In this activity learners watch a classic Seinfeld video with bad subtitles. This activity forces them to pay special attention to the vocabulary and pronunciation involved.

Watch the YouTube video here.


1) Tell learners that you need their help – you have a video but the subtitles are wrong! There are several mistakes in the video.

2) They should watch the video and write down all the mistakes with the subtitles – look out for the difference between what is said and what is written.

3) Play the video once at full speed (I recommend VLC open source Media Player).

4) Learners confer.

5) Play the video again at 70/80% of full speed (click on ‘Playback’ and ‘Speed’ in VLC).

6) Learners confer again.

7) Play the video once more at 50% of full speed. Check answers this time by pausing and stopping the video after each mistake (there are twelve in total). You can use the space bar in VLC to pause.

outer score  = how to score

what a yew = what do you

not that match = not that much

new pan lotion = new promotion

samosa = supposed to

on the ground = (sit) around
pull hat off = pull that off

anoint = annoyed

think abaud = think about

test dolls = stress dolls

all night = alright

factor work = back to work

8) Give out the worksheet (see below). Ask the learners to match the speakers (Jerry, George or Elaine) with the correct sentences.

9) Ask the learners to underline the words which are stressed in the dialogues e.g. This catalogue is all about how to score in a foreign country.

10) Play the video to check answers.

11) Learners then rehearse the dialogue in groups using the correct intonation.

12) Learners perform the dialogue. Teacher gives feedback on good intonation.



I hope you can see the potential of ‘Bad subtitles’ for language learning. You can draw attention to specific phrases, chunks, grammatical items or pronunciation – it’s a really versatile activity.

However, adding the subtitles does require some technical know-how, which I won’t go into here! Just comment if you have any specific questions.

Also, if you use this lesson – drop me a line.

To end, here’s more gratuitous bad subtitles (click to view).






bad subtitles 3








Bad subtitles Worksheet Bad-subtitles_seinfeld-worksheet.pdf (210 downloads)




2008_12_05_DSC02191_1t – picked on by orchids. Gwydion M. Williams. CC license 2.0.

Reshovelled Cabinet touteded. 2009_01_wk3_DSC02467 Shadow Cabinet 1h. CC license 2.0. 



4 thoughts on “Bad subtitles

  1. Thanks, Paul. I think I can use this with my advanced classes. It’s just the thing to lighten up after some of the pretty gruelling subject matter I’ve been giving them lately :-).

  2. Hi lokayes and helen,

    Thanks for commenting – glad you like the lesson – and hope it works well with your learners!

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