There was a time, a few years back, where in order to make your [gnome] mplayer to show Hebrew, Arabic or another kind of RtL language subtitles, you would have to first install another package called fribidi. A package which implements the Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm (bidi) for free.
The reason I say “was” is because nowadays fribidi has become a dependency for installing MPlayer and its derivatives (Gnome-MPlayer, SMPlayer, etc…). So if fribidi is already there, then why isn’t the subtitles being displayed correctly nevertheless?
Well, the answer is simple, after removing the fribidi obstacle out of your way there are still 2 main hurdles you must cross, but don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it might sound.
How to fix
Obstacle #1 – Encoding
The first obstacle you’ll need to remove out of your way is the encoding type. Choose the correct encoding by going to Gnome-MPlayer preferences and selecting the suitable one for you. Since we’re talking about Gnome-MPlayer, I’ll assume you have Totem (Gnome Videos) installed on your system by default.
Go to Videos prefrences first if you’re not sure what is your language encoding type, you’ll find it under General tab, just click on the encoding array and scroll until you reach your specific language, hover over it for a few seconds till you see the encoding type.
For example, under Hebrew you should see: Hebrew Visual (ISO-8859-8). The important part, is what’s inside the brackets.
After you learned what’s your language encoding right type, go inside Gnome-MPlayer Edit > Preferences and select the encoding under both Language Settings and Subtitles tabs.
Now you should see the correct letters of your language and not just some bunch of incomprehensible gibberish. When you reach this point you might discover another issue separates you and your desired result.
Obstacle #2 – LtR instead of RtL
In case you are seeing the correct language but the words are spelled from left to right instead of RtL, you’ll need to go into Edit > Preferences and select MPlayer tab, In here, past the following code under “Extra Options to MPlayer:”
Note: even if your language is not Hebrew, such as Arabic or another it should still work, so just paste it as it is with any Right-to-Left language.
Another important thing to note is, if you see the commas and question marks are not in their rightful place try pasting this code instead / after the other one: