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Subtitled or Dubbed?

Now that I'm back into refreshing my Spanish tree for 2018, my brain is hungry for Spanish. Without my bidding, Spanish is coming out of my mouth to my cats, to my food, to the stairway light switch I'd twice forgotten to turn off (Te quedaste? You stayed [on]?).

I'm not much of a television watcher unless I'm watching something with a friend. I lose interest too quickly or get too consumed by fixating on plot holes, at which point I abandon ship to save myself. But, I got a subscription to Netflix to finish watching 3% with a friend. (It's original language is Portuguese and I recommend it.)

We're done watching 3% but I still have this subscription so, I decided to try watching Helix subtitled in Spanish for practice. It is a tv show about people trying to contain and cure some sort of infectious disease so I thought it would keep me engaged. (Speaking of abandoning ship due to plot flaws...) I watched more than I otherwise would have if I hadn't decided to turn on subtitles. With my appetite for Spanish further increased, I watched Defenders. (Or, parts of it. I fast forwarded through most of the Iron Fist parts... I wasn't that hungry for Spanish.) After all of the fast forwarding, the other characters were interesting enough, when combined with the added incentive of practicing Spanish practice, that I made it through the whole first season. (yay!)

So, I'm curious, do you prefer subtitles or dubbed when consuming your target language or both?

I prefer subtitled for now. I tend to wander off less often if I'm reading something than if I'm listening, regardless of the language. I'm a fast reader though. So I read the Spanish subtitles, then listen to the English to catch the parts I missed while reading. I've tried it the other way around and it just doesn't work for me. What about you?

bunny watches tv

December 30, 2017



Both. It's nice to experience both sides of a language; spoken and written, especially with certain languages with beautiful writing systems and beautiful sounds.


I'm looking forward to when my comprehension is high enough to use both. :)

I've tried the various combos of subtitled/dubbed, but, I was missing too much which was just adding to my general lack of ability to stick with watching tv by myself. :P

Have a TV show you recommend for people to watch in your target language?


Being voiced in the target language is a requirement for me (otherwise I don't see much point in watching, texts are better for reading).

Subtitles are a helping option saving time on listening to a phrase over and over again while ransacking dictionaries in desperate attempts to find the unknown word you've just (mis)heard.

But I watch stuff not the same way you do. I do it like the kids do: many times in a row, for days, until I practically learn it by heart. So it is also critical that I like the thing enough for it to remain being fun on tenth time, or it becomes a torture.

And somewhere along the way I switch the subs off because I no longer need them. And that basically means I'm done with the movie and go to the next one.


So, I'm curious, do you prefer subtitles or dubbed when consuming your target language or both?

  • In general, I prefer to listen to the original language. I hate dubbing.

  • For my target languages English and German I prefer the original language in combination with subtitles in the same language
    (in the Netherlands available on television from several English and German broadcasters)

  • For all the other languages I prefer the original language with Dutch subtitles.
    In the Netherlands almost all the foreign movies, news, interviews, shows, etc. on television are spoken in the original languages and subtitled in Dutch.
    That's good for my pronunciation, but I have to read, write and speak in order to learn a language.


Target Language Subtitles are very helpful to me when I'm watching something in the Target Language. It helps me hear the TL better and I think faster and memorize how they say it, if there's slang or if they slur the words together, etc. I've never really tried TL Subtitles while watching Native/Fluent Language stuff though. But I have done the other way around and all it does is help me pick up certain words that only made sense once it gave me the meaning. For example, I may not have heard "me gustan las palomas" but when I read "I like pigeons", my brain reminds me that I heard that. It's like brainless recall, so I don't know if it's helpful, but it's fun and makes me feel smart. The other way around sounds a lot more helpful though, so I'll try that.

Dubbed to me though, I used to watch a lot of anime, and I know that I learned nothing if I never knew what things meant. Context just isn't enough with movies/shows for me. Some people have used the method of watching it in Native Language and then watching it in Target Language. Some people have actually managed to learn languages that way, but I've never been able to sit down and watch something twice in a row. Dubbed forces someone to really think and find words and meaning in dialogue, but like you said, it takes way too much patience and I like to wander off after some time.

I watch a lot of YouTube videos in my Target Languages, and if there are no subtitles, I usually exit out of the video before it could even get to the middle. I end up skipping parts, rewinding, getting lost, etc. So yeah, those are my experiences with dubbed or subtitles. Both help in certain situations, but subtitles are a lot more encouraging.


Honestly, 99% of the time in the languages I study, I don't have a choice. For example, if I'm very, very lucky, I will find things in Russian or Hebrew and subtitled in English. I have yet to find anything that's subtitled in Russian or Hebrew outside of deliberately buying them from the country itself, second hand, or from a specialist outlet.

