The Other Way Around

In case you are into Anime you might be familiar with the following problem. It took ages to get the Anime you want to watch, and to make the most out of the experience of watching them, you want have subtitles too. Maybe just because it makes it easier for you to understand, or because you plan to create a deck in Anki with them. No matter what your reason for the want of having subtitles are, I bet with you that you are out of luck in 9 out of 10 times, to find exactly the ones you need. I’ve been in this situation many times, and I came to the conclusion that it isn’t worth to look around, in the hopes to find them. What are we to do in this situation? Either give up and move on to some other Anime that has subtitles, to the cost that they might not be interesting at all, or forget about the subtitles altogether.

I gave up because it was a waste of time. But now I came back to subtitles, only this time the other way around. There might be no Japanese subtitles available for Japanese Anime or other media, but there are plenty for TV epsiodes, that haven’t been translated into Japanese. Consider yourself watching the Narnia movie in English while reading the Japanese subtitle. You’ll have comprehensible input, meaning English, and you have the subtitles in Japanese you are supposed to understand while reading along. This is probably better than having Japanese audio and Japanese subtitles. When both are available then you don’t have to pay attention to one or the other. You might look at the screen pretending to read, but what you are actually doing is listening while looking at the subs. Or if you don’t understand what the characters say, but you do when you read along, you are in the same situation. You aren’t listening, you are reading, because this is what you understand.

You can try this little experiment to see, whether or not you are both actively listening and reading, or just doing one or the other. Turn off the audio and read what you see on screen. If you find that you can’t read what is written on-screen, you don’t gain anything by having the subtitles turned on. Now turn off the subs, listen, and watch. Are you still able to understand what the characters are saying? Or have you only been able to understand while reading the subtitles or transcripts? It should become obvious that you if you can read and understand what is written, but if you listen you don’t get anything, you will not improve the skill that needs to be improved. Or the other way around, while you are listening and try to read, you will most likely still not understand what is written. In short it is a waste of time, or tedious, because you would have to watch the same Anime many times, with and without subtitles. And you can only hope that it will improve your understanding of one or the other.

If your goal is to understand the spoken language start watching without subtitles. If you want to improve your understanding by having subtitles, try it with shows that haven’t been translated into Japanese. And if you want to improve your understanding of the spoken language, than it might be a good idea to listen and use English subtitles. In both cases you have something that you want to understand, and something you can readily understand, so you should be able to gain more out of it.

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