Godamm Netflix subtitles.

I’ve just recently started to use Netflix, and it’s a brilliant service except for one extremely boneheaded thing. When watching a show that was originally English, with some hardcoded subtitles for when there is non-English conversation, they do not show the subtitles when you have English subtitles on. I always use subtitles when available, as although I’m not hard of hearing it helps me follow when there’s obnoxious music, actors with a strong accent or who just mumble.

So when a character starts to speak Spanish, (or whatever) the first reaction is that it’s not being translated because it’ll make sense in context without translation, an English language speaker will summarize it, or you’re not supposed to know what they’re saying. Only after it goes on awhile or if similar scenes get repeated or you realise later you’ve missed some context to the current action do you realise it originally had hardcoded subtitles, so you have to go back to the start of the scene, turn subtitles off, watch it, turn subtitles back on, rinse and rpeat every time you notice it happenng.

This is over a wide range of English language shows with occasional non-English speaking. What genius came up with this system and why haven’t they fixed it?

Could you cite an example (like a film title) of this?

I’ve had Netflix for years, I always watch with subtitles on, and I can’t recall ever seeing what you’re describing.

I just tested this on an episode of Breaking Bad and the Spanish was still subtitled in English as was the English dialogue.

Happens all the time to me. It is annoying.

I think you need to give some examples and some of the “happens all the time” and some of the “no idea what you’re talking about and I always use subtitles” people need to both try them out and report back. Either the “no idea what you’re talking about” people just haven’t run across the problem or it’s a matter of how you’re turning on the subtitles.
How are you watching Netflix (Smart TV, TiVo, phone, tablet, computer etc), are you use the app itself to turn the subtitles on and off? Are you toggling them on and off from within the show? Is it a device setting outside of the app?

My WAG, if two people can watch the same show and report different results, is that it’s a matter of how they’re being turned on. If one person is, for example, watching the show and toggling them on and off there vs one of the other options they might get different results. Maybe they’re getting a different feed (I don’t know just tossing out ideas) or one way might toggle the translations off when subtitles are turned on to keep them out of the way and at the same time, they may not have added what was spoken in the other language to the subtitles since they assumed it would already be there.

Like I said, just a thought.

TL;DR Next time you get to one of those spots, try pulling it up on another device and see what happens. If that fixes it, it’s just a setting somewhere that needs to be tweaked.

The OP is unclear because it seems to use “subtitles” to refer to two different things: subtitles, which are burned into the film to translate dialog in a language other than the main one of the movie (which is what I think is meant by “hard-coded” subtitles), and closed captions, which are electronically embedded in the film and can be turned on or off on the display by the user.

AFAIK, real subtitles are always a permanent part of that particular version of the film. As such they can’t be turned off by the captions, which operate only at the local display level. They might cover over burned-in subtitles, although good captioning avoids that by moving them elsewhere in the frame, usually to the top.

So I join the other posters for asking for specific examples.

It occurs to me that, rather than having subtitles burned into the image, maybe Netflix uses a captioning-type system for subtitles (which would simplify versioning for multiple languages), and that it can sometimes interfere with the closed captioning. But I can’t say I’ve ever noticed it.

Movies, which is to say, celluloid, have “hard-coded” subtitles, but anymore, DVDs have subtitles for foreign-language users that function more like captions. It’s done so that only one version of a DVD needs to be produced, and the user can select the subtitle language, just like they can select the audio language.

In cases where the subtitles are done this way, it is possible that captions that are on the film are removed with the intent of replacing them with the captions so everything looks the same. But either occasionally there’s a glitch or miscommunication and they don’t get done.

Older DVDs that are made from the films themselves have the hard-coded subtitles, but newer ones are made from video masters, and no celluloid is involved, so any subtitles put onto the final film don’t make it onto the DVD.

So I believe the OP has experienced this.

