What’s Better? The Movie in English with Spanish Subtitles or in Spanish with English Subtitles? by Brian Thomas - Profesor/a de inglés

What’s Better? The Movie in English with Spanish Subtitles or in Spanish with English Subtitles?

The internet offers us amazing tools for language learning. While nothing beats actual day-to-day interaction and in person tuition, technology is still, at the very least, a useful reinforcer of the tools needed to thrive in your target lingo.


During this confinement, and in the absence of live sport, streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are getting a lot of attention. Impressively, they offer both dubbing and subtitle options for movies or series in other languages. Let’s focus on English-language programmes for now. Spain, along with most other Spanish-speaking countries, has a history of broadcasting popular UK and US shows in dubbing format and with no subtitle option. I am reticent to criticize this aspect; coming from an acting background, I appreciate that many voice actors carve an entire career out of providing that ‘Spanish voice’ to big-budget movies and TV.


In fact, huge Hollywood stars such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp are such potent filmmakers that their Spanish equivalent can actually run his WHOLE CAREER just echoing the text of this person’s movie roles. Depp once met his Spanish-language equivalent, Mexican equivalent Ricardo Tejedo and, while watching a segment of one of his movies in Spanish with him, quipped that “this guy gets my characters better than I do. Pay him double!”


Be all that as it may, that is tangential to the main point – now that both dubbed movies OR subtitled over the VO (versión original) movies are realistic options, is it not reasonable to suggest that Spanish learners of English resist the urge to watch UK and US shows in Spanish and choose the original cut, with the aid of subtitles if required? A cursory glance at the quality of English comprehension in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden backs up this suggestion – historically, their citizens have watched shows emanating from the UK or US in their original format, with our without subtitles. Hence, their generally high level of English ability.


But HOLD ON… we don’t want to put Spanish Johnny Depp out of work just yet. So when a new Depp movie hits the screens, perhaps stick to the dubbed version!

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