Television subtitles and literacy: where do we go from here?
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Subtitling is a valuable tool for improving literacy and aiding language learning, but what happens when people are unable to read the subtitles? In a recent study on the reading of second language subtitles, participants were shown a subtitled short film while their eye movements were recorded by an SMI iViewX Hi-Speed eye tracker. It was found that Sesotho mother tongue speakers did not possess the necessary reading skills to read either first language (L1) Sesotho or second language (L2) English subtitles efficiently in terms of reading speed and comprehension participants spent a disproportionate amount of time reading the L2 English subtitles (74%) and even more time reading the L1 Sesotho subtitles (83%). Even then, participants were unable to finish reading the L1 Sesotho subtitles an average of 3.43 (SD 2.21) words were not read in each of the Sesotho subtitles. In an effort to answer the questions as to how effective subtitling is in South Africa and to what extent literacy is a barrier in the communication of information, this paper offers detailed findings on the reading of L1 and L2 subtitles in a multilingual environment and explores optimal subtitle presentation for the South African viewing public.
- Faculty of Humanities