How to Learn a Language with Dual Subtitles

Subtitles are the unsung heroes of language learning.

But you’re not here to hear about plain old ordinary subtitles. (Don’t get us wrong: Those can be useful, too!)

You’re here to take advantage of an effective, albeit underutilized, language tool: dual language subtitles for authentic video content.

Dual subtitles can provide captions in a language that you’re learning and in a language you’re familiar with. And if you’re feeling particularly confident, you can set them both in the two target languages you’re learning at the same time.

In this article, you’ll learn where to get instant translations for all of the content in the movies or videos you watch, how to set them up, how to use dual subtitles to fully grasp the structure, grammar and writing of your target language and why you should use dual subtitles for language learning.


Best Dual Subtitle Tools for Language Learners

First things first: Let’s get into the options you have tools-wise when it comes to dual subtitles.

1. DualSub


Price: Free (but has paid options)

Available on: Chrome | Firefox | Microsoft Edge

DualSub is probably my favorite dual subtitle tool hands down. Not only is it (mostly) free, but it’s also easy to use. For example, if you’re using the extension for YouTube, all you have to do is:

  • Turn on the native subtitles on the YouTube video.
  • Open DualSub.
  • Switch to “Native Mode.”
  • Select the languages you want to display under “Subtitle File.”

The translations can be either human- or machine-generated. If you opt for the paid version, you can get machine translations that are almost as good as the human-translated ones. If you’re using your own subtitle files (more on this later), you can actually combine these files using DualSub.

What’s really cool about this tool is that it’s compatible with over 20 websites. So, if you’re looking for an ultra-flexible dual subtitle tool, this one is hard to beat.

2. Language Reactor

language reactor

Price: Free (with some paid features)

Available on: Chrome

If you’re looking for a tool that can help display dual subtitles on Netflix, Language Reactor is probably one of the better options available.

Their subtitles allow you to click a word and display information like what a word looks like your target language, its conjugations and other information valuable to language learners. They also have cool features like the ability to save vocabulary words, practice sentences, etc.

However, some translations are machine-translated, so there’s a good chance they may not necessarily be accurate. They also claim to support YouTube, but in my experience, it doesn’t work on YT as well as it does for Netflix. As of this writing, they have yet to support platforms apart from what I’ve just mentioned.

3. YouTube™ Dual Caption

youtube dual caption

Price: Free

Available on: Chrome | Microsoft Edge

Want to add an option to turn on bilingual subtitles on YouTube?

When you install YouTube™ Dual Caption, you’ll notice that the settings will add the options “Default subtitles,” “Single subtitles” and “Subtitles download.”

If you’re wondering what that last option is about—well, let’s just say that, compared to the others I’ve listed so far, this one requires a little more technical know-how. You’ll need to do more than just click a few buttons to pull up those bilingual subtitles. But don’t worry: I’ll get into the fiddly bits of downloading and setting up subtitle files later!

For now, just know that this extension allows you to change the style of your YouTube subtitles. You can change the font size and color, and even adjust the background design of the subtitle. This comes in handy when you’re working with two languages that use similar writing systems and grammar—like the Romance languages, for example.

4. FluentU

Price: Full pricing page here

Available on: iOS | Android

If you’re not tech-savvy and would rather not mess around with video and subtitle files on your computer, FluentU provides a simple solution for obtaining dual subtitles on a huge number of select authentic videos.

Whenever you play an authentic video (i.e., videos that native speakers would watch), you get two sets of subtitles: one in your native language and one in your target language. Depending on where you currently are in your language studies, you can turn off one or the other.

There’s no need for you to deal with fiddly stuff like downloading subtitle files, setting up everything to make sure that the subtitles show up correctly or any of that. Just play the video and adjust the language settings as needed!

How to Set Up an Offline Dual Subtitles Home Theater

Using dual subtitles can be a little tricky, and requires a bit of technical literacy and patience to get right. This is especially true when you’re trying to watch a video offline, or when you’re working with a platform that doesn’t already have built-in dual language features.

But no worries! You don’t have to sign up for a programming course to do something as simple as turning on bilingual subtitles.

Here’s a short tutorial on getting and using dual subtitles with the video files on your computer:

1. Download Subtitle Files from

There are a few different sites where you can download subs, but OpenSubtitles is the oldest and most respected. The collection is enormous, spanning around 50 languages and thousands of films and TV shows. They even have their own forum and blog where you can get technical advice. All you really need to get started is to search for the name of the movie or show you want.

