The trouble with Portuguese subtitles

I was looking for a way to improve my Portuguese.  Reading and writing is relatively easy to practice, but comprehension of spoken language is hard to practice.  Just listening to radio in Portuguese isn’t very helpful at this stage.  I tried listening to shoutcast Brazilian radios.  While listening, every now and then I go “oh, I know this word, it means to bring”, or “oh, he just said for your family”.  But what was for the family, I wouldn’t know.  It’s fun only for a couple minutes.

They speak too fast on the radio. I have trouble separating words from one another. Understanding the structure of a sentence can also be a challenge.  There’s no way I can process it in real-time.

Ideally, there would be something that:

  • Contains a recording of spoken language
  • Contains a transcription
  • Is possible to pause and rewind
  • If it’s interesting, it’s a plus

The first thing that comes to mind: a movie in Portuguese, with Portuguese subtitles.

The product pages on Amazon rarely specify the subtitle languages, I guess the assumption is that any foreign movie on Amazon has English subtitles.  Since the transcriptions all the dialogs must have been done, together with synchronization of the subtitles, to include the Portuguese subtitles is something that requires virtually no work.  I hoped that at least some of the Brazilian movies would have Portuguese subtitles as well as English ones.

Apparently, I was wrong.  I’ve bought Elite Squad, Central Station and City of Men.  None of the three Brazilian movies had Portuguese subtitles.

City of Men has the subtitles done the wrong way.  Normally, the subtitles are included in such a way that you can turn them on and off as you see fit.  In City of Men, the subtitles are burned into the video track.

Needless to say, I’m disappointed.  What am I to do now?

What I could potentially do, is to transfer the DVDs into my laptop, download fan-made subtitles in Portuguese (if I can find any), and overlay the subtitles myself.  Sadly, I’m not even sure if it’s legal to do so.  It would be reasonable to think that if I own the DVD, I should be allowed to make a copy for my own use.  But you never know, and each country has its own rules.

It would be more convenient to download the whole ripped DVD from the net, together with the subtitles.  I wouldn’t have to synchronize the subtitles with the video.

Potentially, an option would be to buy DVDs in Brazilian internet stores.  Presumably, at least some Brazilian DVDs would have subtitles for the hearing impaired.

I’ll keep on trying.


Author: automatthias

You won't believe what a skeptic I am.

6 thoughts on “The trouble with Portuguese subtitles”

  1. Have you tried asking Brazilian colleagues what they would recommend? I have at least one name, if you want 😉

  2. Hi, I have these subtitiles if you’re still interested, don’t know if you have already found a solution for your problem.
    I’m brazilian by the way, in case you need help improving your portuguese you can contact me.

    1. Deborah: I’m interested in those subtitles. Are you still following this thread?

  3. you could look for some TV series on youtube, which are available for free. usually the portuguese spoken in the tv is much clearer
    some suggestions of brazilian series: “as cariocas”, “a diarista”, “a grande família”…

  4. Have you managed to find Portuguese subs for Central Station in the end?

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