Subtitling a film

In groups students can write subtitles for a film /video/ etc. that had no words originally (e.g. silent movie, cartoon with nonsense language). Find and convey meaning in a way that seems relevant to students.

Additional Info

  • Name: Subtitling a film

  • Linguistic dimension

  • CEFR Level: B2
  • Linguistic dimension - Skill(s): Writing with some reading, speaking and listening
  • Duration: 135 minutes
  • Target language: Any modern language
  • ICT dimension

  • ICT resources:


    Internet connection; Internet access, PCs with Internet access for all participants, projector

    • subtitling programs e.g.:

    Movie Maker –

    iMovie –

    YouTube editor –

    • dictionaries e.g.:

    • sharing platforms e.g.:

    • options for possible films e.g.:

  • ICT competences: browsing the Internet for free subtitling programs (see above), before lesson check your options with school system administrator; downloading a film/ video clip /etc. from the Internet; or: shooting one’s own film either with a smartphone, a digital camera or else; using an online dictionary (see above); using a subtitle program offered for free on the Internet; publishing a movie on a sharing platform (see above); presenting a film with subtitles with pc and projector or smartboard
  • Detailed description of the task

  • Situation / theme(s): Subtitling a film
  • I can...:


    • understand contemporary( literary) prose.
    • present clear, detailed descriptions on a wide range of subjects related to my field of interest.
    • explain a viewpoint on a topical issue
    • understand extended speech and follow even complex lines of argument provided the topic is reasonably familiar
  • Product: Subtitles for a film / video / etc.
  • Product requirements or prerequisites:



    • must know how to / be ready to learn to use a subtitling program
    • must be able to use relevant and fitting terms and words for the subtitles
    • should be able to fit in the subtitles according to the respective phases in the film, video clip, etc.
    • should be able to revise their product and to make it logical.
  • Process:


    • teacher introduces the class to the project and tells students to browse the Internet for a subtitling program of their liking
    • students
      • start looking for a program and try it out
      • exchange experiences and decide on the best program
      • get together in groups of 2-4 (teacher may want to put weaker students together with stronger ones or let students choose their own groups)
      • browse the Internet (e.g. YouTube) for a suitable film/video clip or create their own film/video, etc. Max length of film: 2 min. In groups, decide on a film after trying to persuade each other about their favourite ideas.
      • decide on who will be responsible for what task
      • agree on what meaning to convey and then formulate appropriate sentences that match the film passages (with teacher monitoring and helping)
      • send text and link to movie to teacher for correction/discussion – necessary changes are discussed with the teacher
      • fill in the subtitles and produce a draft film with subtitles
      • check if the subtitles fit to the passages, avoiding complicated or lengthy subtitles
      • publish the story on the Internet (e.g.
      • present their product to their classmates
      • listen and react adequately to given criticism
      • give critical feedback on their classmates’ products and on their own team work
    • teacher collects comments on products in a round robin or on the board
    • students go back to their work and make necessary changes based on feedback from peers, then republish the final version of their work
  • Division of roles (optional): For the group work, certain tasks can be given to the group members: language guard (the team member who minds that the group members speak in the FL); word finder (responsible for looking up terms and expressions in a dictionary); secretary (responsible for noting down the range of possible subtitles); producer (responsible for filling in the final subtitles)
  • Consolidating activities suggested or follow up plan:


    • collecting criteria of what to consider when subtitling
    • discussing the products and the experience of students
    • evaluating the method of subtitling as a way to practice a foreign language
  • Success factors or evaluation criteria:


    Task is completed successfully if

    • students created coherent subtitles matching their movie clips
    • students shared their documents with classmates and reacted to each other’s films in meaningful ways, concentrating on contents rather than language

    Completion of task is excellent if the subtitles convey additional information and enrich the meaning of the movie, in a language that is appropriate and without mistakes. Completion of task is inadequate if subtitles are inconsistent with the images or so poor in language that they are unintelligible.

  • Authors: Ilona Fried, Ch. Doil-Hartmann, Judit J. Tóth
  • Acknowledgements: this example is based on a proposal by Roland Buehs
  • Didactic added value of the task and other information

  • Practical hints for teachers:


    • before asking the students to apply a subtitle programme try it out yourself
    • make sure that all groups have an internet connection to get access
    • support and corrections will take some time, so consider enough time for the subtitling
  • Additional methodological or didactic comments:


    Students should

    • not choose visual material longer than 2 minutes
    • not choose pictures that go too fast for subtitles to be legible at their level of English
    • find visual material which is easy to find subtitles for (see recommended films)
    • work together in groups
    • all be given specific tasks in their groups.
  • Reasons why this task is a model of best practices:


    • finding visual material on the Internet is challenging and entertaining
    • working in a group enriches their word power
    • creating subtitles for a film, video or other leads to an exchange of ideas and eventually to compromises
    • individual group members can contribute to the product according to their language level and ICT skills
  • Impact that it is expected to have on the teaching practices and attitudes:


    • Using the Internet and a subtitling program might motivate teachers and students to use this activity further on.
    • The application of words might enrich the word power of the students
  • Reasons why this task travels well:


    This task can be used in any class with any topic of interest. It fits well into any curriculum.

  • Rationale and/or theoretical underpinnings of the task: The competences of writing are in the focus, as are media competences and the consideration of the CEFR
  • Preferencial target age group(s): High school students

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