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Ongoing Projects
Same Language Subtitling on National Television:

Expected results:

Presently, the viewership of existing Hindi film-song programs on Doordarshan India (DDI), such as Chitrahaar, is around 140 million people. DDI's viewership also tends to be rural and falls within the lower socio-economic categories. 70% of the 140 million strong audience that we expect to attract is likely to be partially literate. Therefore, a weekly telecast of a 30 minute programme of Hindi film songs on national television, with SLS, will give around 100 million early literates, 30 minutes of reading practice every week. The numbers are only limited by television penetration, which is growing rapidly. Innumerable other non-literates will be motivated toward literacy, pre-reading children will get print exposure and school-going children get reading reinforcement at home.

Focus on Innovation:

Post Literacy (PL) and Continuing Education (CE) in India have primarily depended on "formalized" approaches, such as through, learning centers and libraries. Skill development has not been integrated with everyday life generally, although there have been isolated attempts on a small scale to circulate wallpapers and newspapers for early literates. These options have inevitable proven to be resource intensive, often failing to sustain the interest of early literates.

The use of television to expressly impart literacy skill practice through songs, is unprecedented in India and, possibly, anywhere in the world (closed-captioning in the US comes closest but its design and use are for the hearing disadvantaged; Karaoke is primarily in bars for the entertainment of a literate audience). SLS has relevance anywhere in the world where music-videos are enjoyed on TV and literacy skills are low. The project is innovative because of the plethora of benefits packed into something as deceptively simple as SLS:

  • SLS makes reading inescapable (d'Ydewalle et al., 1991 have proven this point through sophisticated eye-ball tracking); creates automatic and reflex reading in everyday entertainment.
  • The idea builds on people's existing knowledge of lyrics, enabling early literates to anticipate the subtitles and read along; the inherent repetition in songs makes them ideal for practice.
  • SLS is a simple addition that leverages popular culture to make a nation the size of India, read.
  • The idea has never been tried in popular culture, for first language literacy, on such a mass scale.
  • SLS enhances the entertainment value of song-based programs, it is a win-win solution for entertainment and education. Literate people enjoy because they get to know/clarify the lyrics.
  • SLS is simple to implement given the existing and ever-growing resource of film songs.
  • SLS leverages film songs, a genre of programming already consumed in abundance on television.
  • A unique subtitling method has been developed, specifically for literacy improvement among early literates while also enhancing entertainment for all.
  • A financially sustainable model is proposed for lifelong literacy skill improvement.
  • SLS also helps the deaf and hard of hearing by making television programming more accessible;
  • The scope for replicability in India with different languages and in other countries, including the developed world, is enormous.

Finally, the idea is ridiculously inexpensive in relation to its mass impact. SLS of one Hindi film song program shown nationally on prime time, is expected to give 30 minutes of weekly reading practice to around 100 million partially literate people, at a cost of US$ 0.0065 per person per year. (Basis for calculation: 52 episodes x $12,500 per episode / 100,000,000 viewers. Takes into account TV penetration among early literates.)

SLS for literacy is new but not untested. The proponent has pilot-tested and evaluated the contribution of SLS to reading skills (see next section, 8c). That SLS should enhance literacy among early literates is echoed in several studies on the use of closed-captioning in second language learning and deaf education (e.g., Koskinen et al. 1986, Koskinen et. al 1985, Neuman and Koskinen 1992, Borras and Lafayette 1994, Carney and Verlinde 1987, Froehlich 1988, Lambert 1986, Bean and Wilson 1989, Holobow et al. 1984, Vanderplank 1988, 1990). Generally it is reported that closed-captioning contributes to second-language acquisition, reading improvement, listening comprehension development, vocabulary enrichment, and even speaking performance. However, these studies were conducted with fully literate people and that is why, SLS is a project in virgin territory.

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Same Language Subtitling on Television

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