BTW, OP, if you have trouble picking out voices from the background sounds, or experience actors as “mumbling,” you really should get your hearing checked. You may not qualify as “hard-of-hearing” yet, but it sounds like you have a minor loss that should be tracked. Minor losses can be caused by obstructions or conduction problems and are treatable. Even if it’s not treatable, it’s still worth tracking.

It’s happened quite a few times, I can’t remember many specific scenes. One of them though is 12 Monkeys, season 1 episode 11 13:20. Incidents of it also happened in Ozark, Daredevil and some other shows I can’t recollect at the moment.

At least it has subtitles. The Breaking Bad DVDs don’t have any subtitles, which is some third world crap.

I haven’t noticed the OP’s problem. I feel like it’s happened to me once though, but I can’t remember which show or if it’s even Netflix or someone else that it happened on.

Some terminology:

“Hardcoded” subs are ones that are part of the image. They are always there no matter what unless you get into frame-by-frame image editing.

“Forced” subtitles include examples such as the OP. A video in mainly one language has some subs for bits in another language. These are part of the data stream of the video. They are intended to generally appear depending on the media player and its settings.

The OP’s problem sounds like the people who set things up thought that the English subs would naturally also contain the forced subs which is apparently not the case all the time. So turning on subs turns off the forced subs to avoid doubled up subs.

And since Netflix’s interest in doing things like this right is vanishingly small, good luck with all that.

12 Monkeys isn’t on Netflix.
I tried it on both Apple TV and on my TV’s built in Netflix app and they both show the subtitles correctly.

OP is in UK. It looks like it is available there.

Another difference in terminology and function to keep in mind is that closed captions are specifically intended for deaf and hard of hearing viewers, and therefore include info about other elements of the sound track – music, sound effects, non-verbal sounds from the actors – and not just a transcription of the spoken dialog.

Since you seem to know something about this RivkahChaya, and I haven’t bothered to use foreign language subtitling or captioning on my DVDs or my streaming services, does this subtitling use closed captioning technology, or is it a different system within the DVD player or streaming service?

I agree completely. I started having occasional problems hearing dialog a few years ago (I’m almost 62 now) and so I went to an audiologist to have my hearing checked. To my delight, they said I had great hearing, about the best they had ever seen in my age range. Sometimes movie and TV dialog is just not clear.

My wife and I are watching lots of shows from UK and Australia these days, and although people who speak with RP or the more standard Aussie accents are usually quite understandable, heavy provincial accents can often be impenetrable, especially since they often have unique words or slang.

BTW, Tivo has a really neat feature: Captions on replay. If you’re watching with captions off, and you think, “What did he just say?” just hit the Back button, and the captions come on for the 10-15 seconds you just replayed. Very useful if you have no problem with 95% of the dialog, but just the occasional “Whaaaaaa?”

Those are (should be) really two different things, and some movies have separate subtitle tracks for regular subtitles and SDH. The latter will include additional sound effects, text to reduce ambiguity about who is speaking, etc. However, there are also many movies that don’t make this distinction.

I noticed HBO Now does this too.

I’ve been watching Mad Men on Netflix, and when Megan, and her mom speak French, the English translation subtitles, are shown.

So OP’s problem is as other’s pointed out, not with all titles.

I watch Netflix with the subtitles always on as well, and have had the same experience as the OP, although I couldn’t tell you what I was watching at the time.

Same with Jane the Virgin, when Alba speaks in Spanish.

(I use the subtitles because my hearing ain’t what it used to be and I can’t hear the dialogue clearly without cranking the volume loud enough to annoy the people in the next apartment.)

I like subtitles and my wife must have them as she has a hearing impairment and can hardly understand without them. We have noticed that Dutch movies and TV often have about as much English as Dutch and often only the Dutch is subtitled leaving about half the scenes beyond her understanding.

Hint, sometimes, rarely, a ‘foreign language’ feature has two subtitling options, one of which subtitles both.