By Anumeha Yadav
For more than a decade, Brij Kothari’s Same Language Subtitling (SLS) has offered reading practice to more than 200 million Doordarshan viewers. The idea of spreading language fluency through television struck Kothari while watching a Spanish film with English subtitles. He realised that same language subtitles would provide inescapable reading practice as it does not distract the viewer from the context. SLS allows weak readers to hone their language skills and is now a regular feature of popular Hindi programmes like Chitrahaar and Rangoli, still the weekend staple of Bollywood fare for millions of viewers. Seven regional language DD channels also telecast songs with same language subtitles and as transliteration of Hindi in places like Gujarat. Like many other initiatives, this too had its doubters. “The standard response was that it was too simple, and must have been tried and seen to fail,” recalls Kothari, an adjunct faculty at IIM-A, who is working to get SLS adopted in education policy. Survey data proves that ability to read at grade 2 level more than doubled among weak readers who had been watching songs with subtitles in five states and reduced the number of non-readers by over half.