Improve Your Foreign Language Skills with MiniLyrics and Subtitles

At some point in the process of learning another language you find yourself looking for new and interesting ways to improve your abilities. At the same time, if you travel in countries that speak the language or meet other travelers who speak that language, you will likely hear and/or discuss music and TV/movies. Both of these entertainment media options can be helpful in improving your level of fluency while aiding your travel conversations.

Television, Movies and Subtitles

If you are using a decent video player on your computer (I prefer the VLC media player), then you should be able to play video with subtitles. Where to find them, you ask? Well, it is possible to play a DVD with subtitles and it is possible to download a video that already contains them, but for ordinary digitized videos you will likely have to go in search of the appropriate subtitles file. Luckily, there is a site called SUBS.to. Simply enter the search term (title of your video) and the language you are interested in and you will be presented with a list of subtitle files you can download. Often, there is only one logical option presented but occasionally there are several, only one of which will work properly (based on the version of the video, etc.). When presented with multiple files, you should download all of them and try each until you find the one that syncs properly with your copy of the video file. As for how to use the downloaded file, I can only speak for VLC media player, which is straightforward. Simply go to the Video menu and select Open File from the Subtitles Track sub-menu.

Music and Lyrics

Everyone loves music, right? So why not start listening to more and more in the language you are trying to learn? Of course, a lot of music is pretty darned difficult to understand without the aid of the lyrics, which is where a great free program called MiniLyrics comes in. Just download and install and it will most likely work automatically with your music player of choice (mine is MediaMonkey). The program isn’t perfect and it doesn’t always find lyrics for your song, especially if it isn’t especially well-known. And, occasionally it also presents multiple options, only one or occasionally none of which are what you are searching for. Other times you get the correct lyrics but they aren’t synced properly with your version of the song. You can edit files such as those, changing the timing to sync them up. This takes a bit of playing around but isn’t terribly difficult. Finally, occasionally MiniLyrics returns a text file with the lyrics, which might contain the proper lyrics, but which hasn’t been synced to the music itself. In all cases, it is a pretty nice free program. One note: I used to use another free program, AutoLyrix, but I much prefer MiniLyrics. You may try both for yourself before deciding.

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