Same Language Subtitles (SLS) is simply the concept of video subtitles in the same language as the audio. What you hear is what you read.

A nation of weak readers can be transformed into a nation of fluent readers. We conceived SLS for mass reading in 1996 at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA). PlanetRead has served as the backbone of the SLS project since 2004 when it was founded separately as a non profit in both India and the US.

PlanetRead and the SLS project at IIMA have run numerous SLS pilots on TV in Indian languages, built the evidence base, and championed SLS.

Co-Impact’s design grant nudged us to recast the SLS project as the Billion Readers (BIRD) initiative (BIRD@IIMA). BIRD proposes the integration of SLS with video-based entertainment and education content for reading literacy at a transformative scale.

Lyrics and children

Eye-tracking studies have shown that SLS exposure causes automatic and effortless reading practice even among weak readers. The evidence from pilot studies of SLS implementation on TV in eight Indian languages (Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada & Punjabi) is strong. Regular SLS exposure results in steadily improving reading skills among all viewers: children in and out of school, youth, and adults especially women and girls.

The gendered challenge to literacy makes it pertinent to design an intervention that is the least disruptive in women’s everyday life. Building on our rich evidence, we envision, for instance, a female weak reader burdened with responsibilities who switches on TV (and hence, switches on entertainment infused with reading practice), gradually becoming a functional reader without having to socially expose her reading ability.

Field Pictures