Same language subtitling

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Brij Kothari speaking to a group in rural India

Same language subtitling (SLS) refers to the practice of subtitling programs on TV in the same language as the audio. This method of subtitling is used by national television broadcasters in India, such as Doordarshan, and in China. This idea was struck upon by Brij Kothari, who believed that SLS makes reading practice an incidental, automatic, and subconscious part of popular TV entertainment, at a low per-person cost to shore up literacy rates in India.[1][2]

SLS also refers to the classroom or educational use of synchronized captioning of musical lyrics (or any text with an Audio and/or Video source) as a Repeated Reading activity. The basic SLS reading activity involves students viewing a short subtitled presentation projected onscreen, while completing a response worksheet. Ideally, the subtitling should have high quality synchronization of audio and text, and text should change color in syllabic synchronization to audio model, and the source media should be dynamic and engaging.[3]


Brij Kothari was watching a Spanish film on video with English subtitles during a break from dissertation writing in 1996 when the thought hit him that if all Hindi film songs were subtitled in Hindi, on television in India, it would bring about a revolution in literacy. Upon completion of his academic pursuits Kothari returned to India. In late 1996 he joined the faculty of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. While continuing to teach communication to MBA students, he started work on SLS and it became a project of IIM. The idea of SLS was first innovated, researched, pioneered and nationalized by the Centre for Educational Innovation, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad under Brij Kothari.[1] The program took off on a national scale by August 2002.[1]

Historically, there have been many attempts to demonstrate that video captioning can impact learning for a wide range of readers. Before Kothari's study, most available research on captioning had demonstrated limited results. As a direct result of Kothari's success with subtitled music video there are several new related studies using technology and music video that are also showing remarkable results. Educational researchers are now advocating the addition of SLS style 'open' subtitling to music video on the web and across the world.


During the last 10 years in India, SLS has been implemented on Doordarshan's film song programmes in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, and Punjabi. For each language the subtitles are in the same language as the audio.[4]

As such SLS creates a "what you hear is what you read" response among viewers, thus, reinforcing weak reading skills automatically and subconsciously.[4]

A 2002–2007 Nielsen-ORG study demonstrated that the ability to read a paragraph among schoolchildren jumped from 25% to 56% when exposed to 30 minutes a week of the Rangoli program with subtitles.[5] Over 90% said they prefer having subtitles on songs owing to their interest in the lyrics.[4][6]

Same language subtitling is also used for BookBox, a social enterprise located in Pondicherry, India, created 'AniBooks', animated stories for children with the narration appearing on-screen as same language subtitles (SLS). BookBox has their videos on their YouTube channel with over 45 stories in 35 languages.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Brij Kothari from Accessed on February 10, 2009
  2. ^ Biswas, Ranjita (2005). Hindi film songs can boost literacy rates in India
  3. ^ McCall, W. (2008). Same-Language-Subtitling and Karaoke: The Use of Subtitled Music as a Reading Activity in a High School Special Education Classroom. In K. McFerrin et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2008 (pp. 1190-1195). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
  4. ^ a b c Literacy for a Billion - Same Language Subtitling on TV for Mass Literacy. Accessed on February 10, 2009
  5. ^ Das, Gurcharan (2008-04-06). "Power of subtitles - MEN & IDEAS - Gurcharan Das". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  6. ^ Kothari, Brij (2000). "10: Same Language Subtitling on Indian Television". Redeveloping Communication for Social Change: Theory, Practice, and Power. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 135-146. ISBN 0-8476-9588-3

Further reading[edit]

  • Kothari, Brij; Takeda, Joe; Joshi, Ashok; Pandey, Avinash (2003). "Chapter 13: Same Language Subtitling: A Butterfly for Literacy?". Reading Beyond the Alphabet. SAGE Publishing. pp. 213–229. ISBN 0-7619-9708-3.
  • Classroom use of SLS

External links[edit]