Reading Out of the “Idiot Box”: Same-Language Subtitling on Television in India

Brij Kothari, Avinash Pandey, Amita R. Chudgar


Same Language Subtitling (SLS) is the idea of subtitling the lyrics of songbased television programs (e.g., music videos), in the same language as the audio. Situated in a literature review of subtitling, this article describes the first-ever implementation of SLS on a TV program of film songs, specifically for first-language literacy. Chitrageet, a weekly 30-minute TV program of Gujarati film songs, was telecast across Gujarat state in India, with the lyrics subtitled in Gujarati. We discuss the results of the pilot study to test the effectiveness of SLS of film songs on the reading skills of out-of-school people. With limited exposure to SLS within a telecast period of 6 months, SLS was found to make an incremental but measurable contribution to decoding skills, across the group that generally saw the subtitled TV program (as compared to those who did not). Viewer testimonies further strengthen the case for SLS beyond quantifiable improvement, as a simple and economical idea for infusing everyday television entertainment with reading and writing (or scriptacy) transactions. The potential of SLS in India and other countries is enormous. The idea is especially powerful in popular culture for scriptacy skill improvement, motivation of nonscriptates, increasing viewers' exposure and interaction with print from early childhood, and increasing media access among the deaf.


Same Language Subtitling (SLS); TV program of film songs; India; Decoding Skills

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