Works for lots of other foreign languages too!
Back when I was studying Japanese in the ancient days of the early 2000s, we had two options to find shows with Japanese subtitles: import them for exorbitant prices, or try your luck at Chinatown where bootleg DVDs sometimes came with them.
And while the Japanese dubs of Seinfeld and Star Trek that I poured my meager earnings into were funny, and the bootleg DVDs that crapped out halfway through were what I deserved, they were both pretty disappointing. I would’ve loved a way to watch a bunch of different shows with Japanese subtitles, for a reasonable price.
Now that dream is a reality, thanks to Language Learning with Netflix.
▼ You can see it in action here for Spanish and English.
Language Learning with Netflix is a free, simple Chrome extension that automatically works when you log into Netflix. It displays the subtitles of whatever you’re watching in both your native language and your target language, so that you can see them at the same time.
This is an incredible benefit to language learners. When you’re starting out learning a language, sometimes you can’t quite catch what people are saying. They’re too fast, or they use words/grammar you’re unfamiliar with. Being able to see the subtitles and hear the dialogue and see the translation all at once is a dream come true.
We decided to take it for a spin, and here’s what it looked like for us:
▼ Here we’re watching the Japanese film The Naked Director.
We set it to have both Japanese and English subtitles and it worked great!
▼ You can also click on any word to get the definition, hear it spoken aloud, and scroll through the previous/upcoming subtitles on the right too.
▼ The extension has a ton of options, including font size, language, and changing the pronunciation guides from romaji to furigana to none at all.
▼ Here we’re watching the Japanese-dubbed version of Marriage Story. The dub and sub are slightly different, but that’s typical of most translated shows, and they’re both accurate.
There are a lot of options in the extension, and it took a little finagling to get everything the way we wanted, but it was definitely worth it. One of the really cool options is the feature to have the film pause automatically after each line is spoken, so you can take the time to ensure you heard/understood it correctly. Combined with Netflix’s own 10-second-rewind function, it’s a powerful learning tool, especially if you make flashcards of what you’re learning.
One thing to keep in mind is that the availability of dubs/subs varies by program and region. For example, since we live in Japan, the languages that we have access to are different from those in other countries due to licensing.
However, most Netflix original shows have a huge variety of languages, so you can be safe with many of those.
▼ So while we couldn’t get English subtitles for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, other countries might.
If you want to try out the Language Learning with Netflix extension for yourself, then get it here from the Chrome Web Store for free.
And when you’re ready to level up your own Japanese language learning, be sure to check out the seven mistakes that foreigners make when speaking Japanese and how to fix them!