Improving Comprehension of Foreign Languages with TV Series, Movies and Subtitles

Watching television shows and movies in the target language is a great way to learn the (real) language, but it is even better if you can read along with the subtitles while watching and listening. Most linguistics studies and language students agree, but someone needs to tell the producers of DVDs this.  I am still amazed that there are several French movies and TV series on DVD that include absolutely NO subtitles at all – not even for the deaf & hard of hearing population, which is extremely unfair and a bit insulting.  Even though the loi sur le handicap from 2005 stated that the seven main French television stations must subtitle 100% of their programs from February 2010 on, this does not mean that the DVDs also include the subtitles.

I bought the first season of Les Bleus: Premiers Pas dans la Police last summer after seeing it on M6. It is actually a decent French show that is not a rip-off of an American show, and it includes plenty of slang and informal language. There are subtitles when it is broadcast on M6 and its sister channel W9, but the DVDs have no subtitles at all. Consequently, I am not going to buy the 2nd/3rd season DVD set because it’s not very useful to me. I’ll just wait until it is on TV again and record it on my Freebox.  Luckily the one other French TV series that I like, Kaamelott, does include subtitles and it’s really funny so I recommend it to all French learners.

 

You can find subtitles in various languages for major movies online at sites such as subsmax.comallsubs.org, opensubtitles.org, bestsubtitles.net, u-subtitles.com, subscene.com and even victoire.b.free.fr/VO.ST.FR./ for a bunch of French subtitles if you still feel like watching in the original language, but want to learn some vocabulary by reading the subtitles in French. I used to do that years ago with American DVDs that only had English as the audio but did provide a few other languages in subtitles.

However, finding subtitles for French series like Les Bleus is practically impossible since most subtitles are not created for language learning purposes or even for the deaf community, but so that foreign programs can be watched in the original language or because no one wants to wait months and months for a dubbed version to air in their country. Most of these subtitle websites offer .srt files which means you have to watch on your computer with VLC, though you can hardcode the subtitles if you really want to create your own DVD or just hook up your computer to your TV screen. Sometimes the synchronization is not exact, so you might need to add or subtract a few seconds.

For anyone else in France, adslTV is a great program for watching TV on your computer if you subscribe to Free, SFR, Orange, Alice or Bouygues. Not all channels can be watched through adslTV (most notably, TF1, M6 and W9 do not allow it) but you can turn on the subtitles and record programs to your hard drive. I use it often for watching and recording shows on the three RAI channels because I can’t always turn on the subtitles with my Freebox but I can with adslTV, so it’s helping a lot with improving my comprehension of Italian.

The site Medias-soustitres, which was created by volunteers for the deaf community, also has a list of French DVDs that do include subtitles since a lot of online stores (Amazon.fr I’m talking about you!) don’t always include proper information about what subtitles are available.

French Summer School Online: Free Resources to Download

Académie en ligne is the official website of Education Nationale in France that provides support materials for all courses in public schools so that students can continue learning during the summer. The site was launched last summer, but I had forgotten until This French Life posted about it.  It’s designed for all students from CP […]

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Death of a Language Website: learncanadianfrench.com

Last year a friend of mine who had recently immigrated to Quebec sent me a link to a great website about learning Canadian French. The URL was simply learncanadianfrench.com and the site included grammar and vocabulary specific to Quebec as well as several videos of Quebecois songs and examples of Quebecois speech. It was an […]

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Learning French Slang & Culture through Hip-Hop and Rap

Even if you don’t like rap in English, it pays to listen to it in foreign languages because the songs are usually full of informal language and slang as well as cultural references. Here are some songs that also teach you verlan (a “backwards” form of slang), French geography, Francophone names, common acronyms and the […]

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For the France & French Lovers in America (and Elsewhere)

It’s too hot for me to stay at the computer and do a real update. It was about 37° C / 98.6° F here today and it’s still not that cool at 10 PM. The Tour de France started in Chambéry this afternoon before heading down to Gap and I feel sorry for the cyclists […]

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From Annecy to Bassano del Grappa: Taking Grandma to Her Parents’ Birthplace in Italy

David’s grandmother was born in France in 1932. Her parents are from the towns of Bassano del Grappa and Solagna, in the region of Veneto, Italy. Her father, Antonio Tosetto, came to France in 1929 to escape le camicie nere (the blackshirts, or Fascists) while her mother, Maria Todesco, stayed behind in Bassano until he […]

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And the I Hate Easyjet Saga Continues…

I got an e-mail from Easyjet that we should be reimbursed for the canceled flight, and a whole 120€ of the nearly 1,000€ we spent on rental cars, gas, and tolls. But who knows when/if we’ll actually receive the money. This morning we also found out that the first rental car company, Locauto, charged us […]

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How Easyjet Nearly Put Grandma in the Hospital & Our Journey Home From Abandonment

I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, grandma is fine now and resting at home.  We finally got her back to Annecy at 2 am this morning after waiting at the airport for 17 hours and then driving all day from Venice. We hadn’t slept at all and barely eaten anything so […]

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Why I Hate Low-Cost Airlines (Notably Easyjet)

We had a great time in Italy until we tried to get back to France. Our flight was scheduled for 6:15pm on July 4th. It is now 3:42am July 5th and we are still in Venice. The flight was delayed later and later until finally at midnight, it was cancelled. There were storms here tonight, […]

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Bassano del Grappa for the Weekend

I’m leaving France once again. We’re going here tomorrow: Bassano del Grappa is in the province of Vicenza in northern Italy. The parents of David’s maternal grandmother came from this city, and we are taking Mamie there so she can finally see where her parents lived. They moved to France in 1931 because they were […]

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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