For years, many Australians have been making a simple mistake while watching Netflix, and all thanks to a default setting.
For years, many Australians have been making a simple mistake while watching Netflix, and all thanks to a default setting.

You’ve been watching Netflix wrong

Heard about that great new French series about a master thief? What about the Spanish heist show?

Maybe you then logged onto Netflix and pressed play on Lupin, Money Heist, Dark or decided to finally catch up on Borgen, only to be confronted with a terrible dubbing track.

All those unmatched lips? It's enough to make you give it up immediately.

Which is what many people have done because there's a vast chunk of Netflix's audience that don't realise you can watch non-English language titles in their original language with English subtitles.

It's an easy enough feature to miss, even to people who have been using Netflix's platform for many years. Why? Because Netflix defaults to the English dubbing track on shows such as the French Call My Agent or Spanish Cable Girls.

And for a lot of Netflix users, they don't question it, especially when on other series such as the Japanese Terrace House, there is no English dubbing track. So, what you're initially presented with is the version many accept.

According to Netflix data, 78 per cent of audiences watched German series Dark with dubbing on while 72 per cent watched Spanish series Money Heist with a dubbed audio track.

The audio and subtitle options are hidden in the bottom right-hand corner of the desktop version but on other platforms, look for the speech bubble icon.
The audio and subtitle options are hidden in the bottom right-hand corner of the desktop version but on other platforms, look for the speech bubble icon.

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If you've never changed the default setting on non-English language series, once you start playing a title, look for the speech bubble icon either next to or under the progress bar, depending on your device, or swipe down on Apple TV apps, and select that to choose your audio and subtitles tracks.

According to a Variety feature in 2018, Netflix chooses to default to the English dubbing track because it found that American audiences were more likely to finish a non-English language series when presented with the dubbed version than in the original language with subtitles.

But that's Americans. We're better than that, right? Right?!

To bypass the original language version - besides the distracting, disfluent imagery of watching people speak one thing only to hear another - is to miss half the performance from the actors.

Ninety per cent of Dark's viewership was outside of Germany, speaking to the power of a global platform in disseminating stories outside of the original country but you're not getting even close to the full experience if you have the dubbing on.

So, put down your second screen, save the laundry folding for that Friends rewatch you should really abandon, and embrace the subtitles. Because you're missing out on some really engrossing series from around the world - seen and heard as it was made.

(Obviously, if you're vision-impaired or have reading difficulties then the English dubbing track is a valid option.)

LUPIN (Netflix)

 

Lupin stars Omar Sy.
Lupin stars Omar Sy.

 

With a slick style reminiscent of the Benedict Cumberbatch-fronted Sherlock, this French series is a modern update-of-sorts of Maurice Leblanc's novels about a gentleman master thief, Arsene Lupin. In the month since its release, about 70 million households have started Lupin.

Starring Omar Sy, Assane Diop is a terribly smart and crafty man taking cues from his literary hero to exact justice from a rich family who wronged his family. It's entertaining as hell while also maintaining a depth that engages with contemporary French society.

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TEHRAN (Apple TV+)

 

Tehran was first broadcast on Israeli TV.
Tehran was first broadcast on Israeli TV.

 

This Israeli series was released on Apple TV+ internationally in late-2020 and will satiate the appetites of audiences looking for a Middle East-set espionage thriller, even though its politics are more binary than nuanced.

The series is focused on a female Mossad agent tasked with infiltrating Iran (the place of her birth) on a mission to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. Homeland (itself an adaptation of an Israeli series) fans will recognise Shaun Toub and Navid Negahban as two supporting characters.

MONEY HEIST (Netflix)

 

Who doesn’t love a caper?
Who doesn’t love a caper?

 

There really is something so exhilarating about a cleverly planned heist, especially one with as many metaphorical bells and whistles as the world's most complicated Rube Goldberg machine. On that score, the Spanish-language Money Heist delivers. And with a name like that, it has to.

And targets don't get much bigger than the Royal Mint of Spain with a loot worth billions of euros. Now that's ambitious.

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MIDNIGHT DINER: TOKYO STORIES (Netflix)

 

A satisfying Japanese series.
A satisfying Japanese series.

 

Restorative for the soul, Midnight Diner is a meditative series set in a small 12-seat izakaya in Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku neighbourhood. Here, the chef, "Master", serves up delectable bowls of food to his late-night customers, whatever dish they want as long as he can make it.

It's an anthology series so each episode features different characters, from salarymen to sex workers, as they swap stories with each other and with Master, a slice of life insight into Tokyo's heart.

ZEROZEROZERO (SBS On Demand)

 

Andrea Riseborough in ZeroZeroZero.
Andrea Riseborough in ZeroZeroZero.

 

There is an English-language component to ZeroZeroZero, along with Spanish and Italian, so if the subtitles-reading gets too much, there are frequent respites. But this crime drama is so compelling, you'll never notice how you're watching it anyway.

The story follows a large shipment of cocaine from Mexico to Italy and the three groups of people in the chain whose interweaving stories fuel the drama.

DARK (Netflix)

 

Dark’s three seasons are streaming now.
Dark’s three seasons are streaming now.

 

Dark recently wrapped its three-season run, which makes it the perfect time to binge this creepy sci-fi thriller that kicked off with the disappearance of a young child from a German town.

With four families and their many, many secrets plus a time travelling wormhole in mysterious cave, Dark gives audiences much to grapple with but its complexity is the selling point.

KINGDOM (Netflix)

 

A political thriller but also a zombie series – what a combo.
A political thriller but also a zombie series – what a combo.

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Kingdom is Netflix's first South Korean original, a no-brainer given the popularity of Korean language TV series around the world. It's based on a comic series and set in the Joseon dynastic period, at the turn of the 17th century.

While it very much looks like a sweeping historical epic, full of power struggles in the royal, it's also a zombie horror which sees Kingdom's characters battle against a plague that threatens to consume everything.

Share your TV and movies obsessions | @wenleima

Originally published as You've been watching Netflix wrong



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