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February 13, 2010

Watching movies with subtitles improves listening ability


New research indicates that watching movies with subtitles improves listening ability as long as the subtitles are in the same language as the movie. Subtitles in one's native language seem to have a negative effect. The research was carried out by Holger Mitterer (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics) and James McQueen (MPI and Radboud University Nijmegen).

In the study, Dutch students who were unfamiliar with Scottish and Australian English watched either an episode of the Australian sitcom Kath & Kim or a shortened version of Trainspotting with English subtitles, Dutch subtitles or no subtitles. Participants were then asked to repeat back as many words as they could from 80 audio excerpts taken from each source, half of which had already been heard and half of which were new.

The researchers found that English subtitles were associated with the best performance on both previously heard and new material, but although Dutch subtitles also enhanced performance on the old items, they led to a worse performance on the new materials.

The conclusion is that DVDs for learning a foreign language should include subtitles in that language wherever possible, but should not include subtitles in a student's native language.

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I teach English in the Czech Republic. I frequently watch Friends with English subtitles with my students and I have to say that it works.
When the students are tested on FCE tests their listening is the best part.
Now I regularly prepare BBC news with tasks and transcripts for my students which you can see at my website. I hope their results will get even better.

I used to watch Hollywood movies with English subtitles and it gives me better understanding of the movie. Any way I'm looking forward to enjoying movies without subtitles by learning English pronunciation. Thanks for your information.

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