intersub, learning english from watching films, interactive movie subtitles

InterSub: Improving English Through Interactive Video Subtitles

You know that I’m always on the lookout for new apps to aid in learning English. Recently, I stumbled upon one that offers an interesting approach to learning through interactive video subtitles. It allows you to quickly grasp unfamiliar words while watching videos on Netflix, YouTube or Coursera.

What is InterSub?

Have you ever struggled to understand what they are saying in the movie?

InterSub is a smart internet browser extension which allows you to see a English transcript or translation into your language of movies you watch on Netflix, YouTube or Coursera.

Not only that – you can save new words learned, make a list and learn them in your favourite vocabulary learning app (okay, not your favourite app, because in Speakingo app we learn whole sentences not just words!)

Look how InterSub works in this video presentation:

Intrigued by its seamless functionality, I decided to reach out to the developers to learn more about their journey, vision, and plans. Join me in welcoming Kirill, the founder of

Improving English Through Interactive Video Subtitles (interview with Kirill Rozhkovskiy from InterSub)

dr Greg Kay: So, Kirill, can you tell us about your journey and how you came up with the idea for InterSub?

Kirill Rozhkovskiy: Well, English has always been a bit of a challenge for me. I didn’t receive a proper education in English at school, as we lived in a remote town where qualified teachers were scarce. Even when we had teachers, their English competence was questionable. I didn’t pursue English at university either, but afterwards I realized that I still needed it – I had plans to travel around the world and dreams of launching a startup in the USA.

So, I embarked on a journey to learn English. I have taken various courses, both long and short, traditional and alternative. I had a personal tutor and tried to learn from books. The need of memorization made me sick, and the biggest challenge was making learning a consistent habit. I found it hard to dedicate time to language learning as my work and personal life always took precedence.

Greg: It sounds like a common struggle for many. Did you ever feel like giving up during this time?

Kirill: I was on the verge of thinking that way, yes, haha. But later, I discovered that I wasn’t alone in this predicament. There’s a whole category of individuals like me, often dubbed “lazy learners” because they desire to learn a language but are unwilling to alter their daily routines.

But I pressed on. I went to New York because of my startup and hoped that English would somehow magically cling to me just because I would be there. However, that didn’t happen. I found myself in an environment, where my friends were speaking my mother tongue most of the time. It’s hard to immerse yourself in English when you’re deeply engrossed in a startup during the acceleration program, and you barely have time for anything else.

That time I already watched TV series regularly, which was my form of rest. I decided to watch them in English, initially with subtitles in my native language, but as it didn’t work, I switched to English subtitles, and that’s when I started making real progress.

I also resumed lessons with my tutor, but watching videos played a significant role. It allowed me to immerse myself in an English-speaking environment daily, effectively tripling my practice time during a week. My tutor recommended a service where I could simply hover a cursor over an unfamiliar word in subtitles to instantly access its meaning.

Kirill Rozhkovskiy, founder of InterSub

Kirill Rozhkovskiy, founder of InterSub

Greg: It seems like you found a solution that worked for you.

Kirill: Yes, indeed. This helped me develop my listening skills as well as memorize more words and expressions. But as time went on, I started noticing limitations in that product.

Greg: What were the main issues you encountered?

Kirill: The primary issue was the quality of translation. Often, it was machine-generated and lacked context. Translating phrases was particularly problematic; sometimes, there was no translation at all.

I also wished for the ability to sync the saved words with a mobile application for further learning. Statistics and analytics were missing as well. I couldn’t track which words I checked most frequently, making it challenging to prioritize my learning.

Most importantly, I could only watch TV series and movies from a limited service “pirate” library, and I yearned for the same accessibility on platforms like YouTube and others. Since I couldn’t find an alternative, I continued using the existing service. The idea of creating a more advanced service always lingered in my mind, and that “someday” finally arrived in 2022.

