Series without subtitles?

I have just been watching this interview on YouTube about learning languages through series and one of the speakers rules was “no subtitles” I personally am using subtitles.

The YouTube video link is below feel free to watch and I look forward as always to your comments.

It depends on your language level.
If you understand less than 50% without subtitles, it’s better for you to watch movies with subtitles, at least for the first time.
After that, for the second time, you can watch already without subtitles.

But the main rule of your language study - do always what’s better and more convenient for you!
Don’t follow any recommendations, which you don’t like, even if these recommendations are from the famous scientists and polyglots - everyone has to find your own way to study and to live.


She’s outlining a very specific method she uses for language learning. I’m not saying it’s not effective because it obviously can be, but I just don’t think it’s an efficient use of time as a primary method. Spending that time reading and listening to audiobooks would allow for much faster progress with only slightly more effort.

In her specific methodology, she doesn’t use subtitles… for content that she has watched repeatedly in many languages. That’s awesome for her, but that has nothing to do with “regular” subtitle use as most people would apply it. Yes, rewatching something you’ve seen in a different language is a fun exercise, but to make that your primary method would be boring as hell.

I am going to have to agree I have recently watched Hercules completely in Spanish and because I had watched in a few times in English I knew more or less exactly what was going on but if I was to watch something without prior Knowledge yes I would still get the Spanish Input but it would be very hard to enjoy watching it as I would have no idea of any Dialogue

I’ve just begun watching El Gran Hotel on Netflix, I can get some of what they’re saying without subtitles but it’s not enough to follow the plot. It’s not that the words or structures are too complicated, I can understand almost everything by reading the subtitles, and I only have to look up the odd word (so far), but they just speak too fast for me at the moment. Native speakers run words into other words, they slur sometimes (we all do this to some extent), they pronounce things less clearly (to a learner’s ear), they use slang etc.

The best thing about this show is that, so far, they don’t use much slang as it’s set in earlier times, it’s probably easier to follow for that reason. What I’ve found is that some people naturally speak slowly and clearly, you don’t really notice it in your own language because you’re an expert at understanding pretty much anything, however it’s said, but there are others who speak at a gazillion mph, running words into each other, and it just sounds like jibberish. Sometimes I can’t even separate and hear the words they’re saying after reading the subtitles and repeating the line over and over, it’s just a total blur of sounds.

I don’t really know how one would go about making a breakthrough with T.V shows by just listening, even if you know every word, it’s simply too difficult to catch it at full speed, unless you are at a very advanced level. What I’m doing at the moment is playing a scene, seeing if I can understand any of it, then skipping back, playing each line with the subtitles, pausing, playing it again, trying to comprehend it, then skipping back again and again until I feel I can hear and understand the words without the subtitles. I then move onto the next line and repeat this for the entire episode. Sometimes I can understand first time without the subtitles, and sometimes it’s just a tiny part of the sentence that I don’t hear, so it’s not quite as tedious as it sounds, but it’s hard work, no doubt about it.

I’m not really making any real effort to learn new words etc, I’m just trying to practice hearing and understanding the language as best I can when it’s spoken at full speed. I remember watching a video where Steve was saying that the biggest mistake people make is spending too much time in the beginner phase, and I think this applies to the early intermediate stage too. I’ve been guilty of this, I definitely spend too much time listening to slightly slowed down conversations aimed at learners. I think this has hindered my progress. I now believe that the way to practice listening to natural speech is to actually listen to it, and hopefully, in time, you’ll start to improve.

I’ll just say, I have no idea if what I’m doing is an efficient way to study, but it’s exposure if nothing else, and that’s probably the most important thing.

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We’re talking about subtitles in the target language, right? I find subtitles can be distracting, and I cannot read them as fast as they fly by. I prefer not to use them if possible. Most of the Youtube channels I watch do not even have them available.

However, if a channel or movie uses colloquialisms and slang to a degree that it’s difficult for me to decipher, or it’s hard to hear the words, then it helps to have the subtitles available. This weekend I watched an entire movie that was interesting, but it used lots of slang, and for whatever reason it was hard for me to pick the words out of much of the speech. (Брат 2) I found both Russian and English subtitles and watched the movie with Russian subtitles, basically reading the movie. It’s helpful to be able to pause when necessary to decipher a line. Just a couple of times I went to the English subtitles file to find the interpretation of a line where I couldn’t get the meaning despite knowing the words.

I’ve not tried watching series. I’ll bet there’s a lot of repetition of the same colloquialisms and peculiar phrases favored by the scriptwriters for specific characters and situations that you could learn from repeated exposure.

If you are watching something on Youtube, you can go to “Settings” and decrease the speed to ,75 of normal (1) which I find helps a lot. Slower than that and the sound is distorted. Some films have automatic subtitles in a target language. These can be quirky and don’t always match what is being said. Yet, I am thrilled that I notice the differences (e.g., the character says the "entire world"in Russian but the subtitle reads, “whole world” and the subtitles often don’t accurately reflect whether a character is using the familiar or formal form of “you.”) I watched a TV series and, as khardy noted, certain characters said the same thing in different episodes so hearing that repetition was helpful.

Where I wrote “slang or colloquialisms” substitute any words you don’t know, really. Your experience will vary by where you are in your progress with the language.

I’m happy when I can follow the speech well enough to hear the unknown word clearly enough to go look it up based on listening alone. Subtitles definitely can help when you can’t pick out the individual unknown words. But in general it’s probably good in many situations when you can follow the gist of things to not interrupt watching or listening continually to look up words.

Subtitles are definitely a plus if you can import them into Lingq, however. There are browser add-ons that let you download the subtitles from Youtube videos, and there are multiple sites with subtitles for lots of movies for download. There have been threads here in the past about how to remove the time information from those files so that you’re left with the plain text which can then be imported into Lingq.