Learning Spanish - Watch films with Subtitles or not?

I have access to some Spanish sitcoms with both Spanish and English subtitles as an option to be displayed.

Displaying the Spanish subtitles tells me WHAT they are saying, in case they speak too fast. Displaying
the English subtitles will tell me what the MEANING is. Watching it without the subtitles at all forces me
to listen more closely to pick up words I don’t understand.

Which of these 3 methods would be most beneficial?


In case they speak too fast - do you think your understanding of written Spanish is better than if you had English subtitles?

I mean, if it’s important to know what the movie is about (no kidding, I’m serious) - choose English subtitles. (And if you’re not used to reading subtitles, you’ll learn to skim them in no time.) If you know some Spanish, you’ll probably figure out how the words are spelled anyway (Hey, I’ve watched movies in English with Swedish subtitles all my life and very seldom hear a word I can’t spell)

I think watching shows in your target language with subtitles in the target language is one of the best ways to learn. When I’m in the early stages of a language I try to find and read a synopsis in my native language of what I’m going to watch before I watch it, but when watching I never use the English subs.

The problem is it is hard to find Spanish movies and shows with Spanish subtitles, but they’re out there. I just picked up a boxed set of a show called Epitafios, which is a thirteen episode thriller series from HBO Latin America. The first season has Spanish subs, and it is a wonderful immersion experience. I’ve also managed to extract the audio and subs off the dvd, and I’m reviewing each episode in Lingq after each episode.

Once I go through the shows a few times, I plan to watch them again a few times without subtitles.

So Cartman, what is this Spanish sitcom with Spanish subs, and where can I find it?

There is something called Vista Higher Learning, which has videos in Spanish, and you can watch the subtitles in English or Spanish. Google it, you will find it. It costs like $60 for access to that website though. I think there are only 20 short videos or something, but they also have grammar videos and exercises.

So what is the benefit of watching the Spanish with Spanish subtitles? Do you sub-consciously absorb more by doing it that way?

$60 just for access to the website? The site looks a little slick to me, like a cash-grab.

Have you tried Destinos? Check it out, it has 52 half-hour episodes, it’s free (to watch online anyway), and it has Spanish subs!

The benefit of watching a show with subs is you have the exact words they are speaking in the show on the screen at the same time, it’s indispensable as a learning device. It’s not subconscious at all, I would say it’s the opposite. But you can’t rely on shows with subs alone to learn, you need to to other things, like acquire vocabulary by reading, listening, and defining words on lingq.

It’s definitely a good idea to watch a show once with subs in your native language, but watch it again after with the foreign subs, and repeat as necessary.

I watched a lot of series episodes in English with English subtitles and it helped me tremendously. I didn’t just “watch and read” though. Anytime I saw an unknown word, I looked it up and wrote it down. Afterwards I would watch - or listen to it while doing other things - the whole episode several times.

When I read an article or a forum post and I stumble upon a word I don’t know I also look it up, but I find that most of the time I forget it. I need to encounter it a lot of times to remember it. With the English subtitles in general the second time I watched the episode I could tell the meaning of almost every word. Then listening to it in background for a few days made the words stay in my memory, and I still remember most of them in the context I saw/heard them.

If you have enough time and if you’ve reached an intermediate level I think the best will be to watch a film for the first time without subtitles, the second time with foreign subtitles and the the third time - again without subtitles.
And after all - try to retell the main sceens of the film to yourself.
In any way to watch the foreign film with the subtitles in your native language is not helpful for the language study.

My advice would be to watch a couple of films with English subtitles. Just to get used to the novelty of watching a film in Spanish.

I am Spanish and if I have to watch a film with Spanish subtitles I can’t ignore those subtitles and I end up reading them and don’t paying that much attention to the spoken word. That’s why I don’t find it useful to watch a film with subtitles in your native language, your brain can only process a few sentences in a row, your concentration diminishes and you’ll just end up reading the English subtitles, not learning much although you’ll hear Spanish speaking in the background.

Watch them with Spanish subtitles for 2 or 3 months.

Then watch them without subtitles. In this phase you’ll probably won’t get much at the beginning, just “hola”, “sí”… basic things. Your brain will just have to get used it. The more films you watch, the more phrases and words you’ll understand. You just have to assume that you’ll suffer a lot, but that phase will pass and you’ll be able to understad most of what it’s being said.

In order to really understand the Spoken word in a film you have to dive yourself into the film, and with subtitles you will never be really able to do that.

I see subtitles as crutches, you can use them for a couple of months but not more. It is hard but it’s something you’ll have to do eventually.

Aprender español en Lingq —> http://spanish-lingq.blogspot.com/

Years and years ago I watched “Como agua para chocolate” (1993?) half a dozen times with subtitles. My version had only English subtitles. Eventually I understood what was being said, more or less. I even could hear the regional expression “hay chocolate,” which means, in that region, “there is going to be a wedding” (cool, no?).

A week or so ago, I watched “Volver” (2006). Over the years, my study of Spanish has had to be on and off, so I still use English subtitles, but I could understand enough of the spoken Spanish to know that (a) the subtitles weren’t first rate and that (b) sometimes the subtitles were cleaned up a bit.

Then a couple of nights ago, I watched “Si te dicen que caí” (1989), a movie based on a Spanish novel by the same name which I am currently reading. I am reading the novel in Spanish, but I watched the movie with English subtitles. The author uses a lot of colloquial expressions and slang, and there is no way that I am at the point of being able to understand them such language just by listening. I had hoped that the movie would (a) be fun to watch and (b) clarify the novel a bit. It was and it did. And the movie interested me enough that I will watch it again, even though it does not have Spanish subtitles. I’ll survive.

Sometimes I want to watch a movie just for fun, like with “Volver,” and sometimes both for fun and for improving my Spanish, as with “Como agua para chocolate,” and sometimes for fun, for improving my Spanish and for clarifying a book, like “Si te dicen que caí.” If subtitles in English help (or if they are all the movie has), I use them. If not, not.

For what it’s worth, I liked all three movies very much. And I would like to say about “Si te dicen que caí,” it is the only movie I have ever seen that is about a bloody conflict where the movie shows no one being tortured or killed.