Learning a New Language? Let Captions and Subtitles Guide You.

Learning a new language can be an exciting experience that exercises the brain in all the right ways and challenges us to become more cultured. Maybe you’re taking a class or two in college or using language learning apps like Duolingo to practice your skills. A popular way to test yourself is to watch media in the foreign language you’re learning, like movies and television shows. This can be a difficult task as you’re being exposed to the language spoken by natives, who may be using slang or speaking quickly, which can be hard to understand. Did you know that captions and subtitles can help with that?

Native Language Subtitles or Foreign Language Subtitles or Captions?

As a beginner, you may choose to watch a foreign film in the target language with native language subtitles on it. When you’re able to hear the way the language is spoken and then directly translate it back to your native tongue, it is a good first step to comprehension. For example, if you are watching an Italian film with English subtitles, it will help you relate back what you’re hearing to the language you can already speak and read.

You may also choose to watch domestic television shows and movies with foreign language subtitles. For example, if you live in the United States but are learning Italian, boot up your favorite sitcom and throw on Italian subtitles. By reading along, you can better attribute the words you’re used to hearing to how they are spelled and used in a written sentence in the language you are learning.

Similarly, as your skills begin to mature, foreign language captions may be more beneficial to the learning experience. As the people on the screen are conversing, it may be easy to lose track even if you believe yourself to be at least mildly proficient in the language. Using the foreign language captions will help you relate the spoken words back to the written words, which you have been studying through other mediums. This is the preferred method of learning a new language via digesting popular foreign media with captions. Spelling, grammar, and word recognition skills are also benefitted through the use for foreign language captions.

Slang, Dialects, and Growing Your Vocabulary

Another cool thing about learning a new language is realizing that different parts of countries often use different dialects and slang. Through subtitles and captions, you can learn so many more words and phrases, effectively growing your vocabulary and continuing your studies. Hearing and reading new words in context will help you achieve the next level of proficiency.

Start Small, Learn Large

If you’re just starting out in a language, don’t overwhelm yourself with difficult long-form media and foreign language captions. Start small by watching shorter videos in the language you are learning with subtitles in your native language, or vice versa, and gradually move onto longer ones until you feel comfortable. Once your feet are under you in this sense, it will be time to switch to the foreign language all-around, which will help with your comprehension, vocabulary, grammar skills and more.

Don’t be embarrassed, say it out loud. Repeat after the speakers to get a better sense of the way the language is spoken. Sound out the words you’re reading and match them to the words you’re hearing. Soon enough, you’ll be on the next plane to the country of your choice, assimilating into their culture naturally.