Learning Target Language with Mother Tongue-subtitled Series

  • Thread starter bagasme
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  • #1
bagasme
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Hi,

Supposed that Raul was learning Korean, because he would like to work with BTS and BLACKPINK's agency, which requires fluency in Korean. And let's assumed that his mother tongue language is Indonesian.

After several months of courses and he adequately understood Korean, he decided to watch several Korean TV series. At that point he turned on subtitles, but not in target language (Korean) and instead these are in mother tongue (presumably because Indonesian subtitles are so widely-used here).

I had ever read a forum post (but I don't know the link) that said that watching foreign language TV series or films with mother tongue subtitles are less effective than with target language subtitles (the language of that show). Is it true for Raul's case above? Why?
 

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  • #2
andrewkirk
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Hi,

Supposed that Raul was learning Korean, because he would like to work with BTS and BLACKPINK's agency, which requires fluency in Korean. And let's assumed that his mother tongue language is Indonesian.

After several months of courses and he adequately understood Korean, he decided to watch several Korean TV series. At that point he turned on subtitles, but not in target language (Korean) and instead these are in mother tongue (presumably because Indonesian subtitles are so widely-used here).

I had ever read a forum post (but I don't know the link) that said that watching foreign language TV series or films with mother tongue subtitles are less effective than with target language subtitles (the language of that show). Is it true for Raul's case above? Why?
I have found watching target language video with own-language subtitles to be totally useless, whereas watching it with target language subtitles works great.

The reason - you want to stay in the target language - not mentally translate to your own. If you've learned enough target language, you shouldn't need to mentally translate it in order to understand it. Having the target language subtitles enables you to identify what they said - which is often hard to decipher from audio of fast-paced talking, and then understand it. Having own language subtitles just adds an extra step to the comprehension process: you read the subtitle, mentally translate it to target language and then try to match that to something you heard, while hoping they didn't use a different translated word.

My approach is that I learn vocabulary from reading, and I learn how to understand audio by listening to carefully chosen podcasts in which speaking is not too fast, and by watching video with target language subtitles, or video with slow to medium speech rate and no subtitles.
 
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  • #3
Bandersnatch
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The above was also my experience, both as a learner and an erstwhile language teacher.
I found having own-language subtitles useful only when there's little initial language comprehension to begin with. This will allow the listener to pick up simple, often-repeated expressions like greetings, interjections, exclamations, etc. But when it comes to actual learning, where one has some prior knowledge, and approaches media as a learning tool, such subtitles are only a distraction.
 
  • #4
rsk
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Maybe it differs for different people, maybe we are all different in whether we prioritise vision or hearing, but I find that if I'm watching something with the audio in my own language, and the subtitles in another, I still focus more on the subtitles than on the sound.

Watching tv/films with both audio and subtitles in the target language helped me enormously when learning a new language, but I suppsed my bias towards the subtitles must, to some degree, limit the effectiveness of this for improving listening skills
 
  • #5
bagasme
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I have found watching target language video with own-language subtitles to be totally useless, whereas watching it with target language subtitles works great.

The reason - you want to stay in the target language - not mentally translate to your own. If you've learned enough target language, you shouldn't need to mentally translate it in order to understand it. Having the target language subtitles enables you to identify what they said - which is often hard to decipher from audio of fast-paced talking, and then understand it. Having own language subtitles just adds an extra step to the comprehension process: you read the subtitle, mentally translate it to target language and then try to match that to something you heard, while hoping they didn't use a different translated word.

My approach is that I learn vocabulary from reading, and I learn how to understand audio by listening to carefully chosen podcasts in which speaking is not too fast, and by watching video with target language subtitles, or video with slow to medium speech rate and no subtitles.
That's why I steered clear from watching foreign films and series on my TV; Indonesian subtitles are distracting. For average viewers they don't care about subtitles, but as ESL (English as second language) speaker, I can understand what English-speaking actors are saying, so I prefer no subtitles.
 

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