Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Quest for French Literacy

There was a time, during the level 2 of my French studies that I was convinced that I would never be able to read French. After about 3 or 4 sentences, my mind would just go on a vacation to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. I was persuaded to quit my pursuit of French proficiency. Then the money-minded element of my head told me that quitting would be equivalent to a waste of money! Now that was good motivation to continue. But it still did not solve my problem of having a slight headache while reading French; I just couldn’t read.

I then told myself that it would be advisable to concentrate on the Listening skills for a while. Since I reckoned that babies learn to talk due to prolonged auditory exposure to language, I subjected myself to a blitzkrieg of French songs and movies. It would also cause an annoyance. I plainly could not comprehend the sounds that the French people produced from their throats and mouths! Now I had to discipline myself. There was no way I was going to give up. So I started watching the French movies and cartoons along with the French sub-titles, hoping that I would understand the dialogues that way. So I discontinued French reading for a while. 2 weeks later, I read an article (not in French) in the Times of India. It changed my approach towards improving my reading skills.

This article was titled Power of subtitles and was written by Gurcharan Das. It spoke about the efforts of Dr. Brij Kothari and his work with DoorDarshan. This project is about subtitling of songs on DD shows like Rangoli, Chayageet and Chitrahaar. The viewer subconsciously associates the spoken word with the words displayed on screen, thus practicing reading in an unobtrusive and hassle-free manner. It involves no extra cost or time investment for the viewer. This method effectively increases literacy levels even with just 30 minutes of exposure to such programs every week. Thanks to Dr. Kothari’s mission, a Nielsen-ORG survey, conducted in 2002 and 2007 to measure the influence of subtitling, showed that only 25% school children could read a simple paragraph in Hindi after five years of education. However, this soared to 56% if they also watched subtitled songs for 30 minutes a week on Rangoli. Similarly remarkable outcomes were reported among adults.

This convinced me that I was on the right track and my methodology was perfectly sound. From that day onwards, I watched 2 French movies or animated films, along with the French subtitles weekly. That amounted to nearly 5 to 6 hours of French audio and visual exposure per week. I did that for 4 months. My efforts paid of in January 2008; I managed to read the French novel, L’Africain of J.M.G. Le Clezio in 10 days! I had become perfectly literate in French. J’ai devenu francophone! I wrote about this to Dr. Brij Kothari on his website http://www.planetread.org/home.php. He wrote back saying that my experience mirrored his own while he was learning Spanish. That was seriously cool. According to AC Nielsen’s ORG-Center for Social Research, there are nearly 312 million early-literates and 444 million non-literates in India. This estimated number of non-literates is significantly higher than the official figure of 296.2 million. I wish all channels start sub-titling their shows. Everyone stands to win. Channels get better TRPs. Higher literacy levels means better levels of income that translates into higher sales for advertisers. That is fantastic motivation to speed up India’s conquest of 100% literacy and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

12 comments:

ach_85 said...

hmm... good idea yaar. I suggest the idea of watching English movies and sitcoms to my friends struggling with angrezi.

In fact let me set some examples and also use this idea to learn my dream language.
Do they have bhojpuri movies with subtitles in English. ( or hindi:P )

Natalia said...

Hmm Bhojpuri dreams...well to start with, you can ask those Mahua channel guys to start subtitling their programs. There are channels also in Bhojpuri also. It seems like you are planning to give Ravi Kishen a run for his money!

Bhushan said...

wonderful idea!

Bhushan said...

would use it for my german lessons.
would be nice to see ppl literate with this approach in India too :)

resilient said...

Today I got to know that you are writing blogs too.. it has motivated me to listen and learn..hope so this will last till I learn.

ashutosh shah said...

hey natalia ........... this post of yours is interesting ....... thats why i do like watching 7 jours sur la planete with subtitles ............

Natalia said...

That's greatAshutosh...sept jours sur la planete is a really useful programme but the edition on TV does not have sub-titles. Anyway, lets keep watching.

Nirav said...

Dear Natalia,

I'll start with one small correction. Its not " J’ai devenu francophone" but "Je suis devenu francophone" ;)

LOL, with that sorted what you did intuitively to pick up French is extremely sound scientifically. I am the COO of PlanetRead and we have more than 10 years worth of data where we track thousands of people who are exposed to SLS (Same Language Subtitling) and those who are not. The difference in their improvement is astounding! If any of you want the numbers and research do visit our website: http://www.planetread.org/research.php

Natalia, thanks spreading the concept for SLS. I believe it is one of the simplest ways for anyone to pick up a language!

Et Natalia, a partir d'aujourd'hui nous pouvon parler entre nous en Français :)

Natalia said...

Thank you Nirav for writing in and thanks for the correction also. I was really impressed my this technique and hence tried it on myself first. I am currently using it for learning Spanish! I try and tell as many people as possible about this method. I do hope the Indian government make this compulsory on all channels so that everyone benefits from it. Et oui, nous pouvons parler entre nous en Francais! ;)

Hispanos y Español en India said...

Hola Natalia! Muchas gracias por tu articulo... es muy interesante y estoy segura de que puede ayudar a muchos estudiantes.. lo voy a colgar en la pagina de facebook del instituto hispania por si le interesa a alguno de los estudiantes de espanol vale????
un beso y hasta pronto
Blanca

apeksha.dhingra said...

Hey this could be the idea of the next movie of Aamir Khan. Don't you make this public (they will steal your idea!) Just kidding girlie. :-p Loved ur inspiration and love for the French language and culture! Way to go girl! Good luck! Que dieu te benise! :-)

kasturi said...

Hey! i AM KASTURI. THANKS A TONN FOR A BRIKLLIANT IDEA. I AM LEARNING SPANISH AND WAS TRYING TO INCREase my reading and listening skills both. i think u have showed me a way!!!! MUCHAS gRACIAS!

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