I have been watching a lot of shows on Netflix lately in French, (please note the original language is English, so it is dubbed) with French subtitles. I find that the subtitles rarely match what is actually being spoken!

Why is this?

For example someone will say 'bien sûr' orally, but the subtitles will say 'd'accord'.

That is one of many examples, long sentences will usually be completely different.

1 Answer 1


This is an educated guess as I'm not sure anyone can give a concrete answer as to this particular show's specific reason, but since it was dubbed, there's a solid possibility that the subtitles are a translation of the English subtitles while the voice over may have been translated by the dubbing team and potentially altered by what the voice over actors could deliver with a decent dub.

In my experience, not all shows are run with a strict adherence to the script. Changes sometimes need to be made for actors to deliver naturally and there is often some flexibility in exact lines. If the same flexibility was extended to the dub team, then it seems quite likely that they would deviate from the exact script translation.

If they are using the same subtitle timing for multiple languages, then it might not have been worth having someone sit through it and dictate the subtitles and try to align them to the proper markers vs simply directly translating the existing English subtitles.

  • The subtitles would have been done first. Then the dub. I would edit technical training films which had to be dubbed into 9 other (Indian) languages, and during the interview portions, the translation would sometimes have to be altered for lip-sync purposes. I presume there's a similar reason here.
    – Gyan
    Dec 13, 2017 at 16:26
  • @Mulvya - it depends on the way they approach the project. Subtitling is a fairly late process thing since it can't be efficiently done prior to editing being done or at least mostly done. If they intended a dub from the get go, they may have done it prior or concurrent to sub-titling, but if they dubbed after release as a localization, then the subtitles would be done as part of the translation, which would obviously have to occur before dubbing. It would also depend if dubbing was done from script or from what actors actually said.
    – AJ Henderson
    Dec 13, 2017 at 16:49
  • @AJHenderson It's very easy to edit your answer and then reply to my comment. Not impressed.
    – Cloud
    Dec 13, 2017 at 17:19
  • @cloud - that wasn't trying to be sneaky. That was just trying to expand it a bit. I wasn't sure if you were objecting to the length or the fact I was guessing or what. I was honestly just trying to understand what your objection was. I realized that putting a bit more about my background and reasoning would be helpful so I did so. If you feel it is fine as it is now, I can cleanup the comment chain.
    – AJ Henderson
    Dec 13, 2017 at 17:22
  • 1
    You see the same thing with subtitled Japanese anime. Some of the original scripting would not be tolerated culturally by american and european audiences, so some lines are changed out of cultural sensitivity. Others are changed because the natural rhythms of the languages are different.
    – pojo-guy
    Dec 13, 2017 at 19:35

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