How to display two subtitles simultaneously: Movie watching in a second language

How to display two subtitles simultaneously: Movie watching in a second language

Watching movies in Spanish is surely a great way to progress in Spanish language aquisition. But to understand what is actually happening in fast-paced spanish speaking movie, we tend to need english subtitles… but then if I’m honest, I proceed to spend the movie focusing on reading the english subtitles, as opposed to listening to the Spanish. This post descirbes my “hack” for actually learning Spanish from watching movies, in follow-up from my list of Spanish movies.

What we need to do is…

…use Spanish subtitles, to catch what the fastpaced-Spanish-speakers are saying in the film, and (at least at first) English subtitles to figure out what some of the Spanish phrases mean… but most programs don’t allow for two sets of concurrent subtitles. To follow, I explain my hack to get around this. Watching with quick access to the pause button (should you need it) is highly recommended. This technique has worked great for me.

  1. Download subtitles

    Finding subtitles for a video only requires a quick search in Google (and a few minutes trial to check that they sync with the movie correctly). There are generally piles available, so avoid the subtitles that are broken into two if you can. Download one in English and one in Spanish.

  2. Combine subtitles

    Most video players do not have the ability to play two concurrent sets of subtitles at once. But luckily it is easy enough to combine two subtitles into one file online. At http://pas-bien.net/2srt2ass/ select the Spanish subtitle file you downloaded in step one, and add it as the top subtitle, and the English subtitle file as the bottom.

    Press submit and it will automatically download (most probably to your downloads folder). 

  3. Use the subtitle track with the video

    If you’re using one of the most popular video players, VLC (freely downloaded for mac and PC here), select:
    > video > subtitle track > open file (as shown below)

    The file from step two should be in your downloads folder, and will have the same file name as the English subtitle file, but with a “.ass” extension (as opposed to .srt). Select this file, and you’re away laughing.

    It should look a little something like this in your player:

  4.  Hide the English subtitles until you need them, if you can

I try not to use the English subtitles until I need them, so I either avoid looking at them or even cover them until I am stuck (see photo below for example of how easy it was to cover the Spanish subtitles with coasters I had nearby).
This technique  has worked fantastically for me, to the point that I can now watch (most) movies with only Spanish subtitles.

 

Know of a better hack?

Checkout some of my Spanish movie suggestions here: Movies in Spanish.

31 Comments

  1. Here’s my holy grail, as a Mandarin Chinese learner: three subtitle tracks displayed simultaneously: 1) English; 2) Pinyin Mandarin (the alphabetized script); 3) Simplified Mandarin characters.

    Oy!

    I’ve so far only found some hope: 1) Websites that convert simplified Mandarin text into Pinyin–but not subtitles!; 2) players that allow only two sets of subtitles (as in you example).

    If you can solve this challenge, Einstein’s a dwarf compared to you! Ideas?

    Reply
    • Clay if you want tripple subtitles support, you should use kmplayer.

      The only drawback is that It’s only available fot Windows OS.

      http://www.kmpmedia.net/

      Reply
    • You poor thing Clay, that’s a whole other level! Mandarin must be such an interesting language to learn! All the best. If I hear of anything I’ll let you know!

      Reply
    • This might seem stupid- but to combine three subtitle tracks, have you tried first combining two of the tracks (this combo will be a file that you might call “tracks1and2”) and then use the same subtitle-combining program to combine the “track 3” file together with the “tracks1and2” file? Would that work?

      Your next problem is getting Chinese character subtitles converted into pinyin. You said you already found a website that converts characters to pinyin. Problem: the subtitle file will contain not only Chinese characters, but also symbols like parenthesis or periods or colons, and numerals, and maybe and occasional English letter- I’m not sure. If you copy paste a Chinese (character) text that has punctuation marks, numbers, and occasional English letters spread throughout it, will the pinyin converter have a problem with this? Can the sites that convert to pinyin convert the Chinese characters in a text to pinyin, and leave all the other punctuation marks and numbers alone? If so you should be golden.

      I think you could just open the subtitle file with notepad, copy the whole long thing and paste it into the character-to-pinyin converter website (if the website will accept such a long text to be converted). Then, in notepad, delete the text in the original subtitle file, and paste (in its place) the pinyin text, then click save. The only other thing that would screw you up is, when you save, you might need to save in the correct “encoding” (encodings are different… styles/formats… used to save computer files- this would be found under some kind of options menu when you are saving a file in notepad or in Microsoft Word… hopefully you’ll just be able to ignore this part and hit save… but if you final subtitle file does not display properly in your movie… if the words look like nonsense/symbols, then you should fool with the encoding).

      Reply
    • Google Translate will display Pinyin from characters. Just click on the “Ä” button on the bottom right. Then paste that into a text file.
      Also note that SRT Merger can handle three subtitle tracks, as well as non-standard (EG: Chinese) encoding.
      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  2. This is AWESOME!!!! Thanks so much…. (wonder if it’s possible to have both subs at the bottom..??)

    Reply
  3. This is AWESOME!!!! Thanks so much…. (wonder if it’s possible to have both subs at the bottom..??)

    Reply
  4. This is AWESOME!!!! Thanks so much…. (wonder if it’s possible to have both subs at the bottom..??)

    Reply
  5. Movist (Mac) allows multiple subs on screen. Though I found the older freeware version 0.6.8 best for this option. Doesn’t seem to work as well with the 1.x paid versions.

    Reply
  6. The KM Player is a free player that can display multiple subtitles at once. They can be positioned and moved independently.
    http://www.kmpmedia.net/

    I use it so that my Chinese wife and I can both watch foreign films together (for instance, a German film).

    Reply
  7. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  8. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  9. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  10. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  11. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  12. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  13. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  14. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  15. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  16. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  17. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  18. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  19. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  20. Great!!. I will do it to improve my English!. Thanks from Spain.

    Reply
  21. You can also use DualSub to merge subtitles:

    http://dualsub.sourceforge.net/

    This application combines two SRT subtitles splitting the available width of the screen in two columns. It is highly configurable, and the resulting merged SRT can be used in different players (e.g. VLC, Windows Media Player… even in your TV).

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  22. I tried this some time ago and it was not useful for some players (ASS format is not widely accepted yet).

    For that reason I created and released a tool to merge and translates SRT subtitles: DualSub (http://dualsub.sourceforge.net/) . This tools works with SRT subtitles for input and output. It has many options for customization. In addition you can use it to translate subtitles to any language.

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  23. Hey.

    Does the program work with Bulgarian subtitles.

    Thank you

    Reply
  24. Awesome! I’ll use it to practice my german! I really needed this, and so easy! Thanks!

    Reply
  25. Nice trick to improve english skills

    Reply
  26. Thank you for your this guide, it is very helpful … but I am about to rip my hair out trying to find the correct subtitle tracks! I want to get subtitles for “Las Locuras del Emperador”, the Spanish-dubbed version of The Emperor’s New Groove: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_choJPDaV8w However, after hours of searching, I just can’t seem to find a subtitle track that actually matches what they are saying in this video! Any suggestions? You made it sound so easy…

    Reply

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