That’s when my technical partner and I decided to create a universal solution. A browser plugin that would work seamlessly with YouTube, Netflix, Coursera, and more. After conducting numerous customer interviews, it became evident that there was a demand for such a solution. Many of our interviewees even suggested the idea themselves, envisioning a tool that could enable translation for words in subtitles on any video.

Greg: So, what has InterSub become today?

Kirill: In a nutshell, InterSub is a plugin designed to help users learn English by aligning with their existing habits.

InterSub supports subtitles in videos on popular platforms such as YouTube, Netflix, Coursera, and TED. The app not only translates individual words but also entire phrases that the user clicks on or hovers over, including English phrasal verbs and compound nouns. What sets us apart is that we provide translations in context, something I personally found lacking in other services.

All this data is automatically saved to the user’s Personal Account. We offer analytics on the frequency of queries, so users can identify words that pose a challenge.

And the best part is that InterSub doesn’t limit itself to English. We support translations to and from English, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Czech, and over 30 more languages.

We’ve also integrated with two mobile language apps, allowing users to automatically sync their saved words or manually import them for learning. We’re currently working on integrating with two more apps and two Telegram bots to provide users with a range of choices for word memorization.

Our goal was to create a product that’s user-friendly and intuitive, unlike complex popular language learning platforms. I want to keep it simple but with an attention to details. For instance, in fullscreen mode, we’ve added an auto-pause feature that activates with any mouse movement, not just over the subtitles. The app automatically saves words to the user’s vocabulary, eliminating the need to make an immediate decision about whether to save a word during the watching.

For advanced users, we offer a mode where subtitles appear only during pauses, ensuring they don’t distract from the content. Additionally, every week we send users a list of words they’ve checked most frequently.

Greg: It sounds like you’ve developed a comprehensive tool. But is InterSub a paid solution?

Kirill: It follows a freemium model. On the free plan, users can check up to 10 words a day. We also offer a 7-day trial that unlocks all functionality. For unlimited look-ups, full access to the Personal account, and access to mobile apps for memorizing, users can subscribe to our premium plan, which starts at $4 per month.

Greg: Is InterSub suitable for users at all English proficiency levels?

Kirill: InterSub is best suited for individuals with a language proficiency level of B1 or higher. If someone can’t understand half of the lexis, they might become discouraged from checking words all the time and lose interest in the content. Our ideal users are typically adults with established routines who want to enhance their English skills without drastically altering their daily lives.

While watching videos can’t replace grammar or speaking practice, it can be an invaluable aid. Videos immerse users in the language through natural speech, emotions, context, and real-life objects. InterSub allows users to enjoy the learning process while watching their favorite content.

Greg: What’s next on the horizon for InterSub?

Kirill: The interactive subtitles feature is only the initial step in our journey. We aim to create a holistic language learning solution that aligns with users’ existing habits.

Our goal is to develop an app that covers the entire learning process, from discovering a new word to mastering it. We plan to expand our capabilities to work with various sources, ranging from videos and websites to TV series and foreign media. We’ll also introduce different methods for effectively memorizing new words.

Here are some of our upcoming plans:

  • Recognizing more complex phrasal expressions and idioms. We recently introduced phrasal verbs and nouns, and idioms are the next frontier.
  • Expanding the number of mobile apps and introducing chatbots for word memorization.
  • Offering a feature that substitutes words on websites in the user’s native language with their equivalents from our dictionary, making it easier to learn new words within the context of web content.
  • Leveraging AI for personalized recommendations. For instance, we can suggest contextually relevant unfamiliar words to users based on their viewing history, making the learning process more tailored.
  • Expanding our platform support to include Disney+, Amazon Prime, Udemy, Udacity, Skillshare, and more.

The vision is clear: I want to cater to lazy learners, not because they’re procrastinators, but because we believe language learning should be a seamless and enjoyable part of their daily routine.

Greg: It’s an ambitious roadmap, and it seems like you’re building something substantial. Best of luck with your endeavors, Kirill!

By the way, for all SPEAKINGO blog readers, Kirill has generously offered a special gift:

Additional 14 days of free usage with the coupon code: rssskjfs at checkout.

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