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A Small Thing That Has a Staggering Effect on People's Lives

Michael Gallagher
Michael Gallagher
Posted in Zoom Feb 18 · 21 Feb, 2016
A Small Thing That Has a Staggering Effect on People's Lives

More than 785 million people won't read this text simply because they are incapable of reading. While struggling with the global illiteracy problem, a brilliant idea emerged in India. Same Language Subtitling (SLS) is a powerful way to teach people to read through singing their favorite Bollywood songs – subtitled!

India is among the world’s most illiterate countries (check out the World Illiteracy Map here: Although plenty of Indian people can't read, the sunny side of it is they are intuitive singers and apparently obsessed with Bollywood movies. Watching TV and singing their mega hits with subtitles stimulates local communities to enhance their reading abilities:

  • Those lyrics are already known by heart.
  • The subtitles illustrate how the sung words are written.
  • Hence, matching the subtitles with the meaning of the words becomes an automatic, subconscious process.

What is more, listening to the most popular songs is entertaining and building up community spirit. People sit in one room and watch TV all together. Learning comes easy, and it delivers loads of fun for everyone.

This seemingly simple innovation (massive karaoke for reading) is already providing regular and imminet reading practice to 200 million weak readers in India. Initiated in 2000 by PlanetRead, a non-profit organization in India and USA, the SLS program has accomplished many honorable awards. President Bill Clinton, founder of Clinton Global Initiative, nicely highlighted this program: “Same Language Subtitling doubles the number of functional readers among primary school children. A small thing that has a staggering effect on people’s lives”.


We’d like to share with you this catchy video reportage about SLS in India. It reveals what SLS is about better than any explanations. See it with your own eyes – watching TV and singing the most acclaimed Bollywood songs all at once is a massively delightful everyday ritual!