Literacies Circle:  Same Language Subtitling

Recently, I came across this piece on captioning for both television and streaming services. I knew all along that many of my hearing friends and family find that they benefit from same language subtitling as enriching to their listening experiences for many reasons.

However, I’ve had extensive experience with captions since 1993. Granted, I was a young adult and already a proficient and voracious reader. At the time, law required that all televisions larger than 13 inches or larger to have a built-in closed caption decoder.

Who remembers 13-inch televisions?!

But at the time, it didn’t mean that all shows were actually captioned. It wasn’t until 1997 that the FCC required video programming distributers to increase the amount of captioned programming. And finally, by 1998, the law was amended to make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.  

Automaticity and fluency in reading are closely tied with comprehension. The more fluent one reads (instead of laborious word-by-word reading), the better the comprehension is. Yet, at the same time, the more knowledge one has about a topic, word and sentence reading become more fluent. A literacies circle can discuss benefits (and annoyances) of captioning.

How can captioning improve our reading? Comprehension?

Can we read fast enough to keep up with the captions? Or do we just catch words that we missed hearing?

What about the placement of the captions on the screens? Is it better on the top or bottom? (As an aside, it seems to me that auto-generated captions on Zoom are mightily annoyingly in the middle, streaming right across a presenter’s face!)

How about the font? White letters with black background? Or just black letters?

Does both reading and listening help with your recall and memory?

What about vocabulary? Does reading a specific word while listening cement your understanding of its meaning?

What about transcripts? Is reading a separate transcript along with trying to watch a video feasible? Do they work better for radio segments?

Many online children’s books highlight words as they are read aloud. How does this help or deter their ability to learn to read?

What about translation subtitles for movies and videos spoken in a different language? Does it help us learn a new language? Or even read a new language?

How do we compare and contrast the old black and white silent movies with today’s movies? The amount of action? Dialogue?

And what about people who are blind and need descriptions of visual references?

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