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The Best Places To Create Funny Subtitles For Silent Movies

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With the unveiling today of Google’s “Peanut Gallery” (which I’ll discuss in a moment), I thought it would make sense to create a new “The Best…” list sharing a few tools that let you create subtitles for silent movies. Well, not only silent movies. There are some tools that let you come up with subtitles for shows in various other languages, and language teachers can have students enjoy coming up with subtitles for them in the language they are speaking. These kinds of tasks are fun language-learning activities, and I’ve used them a lot with English Language Learners.

Here are a few:

First, of course, is Google’s Peanut Gallery which lets you create subtitles for a variety of old silent movies. The special twist, though, is that you create the subtitles by speaking into a computer microphone and they will then magically appear. You have to speak very clearly though, so it may, or may not, work well for English Language Learners. You can read more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog and at TIME (thanks to
Ron Genech for the tip). One negative, however, is that it only works in the Chrome Browser.

Many ESL Teachers are familiar with Bombay TV, Futebol TV and Classik TV, which let you create subtitles for various clips (you can guess what kind of clips by each of their names).

The Artistifier used to let you do this kind of thing with any YouTube video, but it seems to be having some technical difficulties these days. I don’t know if this is a long-term or short-term problem.

Many people have seen some of the hundreds, if not thousands, of satirical versions of the “Downfall” movie scene where Hitler rants in German and people come up with their own English subtitles. Here’s one about standardized testing that you can find on my A Collection Of The Best “Laugh While You Cry” Videos — Contribute More!:

Now, there’s a site that will create the video for you — it shows you the scenes, you come up with the subtitles, and, walla, you’ve got your own version.

It could be used for engaging language practice. However, I also know that at least some people find using Hitler in this way offensive because they think it makes light of his crimes.  I don’t necessarily share that view, but I would still probably not use it in a K-12 setting.  I could see a college or adult ESL class, though, really enjoying its use.

I’d love to hear of other similar tools out there.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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