How would you like 'Sholay' (the original Hindi version) with Hindi subtitles? Or, how about 'Nayakan' or 'Anniyan' with Tamil subtitles? Makes you wonder why, doesn't it? It has a great value in helping people become literate, says Dr. Brij Kothari, President of PlanetRead, an Indian NGO that received a grant from the Google Foundation.
More than 500 million people in India have access to TV and 40 percent of these viewers have low literacy skills and are poor. Through PlanetRead’s approach, over 200 million early-literates in India are getting weekly reading practice from Same Language Subtitling (SLS) using TV. The cost of SLS? Every U.S. dollar covers regular reading for 10,000 people – for a year.
I hit upon this idea in 1996 through a most ordinary personal experience. While taking a break from dissertation writing at Cornell University, I was watching a Spanish film with friends to improve my Spanish. The Spanish movie had English subtitles, and I remember commenting that I wished it came with Spanish subtitles, if only to help us grasp the Spanish dialogue better. I then thought, ‘And if they just put Hindi subtitles on Bollywood songs in Hindi, India would become literate.’ That idea became an obsession. It was so simple, intuitively obvious, and scalable in its potential to help hundreds of millions of people read -- not just in India, but globally. So you can see how it works, we’ve uploaded some folk songs using SLS into Google Video. And we've uploaded other examples there as well.