Do you like to learn Spanish by watching DVDs?

If so, I have a recommendation on How To Learn Spanish Watching DVDs.

You can improve your listening comprehension in Spanish by watching dubbed over versions of your favorite English speaking movies. When you watch the dubbed over versions in Spanish you can either watch them with the Spanish “subtítulos” (subtitles) turned on or off.

But if you want to improve your Spanish this way, there is something that I should warn you about . . .

The people who translate these movies into Spanish often make mistakes in the translation. And if you have already watched the same movies in English this may confuse you.

I will give you example. Last night, here in Medellin, Colombia, I was watching an action movie on DVD called Takers. I was watching it with “una amiga” (a female friend) or as the term is affectionately used in Medellin “una amiguita.” You may have already seen the movie.
With rapper T.I. and singer Chris Brown.

In one of the final scenes of the movie T.I. says to one of his partners in crime:

“Me quitaste a mi perra.”

How To Learn Spanish Watching DVDs

When he said that line my “amiguita” said to me “Yo no vi una perrita en la película. Me encantan los perritos.” (I didn’t see a puppy in the movie. I love puppies.)

Then I tried to explain to her in real life T.I. is a gangster rapper who has spent time in jail and that in the movie he was playing the role of a bank robber and ex-con “de la calle” (from the streets) and that he was speaking with a lot of street “jerga” (slang).

How To Learn Spanish Watching DVDs

This must have only confused her more. Because when I gave her that explanation, her reaction was
“tan linda” (so cute). She thought it was so cute that the character in the movie would refer to his
“novia” (girlfriend) as a “perrita” (little female puppy dog).

But I told her “no,” he did not refer to his novia or x-novia as a “perrita” or a “little female puppy dog.” He used the word “perra.”

“Perra” literally means female dog.

I had already seen the movie in English so I knew that the word that he used in English was the offensive word for female dog. Or as my son once said to me when we was in the second grade, “Dad, Kevin called the the teacher the ‘b-word’ today.”

Not unlike the English b-word, besides meaning female dog, in Spanish, the word “perra” is an extremely offensive term used to refer to a woman. Except in Spanish, the word “perra” is usually used to refer to a promiscuous woman as opposed to a malicious, unpleasant, or selfish woman.

So when I tried to explain to my “amiguita” why the actor/gangster rapper playing the role of a bank robber and ex-con from the streets would use the word “perra” when referring to “novia,” she insisted that I was wrong and that there was a mistake in the translation of the movie and that they should have used the word “perrita” which would sound somewhat affectionate.

She just could not comprehend the fact that someone in the States (even a gangster rapper, bank robber or ex-convict “de la calle”) would use the word “perra” (b-word) when affectionately speaking about his “novia.”

I then told her that the only mistake in the dubbed-over translation is that they should have used “novia” instead of “perra” and that they should have had the actor say:

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“Me quitaste a mi novia.”
(You took my girlfriend away from me.)

That’s because that’s really what T.I. meant when he said “”Me quitaste a mi perra.”

This isn’t the first time where I heard English’s “b-word” poorly translated in a movie.

When I made one of my first trips to Barranquilla, Colombia back in 2006, I took a date to “el cine”
(the movies).

Casino Royale, with James Bond, was playing.
I had already seen the movie a couple of weeks before in the Bronx.


Unlike my “Takers” DVD where the audio had been dubbed over in Spanish, in Barranquilla, Colombia I had to watch Casino Royale in English but with Spanish “subtítulos.” Usually, new American made movies are released in theatres here in Colombia with English audio and Spanish “subtítulos,”, and then when they are released on DVD the movies contain a choice of English or Spanish audio.

In Casino Royale, James Bond had been betrayed by his “amante” (lover) and she was now dead and James Bond was feeling a bit “amargado” (bitter) about the “traición” (betrayal).
(by the way, the verb for “to betray” in Spanish is “traicionar”)

While listening to the movie in English I was also trying to read the Spanish “subtítulos” to see how accurate they were. And according to the “subtítulos,” on the “pantalla” (screen) James Bond said:

“La perrita está muerta.”

How To Learn Spanish Watching DVDs

I was laughing uncontrollably — not because of what I had read on the “pantalla” (screen) but because of what I had just heard James Bond say. Even after watching the movie before, I still thought it was hilarious that a guy as classy as James Bond would use the b-word to describe his “novia” or “amante.”

But I quickly noticed that I was the only one in the entire movie who could be heard laughing uncontrollably. And then I figured out why . . .

“La perrita está muerta” (the little puppyis dead) is not a phrase that a normal person would find “chistoso” (funny). Maybe “triste” (sad) but definitely not “chistoso.”

I could imagine what the Colombians in the movie were thinking at the time: “What puppy? I didn’t see James Bond with any puppy in this movie. And why does this guy sitting in the next row think it’s so funny that a poor little puppy died.”

By the way, I have a copy of Casino Royale on DVD and I noticed that the error in the “subtítulos” has been corrected and “perrita” has been replaced with “perra.”

So what’s my point?

I just want you to be aware that the Spanish translations — both audio and written — are not always very accurate in the movies. And if you are going to use dubbed-over movies to increase your listening comprehension in Spanish, first try to hear the words and phrases that are spoken.

Listen to how the words are pronounced. And do not try to translate lines into English in your head because the poor translations may only confuse you.