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I speak French but want to improve my listening ability and learn some new words (maybe to put into Anki). I decided I would watch one of my favourite Netflix shows in French, however the subtitles are normally extremely inaccurate, often for no apparent reason as what the character actually said would easily fit into the subtitle character count. As you can imagine, this is extremely frustrating for someone trying to learn specific vocabulary and improve listening skills rather than grasping the meaning of a sentence. Is there any way I can view accurate subtitles?

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    If you're watching a dubbed version of a show (i.e. the audio was originally in another language but has been replaced by voice actors speaking in French), then there's no solution AFAIK. The subtitles aren't meant to be a transcription of the dubbed audio. Both dub and sub are translations designed for different purposes. Only solution is to watch a different show, one that was originally in French. Then you can use closed captions, and those are intended to be a verbatim transcription of the audio so you shouldn't have that problem.
    – BtR
    Jun 26 at 19:37
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    Please put this as an actual answer! It never occured to me it was the fact they're dubbed shows. I found a French show called 'Lupin' and the English subtitles are just as bad as the French ones for shows in English.
    – mreyeball
    Jun 27 at 10:25
  • OK, I just did. I used a comment at first just because there are aspects of the video production process that I am unaware of. For instance, I'm not entirely sure whether there is any interaction between the team that does the translation for the dub and the team that does the translation for the sub. There may be cases where sub and dub are more closely aligned if both teams worked together closely, or in cases where it's just one single team doing both. Or so I imagine. I honestly don't know!
    – BtR
    Jun 30 at 19:55

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It may be because you were watching a foreign show dubbed in French. The distinction to be aware of is that between closed captions and subtitles.

Closed captions are intended for the hearing impaired and they are as close as you can get to a verbatim transcription of the audio. No translation is involved in closed captioning. They use the original audio and simply transcribe it.

Subtitles on the other hand are intended for foreign audiences who want to watch the show with the original audio but do not understand the language. Subtitles are a written translation of the original audio. They are not a transcription of the dubbed audio. If you watch a show that is dubbed while using subtitles at the same time, there can be significant discrepancies between the two. The reason being that these are two separate translations being run in parallel, and the dubbing has to take into account certain constraints, such as pacing (so that the dubbed audio matches more or less the actors' lip movements), which the subtitles do not.

I'm afraid the only option is to watch another show, one that was originally in French (i.e. not dubbed into French) and has French closed captions rather than subtitles. On Netflix, closed captions are indicated in the subtitle menu by the text "(CC)" next to the language in question.

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    "No translation is involved in closed captioning." - Well, mostly that's right but sometimes some things are simplified to make it easier to read or write. For example, if someone starts speaking, says something and then changes it mid-sentence to say it in a different way, you often won't see that in the written dialogue onscreen (probably because it would be confusing, too long or too troublesome to read such details written out on screen). On the other hand, if you read dialogue in a novel, then many authors will represent these kinds of small speech details in writing as well.
    – Brandin
    Jul 14 at 6:22

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