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India: How “Bollywood” Music Videos Are Boosting Literacy

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Unable to read newspapers or fill out simple forms to receive government assistance and access other services, she never thought she would improve her economic and social status.

With the help of a program known as Same Language Subtitling (SLS) for Mass Literacy, Yashodaben is gaining basic reading skills by watching televised “Bollywood” music videos. Using subtitling technology, SLS is helping Yashodaben improve her reading skills by letting her both listen to, and read, the words of her favorite songs.

Created by a literacy professor at the Indian Institute of Management (IIMA), SLS was originally launched as a pilot project in 1997. In 2002, SLS became a Development Marketplace grant recipient, and was subsequently boosted with a $250,000 grant award.

The Development Marketplace (DM) is a grant program that provides initial funding for resourceful ideas and encourages partnerships among NGOs, businesses, development banks and governments. It was launched by the World Bank as a recognition that solutions to development challenges can have small beginnings, and are often found by those living closest to local problems.

 


Updated: November 2003

Lyrics of songs are perfectly synchronized with Hindi subtitles, so when the lyrics change, so do the colors of the written words. This simple but powerful technique builds on people’s knowledge of the lyrics, enabling partially literate people to anticipate the subtitles and read along.

The Indian Institute of Management partnered with Doordarshan, India’s state broadcasting agency, and the Indian Space Research Organization to provide Hindi subtitles on Chitrahaar, a nationally televised music video program in August 2002.

Now, the SLS version of Chitrahaar is 90 percent more popular than the traditional non-subtitled version, and Chitrahaar’s overall ratings have increased by 18 percent since subtitling has been added.

There is now a demand for SLS to be replicated in other Indian states, on national television programs and in other languages.

Since its inception in 1998, Development Marketplace has funded more than 330 projects in 54 countries with investments of more than $16 million.

 




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