Watching films with subtitles in target language

Ideally one would prefer target language audio and subtitles. However, in the US I find it somewhat difficult to find French audio/subtitles in films I want to watch.

Criterion for instance offers plenty of great French films, which have English but not French subs. Darn!

So I started watching my some of my favorite English films with French subtitles and it’s better than I expected for learning.

I’m not saying it compares with strapping into LingQ aimed at your target language, but it is a pleasant way to keep your brain percolating on your target, which I think is the point of the more passive immersion techniques.

If you notice something interesting in a subtitle, you can always pause the video, fire up Google Translate and investigate.


When I watched “The Maltese Falcon” with French subtitles, something strange jumped out at me in the climactic scene where Capt. Jacoby stumbles into Bogart’s office with the Falcon, then keels over dead of gunshot wounds. Bogart’s secretary starts to faint and Bogart takes hold of her, saying, “You can’t pass out on me now.”

However, the French reads, “Tu vas pas me tomber dans les pommes” – “You aren’t going to fall into the apples on me.” Quoi?

Turns out “tomber dans les pommes” is a French idiom for passing out. Which is a reference to a letter French author, George Sand (a woman actually), wrote to a friend.

Such fun and a fun way to learn.

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Not everyone has the money, but if you do, I would recommend paying for Netflix. Netflix has great subtitles. I’m not sure the availability of movies and subtitles in your particular region for your particular language, etc., but if you set up your Netflix account with your language being set as your L2, you get more subtitles options in that language.

I would also recommend paying for a good VPN (one that is fast and works with streaming services, like Proton VPN). If you go through the country where they speak your desired language, you have many more TV shows and movies available on Netflix in your L2. Furthermore, you can access some of the other free streaming services offered by the various media companies in that country.

It obviously depends how much money you have, but a Netflix and VPN subscription is the price of a few beers in the pub of a rich country per month. They’re well worth the price, if you have the money.

Obviously, keeping in mind that watching movies in your L2 is probably half as efficient as listening to podcasts / watching talking heads YouTube videos (due to words spoken per hour being significantly less in movies than in podcasts). So watching movies should probably be considered primarily as entertainment. But to each their own.


Then you can import the transcript into LingQ. and/or use Language Reactor.

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Thanks for the suggestions! However, even given my currently limited options, I’ve got enough video to keep me occupied for a while.

Re: podcasts

I take your point that podcasts provide a richer language experience than film. Unfortunately I generally dislike podcasts and even more dislike the slangy, disjointed language.

At some point I’ll have to learn to deal with French speakers babbling, but I’m putting that off for now.

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