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.