Should you watch movies with or without subtitles while learning a foreign language?

Should you watch movies with or without subtitles during your foreign language education process? We have done some research on this subject, which quite a lot of learners are curious about, and it seems that the answer differs among learners. A study conducted by J. Birulés-Muntané and S. Soto-Faraco aims to find the answer to this question by examining a group of learners following a different approach to foreign language learning. In this study, students with intermediate English language skills were divided into 3 groups:

  • Group 1: watching an English movie with subtitles in their own language
  • Group 2: watching an English movie with English subtitles
  • Group 3: watching an English movie without subtitles

The study results revealed that while Group 1 (that is, the group that watched the English movie with subtitles in their own language) hardly made any progress, Group 2 (that is, the group that watched the English movie with English subtitles) achieved an improvement of 16.9% compared to the previous group. Group 3 (the group that watched the English movie without subtitles), on the other hand, made 7.1% progress.

The research is one of the best examples that show us how the 3 different behaviors applied by 3 different groups while watching movies yielded different results.  Based on this research, we can conclude that if you watch the foreign language you want to learn with a subtitle in your native language, you will not show any improvement. If you watch the movie without the subtitle of the language you want to learn, just by listening to that language, you can make a small improvement. Finally, when you listen and watch the movie in both dubbing and subtitles specific to the language you want to learn, you can get the efficiency you want and make a significant improvement. Again, to give an example from English:

  • Suggestion 1: English movie - English subtitles
  • Suggestion 2: English movie - No subtitles
  • Suggestion 3: English movie - Turkish subtitle

To sum up, if you are getting support from movies in order to contribute to your online foreign language education, we recommend that you watch the movies with the foreign language subtitles you are trying to learn.

source: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0158409