I would be interested to try it that way around (subtitled in the target language), but I'm not holding my breath to find such a thing.


I like both at once. Right now I'm watching Star Trek: DS9 in French with subtitles (which don't always match up, interestingly enough!)


I probably couldn't do this for any other language, mind you (I've had a lot of experience with French - 11 years of school + 3 years on Duolingo)


If you're talking about French dub AND French subs at the same time, I get exactly what you mean! I watch a lot of my old DVDs with Spanish audio and Spanish subtitles enabled, but they don't match up, sometimes extremely different. For example, someone could say "¡Soy un fracasado!" ("I'm a failure!") in the audio, and on the screen subtitles it says "¡Fallo en todo lo que hago!" ("I fail at everything I do!")


For television, I personally prefer to watch dubbed. It encourages listening comprehension for me. When I want to read in Spanish (or another language) I read books, preferably paperback or hardcover books rather than ebooks. When I watch shows in English subtitled in Spanish, I tend to pay less attention to the Spanish subs mostly because I'm an "auditory" learner rather than a visual one.


I usually prefer to watch a movie/show dubbed first. Then once I know the plot, and the gist of all the lines and scenes I watch the original version. So basically: watch once in English for fun/familiarizing, watch again in the other language for learning.

I must say, it was a great feeling when I watched a German movie that had no subtitles and I was able to understand about 20% of the conversations. :-)


I'm currently watching Avatar: the last airbender in Italian dub without subtitles. I've already watched it twice, in Dutch and in English, and I know it's a really good series, so my attention doesn't wonder elsewhere and I am still motivated to continue watching. I can't say I can understand everything, but at least the things I miss don't keep me from following the plot.

In the earlier stages of language learning, though, I think it's best to watch dub - or original, of course - with the subtitles in your target language. This helps both your listening skills, as you might catch words you would otherwise not have understood, and also your reading skills, as you see how certain words are spelled out.

As for subtitles in your target language with audio in your base language, well... I suppose any exposure to a language is good, so if this works for you, please do continue with that. But I think that reading a book - or comic books, even - would be more efficient. In either case you aren't being exposed to the spoken form of your target language, and (comic) books provide much more exposure to the written form.


Hermesianax, ATLAB was quirky and fun. I watched most of it with friends and we watched all of Legend of Korra together. Speaking of LoK and comic books, I'm really looking forward to reading the new LoK comics. I'm sad not to have gotten my hands on any copies yet. But, I feel it, 2018 is the year!

As for other animated shows and language practice, I've watched some Full Metal Alchemist S1 in Spanish (it was too sad of a show, so I stopped watching T_T), and part of S1 of Adventure Time (I got bored and the homophobic network blocked the only ship I was interested in following.)

I made it all of the way through RWBY in Spanish though. Wow, what a weird animation style! I definitely had to adjust because I didn't like it at first. But, once I did I loved how unique it was. The story was not complex but the episodes were short and the animation interesting. So, I was hoping for more seasons, but sadly, the creator of the show died. :(

Then, I watched all of Death Note in Japanese, then in Spanish (the first in English subs, the second in Spanish dub, this was a few years apart.) That was probably my favorite. The show was more cerebral and prompted me to consider uncomfortable questions about what I would do in Yagami Light's place. I dig shows that offer me more than a viewing experience. I want to engage my brain. :)


It's good you mention Adventure Time, that might be an interesting option after I have finished ATLA! I also tried DN, but I got annoyed that the Italian subtitles don't match the dub. Maybe I should try again without the subtitles, which distract too much in such a case.

The show was more cerebral and prompted me to consider uncomfortable questions about what I would do in Yagami Light's place. I dig shows that offer me more than a viewing experience. I want to engage my brain. :)

That is indeed important in language learning. Sometimes it's better to pick material that may not be the most apt for your language learning level, but appeal more to your taste. This will keep you motivated to actually finish it all the way through and actually think about and engage with the ideas and concepts in your target language.


Both. Especially when characters are mumbling, and I can't make out what they are saying (often happens to me in my native language).


My preferences on this vary wildly depending on a few factors. In general, I usually watch things in their original language, with English subtitles. This applies both for things I watch for fun and things I watch for practice, although sometimes I'll use a dubbed version if I know I'm going to be doing other things at the same time. (If I'm watching anime, for instance, I almost have to use the dubbed versions because I don't know any Japanese at all, my mind will wander and I'll forget that I have to read to know what's going on. ¯_(ツ)_/¯)

Sometimes, if I feel comfortable or ambitious enough, I'll leave the subtitles in the source language too. I can sort of do this with Spanish, where I can't understand a thing that's going on if it weren't for being able to read the dialogue, but even then there's a lot I miss at first.

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