TG4 has been gaining a reputation as one of the best TV stations in Ireland because of it’s programming and documentaries. And while in this bloger’s personal opinion that is well deserved there is a huge elephant in the room.
Subtitles. Yes, notwithstanding fiscal restraints and the need to import cheap programming from abroad, there is a hardened policy of open subtitling (non removable) of all Irish and English language content, and it’s not helping.
Why? Well when there are subtitles people are drawn to them as this synopsis points out. And if they’re in English only then people will tend to read them and process them rather than listen to what is being said. This does not help native speakers but hinders them. Likewise with learners. But it does make Irish language programming more appealing to the vast majority of monoglot English speakers in Ireland.
But hang on a minute, we’re in the digital age, are we not? Well, yes we are and that means that all TV channels are now digital and as such the provision of subtitles in Irish, English or none at all is only really a button away.
So why doesn’t TG4 or BBC Alba for that matter, just give people the option of Gaelic, English or no subtitles. It would really help all learners improve their language skills by watching programming in Irish and it would make a lot of native speakers happy not to have to read the English subtitles. It would also keep the rest of the population happy as they could just use the English subtitles as they are right now.
On a slight tangent though, much has been made of young people in Irish speaking communities having better English than Irish. Well if they’re forced to read subtitles on even Irish language programming from the only TV channel available to them then it’s not surprising that their grasp of English is better than their grasp of written Irish.
So why not make the TV world a better place for native speakers, learners and English monoglots by just introducing a button.