To help improve my Spanish, I plan on watching a TV show I know really well in English with Spanish audio.

I have English subtitles that match the video really well and Spanish subtitles that have the correct timing, but the wording doesn't match up very well at all. The meaning is the same but the wordage is completely different.

Is it more beneficial to use the English or Spanish subtitles if I have trouble following Spanish audio by itself?

  • Subtitles have constraints that make them difficult to match the audio 100%, e.g. Maximum number of words, minimum time of exposure close to 1 second, maximum of 4 seconds. Dubbed audio doesn't have that problem, but it has to sound 'natural' and thus it can't follow the original too closely either. Your best bet would be to watch shows with audio originally in Spanish and subtitles in Spanish as well.
    – deStrangis
    Jul 2, 2013 at 12:51

2 Answers 2


I think it depends on you, but in my experience learning English, watching videos with English audio and Spanish subtitles is not very useful for me, because I always end up paying attention to the subtitles only and not to the audio, which is actually the most important part... I can only get the last few words of each sentence, once I finish reading the subtitles!

So I definitely prefer English audio and English subtitles, even if the wording is not totally correct, which by the way happens almost always...

And in the case that the subtitles are so different that they are completely unuseful, my suggestion would be to look for another TV show... there must be many with correct subtitles!

And lastly, if you are so determined to watch a concrete TV show, you can always try to look for better subtitles on the web, for example in opensubtitles.org...

  • I would agree if the wording were "not totally correct". But the OP says it "is completely different" (imagine Spanish-from-Spain audio with Spanish-from-Mexico subtitles, they can be completely different). In that case, I would say the subtitles don't help much.
    – MikMik
    Jul 1, 2013 at 11:19
  • @MikMik, that's true... I added a paragraph on that...
    – MikO
    Jul 1, 2013 at 11:33
  • 1
    I usually watch telemundo or univision with the subtitles on. Spanish audio and Spanish subs. I may only get some of the story, but I always end up with a few words to look up in the dictionary. Often they are frequently used words and the next time I watch they're reinforced.
    – skub
    Jul 2, 2013 at 1:56

In my experience (symmetric case, native Spanish speaker wishing to improve his English), and assumming a decent knowlodge of vocabulary and grammar (so that the main issue to exercise is listening), I slightly prefer to use subtitles not in the movie audio language but in "my" native language (Spanish in my case, English in yours), so that I mentally translate from english-audio to english-text using the spanish text as a hint.

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