Subtitling foreign films on Georgian TV? Thanks, but no thanks!

The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are often given as examples of countries where the populations have a good knowledge of foreign languages. One of the explanations can be that TV shows and films are shown in their original language in these countries. Learning a foreign language is easier if you hear people speaking the language, not only in the classroom. Many agree that being exposed to other languages on the TV and in the cinemas can speed up the language learning process.

After Georgian, Russian remains the most spoken language in Georgia. According to a nationwide survey on European integration conducted by CRRC in 2009, 32 percent of the population describes their Russian language skills as advanced while only five percent rate their English skills similarly (Figure 1).

Figure 1. English and Russian language skills.

The Georgian government is determined to improve the English language skills of the population through various initiatives. One of them is the Teach and Learn with Georgia program that has the goal to recruit 1,000 native English speakers to teach English to Georgian schoolchildren. Introducing a new subtitling policy can be seen as another initiative in the same direction. Since October 2009, licensed TV stations are obliged to show 30 percent of the foreign movies in their original language with Georgian subtitles. What does the Georgian population think about this idea?

Using subtitles instead of voice translation does not appeal to the majority of the Georgian population. According to the European integration survey, only ten percent support a subtitling policy and as much as two-thirds fully disagree with such policy (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Support of subtitling policy.

After asking whether the respondents agree or disagree with the subtitle policy, CRRC presented several arguments that are used in favour of subtitles and against voice translation. Three of these arguments concern learning languages. 

Only four percent of the Georgian population find the argument that subtitles in films combine entertainment and education fully persuasive. A similarly low percentage buys the argument that subtitles teach languages efficiently. Georgians are also not convinced by the argument that the Scandinavian countries have used a similar subtitling policy with great success, and that Scandinavians know many languages. One-fourth of the respondents do not find this argument persuasive at all and only three percent say it is very persuasive. Out of all the arguments the respondents were presented with, the one they found most persuasive was: For the future of our economy and to create jobs, we should understand the newest technology. We need to keep up with the world and learn languages. Ten percent believe that is a very persuasive argument. 
After being presented with these arguments the respondents were asked in which way they had changed their opinions about using subtitles instead of voice translation: ten percent of the respondents said they liked the idea of subtitling better than they did before they heard the arguments. The majority did, however, not change their opinion. 

According to an article in the Resonance Daily, it is not only the Georgian population that shows little interest in the idea of using subtitles instead of voice translation; the Georgian TV stations also seem to be against subtitling for reasons ranging from costs to viewers’ convenience. Have the opinions of the Georgian population changed since the subtitling policy enforcement? Is it a question of getting used to a new way of consuming movies? We welcome your thoughts on this issue.

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