Then, choose the language of your subtitles and download the SRT (SubRip Subtitle) files you need. One SRT file contains one set of subtitles. It’s as simple as that!

2. Keep Your SRT Files Organized

Put the SRT files in the same folder as your video file, and make sure they have a similar name. For example, if you’re watching “Toy Story,” you can label your video file toy-story.mp4, your English subs and your Spanish subs

3. Install a Good Media Player That Allows Dual Subtitles

For example, you can use KMPlayer, VLC or Kodi. These should automatically allow you to choose between your sets of subtitles when you play the file.

Some players already include options to play more than one file at once. However, you can also take the additional step of combining two sets of SRT files into one using services like DualSub. Depending on your media player, you could get smoother results by combining your two SRT files into one ASS file.

Now that you can enjoy your dual subtitles, let’s look at what you can do with them.

How to Use Dual Subtitles to Learn Languages

1. Listen While You Read

First off, let me be clear that dual subtitles aren’t for everyone. If you’re advanced enough in your studies, you may not need subtitles anymore. Just watch and enjoy your hard-earned fluency!

But for everyone else, it can be overwhelming to catch up with a native speaker rapidly talking in their language in an authentic video.

Listen multiple times and follow along with the subtitles or transcript, and you can bake those language patterns and vocabulary words into your brain in no time.

2. Focus on the Target Language Subtitles

If you’re struggling to get your head around unfamiliar writing systems or complicated spelling, dual subtitles can help you enormously.

When you’re watching videos with dual language subtitles, focus on the target language subtitles and only use your native language subtitles for the parts you don’t completely understand.

Do this often enough, and you’ll find that you’ll make astonishing progress reading in your target language when you get back to your other materials.

3. Check Your Understanding of Your Target Language

When you watch a video in your target language, you may think you understand everything. And when you read the target-language subtitles, you may also believe you’re following along perfectly.

But dual subtitles allow you to instantly check if you’re actually understanding your target language or just getting the gist.

Cover up or turn off the “answer” (your native language) and play a short section of the video with your target language’s subtitles. Rewind, turn on your native language again and check to see if you got it right. If you’re using a program like FluentU, Quiz Mode takes care of this part for you—and keeps track of the vocab you’re learning so it knows when you need to review something.

Then, repeat this step over and over. With hundreds of lines of dialogue from films, TV shows and YouTube videos, this might be the most efficient and convenient listening practice exercise you can do.

Benefits of Using Dual Subtitles for Language Learning

1. Compare Two Foreign Languages at Once

Lots of language learners like to study more than one foreign language at the same time.

That’s great, and I’m all for it. These learners benefit from dual subtitles in particular by listening to content in their native language and comparing two different translations.

When you hear your native language, and see translations of what was just said in both of the languages you’re studying, you get reading practice in both target languages and see where they might differ in terms of vocabulary. For example, Norwegian and Danish are very similar in their written form.

By comparing the subtitles line by line, you can get a sense for where they differ and strengthen your mastery of both languages at the same time. Talk about efficiency!

2. Understand Nuances in Target Language Content

Imagine you’re watching a film in one of your target languages, and you understand it at a high intermediate level.

You know what the characters are saying, what they’re thinking and how they relate to each other.

If you put on subtitles in your native language, you’ll understand the meanings of the lines. But if you add subtitles in a different language that you also understand, you’ll see how another translator rendered those lines, too. This can actually add a lot of depth to your understanding of the film and the language.

Often, films from other cultures have nuances that are hard to appreciate from the outside.

Let’s say you’re watching a film in Italian, and you understand French well, too. By comparing French and English subtitles for the film, you’ll see how the Italian lines were understood by two different translators and interpreted for two different audiences. As a result, your understanding becomes a lot more complete.

And even if you don’t have a third language or set of subtitles for this extra context, you’ll still understand a lot of nuance by comparing a target language transcript you already understand to a full translation in your native language. This is one way advanced learners can still benefit from translations, and it also shows the value of another simple exercise—working out a translation yourself and then comparing it with someone else’s translation.


Of course, there are a million and one ways to learn a language.

Whatever gets you thinking in and thinking about the language, that’s the best way to study.

Dual subtitles are just one of many tools available to you, and they’re one of the best.

Try them out today and see how they work for you!



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