happens to be in Spanish or Russian, sure I’ll spot check some words or phrases or I’ll watch the movie again knowing it will help me learn the language. But I am don’t let studying the language interfere with enjoying movies.

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This really depends on your level of the language
At lower level when I was learning English, I only watched news or tv shows with subtitle while holding anotepad and pencil. I would write down every word I did not know and in case I did not understand a part in the episode, I would go back and listen about 4 times that part. Normally in a episode of 30 minutes, I would make it in 45 minutes.
If you use tv correctly, it is one of the best ways to learn a language but you gotta make a lot of effort while with the tv otherwise it will not help much.

Bons estudos, abraços do Brasil !

Thanks for your responses. I will take it all on board.

It really depends on your level.

At first I would look for American movies dubbed in Portuguese, the speed is like one second slower and that second makes such a difference. Then, I would build up on that. Keeping some notes, just a word here and there, to keep you focused does help enormously. These are things I tried on myself and they benefited me hugely

Short is better though, again depending on your level.

I would look for something that lasts 20-30 minutes and then build up. With subtitles, the thing is that the reading can be a good thing in itself, but you are not really paying attention to the audio .

I find the subtitles so distracting even in my L1.


Yeah, I know what you mean. That’s kind of why I decided to make the post. In a couple of the things I was watching I was reading the subtitles so quickly to try and keep up with what was happening incase I lost the track, that I couldn’t possibly have been paying attention to anything else!

I think this is one of the best ways to practice a foreign language as long as the subtitles “fit” with the spoken track or the differences between them are not so important, because sometimes they change some words; just to give an example: in the sound track they might say “Olha que MENINA bonitinha” while the subtitle might say “Olha que GAROTA bonitinha”.

I’ve been learning English this way for a long time. I watch a lot of tv series, movies - all in original English audio version + with English subtitles. I can notice a great improvement in my both reading and listening. I expanded my vocabulary a lot.
Even if you are reading a lot while watching the movie, you’ll still listen to it. The more you listen, the more your brain will get used to the sounds of the language and the more you’ll understand.
Hope that helps!


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