Ways of increasing literacy: in India, Karaoke with same-language subtitles

Watch and learn

As the Boston Globe writes, music videos are trigerring a literacy boom in India.

Read the Full Article | The Boston Globe – Watch and learn. By Riddhi Shah

[…] Nine years ago, India’s national television network decided to introduce karaoke-style subtitles to these programs — not in a foreign language, but in Hindi, the language the stars were singing in. The first state to broadcast the subtitles was Gujarat. People in Khodi, and in the rest of the state, saw the captions as an opportunity to sing along with the songs. They began paying attention to the moving strip of lyrics at the bottom of the screen. Often, they would copy the words on paper, going back to them after the show was over. And as they did, the reading level in Khodi slowly improved.

According to Hema Jadvani, a researcher who has been studying the effects of the subtitles on Khodi, newspaper reading in the village has gone up by more than 50 percent in the last decade. Her research also shows that the village’s women, who can now read bus schedules themselves, are more mobile, and more children are opting to stay in school.

India’s public karaoke-for-literacy experiment is the only one of its kind in the world. Technically known as same-language subtitling, or SLS, it manages to reach 200 million viewers across 10 states every week. In the last nine years, functional literacy in areas with SLS access has more than doubled. And the subtitles have acted as a catalyst to quadruple the rate at which completely illiterate adults become proficient readers.

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