After our recent post on the use of Bollywood style film for instructional videos, we got a note about a kindred educational tool, applying same language subtitles (SLS) to films as a way to improve literacy -- not a brand new method, but a brilliantly simple and effective one. According to PlanetRead, one of the pioneering organizations in this field, SLS was first introduced on Indian television in 1999, broadcast with Bollywood songs. The visual association of written words with familiar song lyrics proved incredibly successful, making the process automatic and subconscious, as well as cost-effective. They found that "every US dollar spent on subtitling a nationally telecast program of Hindi film songs, gives 30 minutes of weekly reading practice to 10,000 people, for a year."
PlanetRead was founded by Dr. Brij Kothari as part of Stanford's Digital Vision fellowship, and is now based in California and India. The site allows users to select from ten different languages to view "Karaoke style" clips of Bollywood films and shows. PlanetRead was awarded recognition and support from Google's charitable arm in late 2005 to help increase their outreach.
SLS is now a model for mass literacy outside of India, as well, and PlanetRead has plans to establish year-long pilot programs in other parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The program's success depends in part, of course, on the degree of television broadcasting penetration in any given area, and on local leadership for getting the programs set up. But for areas that may lack television but have internet access, they have also launched a Beta site for a new online SLS program called DesiLassi. This is SLS 2.0 -- an interactive online video tool for learning to read, listening to Bollywood tunes, and then rating, ranking, sharing and adding clips to diversify the material and distribute it even more widely. No doubt this hits with fantastic precision at the intersection of cultural, generation and technological trends of the moment, turning a vital skill into a natural component of every day entertainment.
It's good to see this concept get some attention. Given the extent to which television pervades any number of societies struggling with literacy, it's good to be on the lookout for strategies of all kinds.
For an article from youth literacy expert Jim Trelease on same-language subtitling as a tool for literacy, see:
Same language subtitling (SLS) is one of essential way to educate people.
But wrong text/adaption can be deterrent to such process.
Closed-Captioning should also be implemented in countries like India for the deaf/heard of hearing population.