Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Value of Closed Captioning for Reading Proficiency

I was browsing on Twitter today and this article caught my attention: Closed Captioning: An 'Undervalued" Method for Reading Improvement. I am bilingual in English and Spanish and I am an excellent reader in both languages. I grew up in Mexico and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology of Education. All my education was in the Spanish language. Nevertheless, when you go to the movie theater in Spanish, you have a choice to watch a movie captioned in the original language or doubled to your native language. I watched most movies with captions in English. My love for the English language started at the movies. Later I decided to formally study English as a Second Language. 

Watching captioned movies is an instructional technique. Foreign language teachers would tell us to do this all the time: listen to music in English while looking at the lyrics, and immersing ourselves in the language we wanted to learn. 
Up to this day, as a Spanish teacher I still use the captioning method for watching movies as an instructional tool. Spanish 1 and 2 students are allowed to hear the movie in English but they have captions in Spanish or the other way around. If I want to challenge students, I play the movie in Spanish with Spanish subtitles and they have to write down words they see and they listen to in Spanish. We call it "focused listening". 

This is a great tool to explore for struggling readers or students with learning disabilities. It makes sense that listening to and seeing the word in print while enjoying a movie the learner likes might boost reading proficiency. 


  1. In addition to turning on captioning, I have also enjoyed turning on "English Descriptive Service". This is usually in the Setup part of the DVD, and turns on a verbal description of what is happening visually. I don't know if it is available in other languages, but it is certainly a rich, vocabulary-building experience when I turn it on for my students, and for my own children.

  2. This sounds like a great tool to provide context and reinforce language learning.