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Posts Tagged ‘subtitle

Today I link a pop-culture phenomenon and the importance of nuanced expertise.

Like many other Netflix subscribers, I enjoyed Squid Game. But I was surprised to learn that it was ten years in the making and almost did not happen.

I also appreciated the critique of the show’s english subtitles. Some references just got lost in translation. As a result, those of us that were not fluent in Korean lost social and emotional context.

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The video above featured several examples by a Korean language professor.

For example, I loved the analysis of the use of “hyung” or a social elder brother. The subtitles simply indicated that the character of Ali called his friend’s name. However, the audio clearly indicated that he was also using this term of close kinship. Knowing the meaning of hyung made Ali’s betrayal and death even more impactful.

It took a language professor to explain this nuance. A subtle cannot realistically capture such a cultural reference and so much was lost in translation. But we have the benefit of an expert’s analysis if we seek it out.

I see a parallel in pedagogical design. I might use a strategy like cooperation within heterogeneous groups. An outside observer might simplistically “subtitle” this as a collaborative activity. They could not be more wrong.

My strategy does not go as far as collaboration; it is realistically levelled at brief and task-based cooperation. The student groupings comprise of intentionally different learner skills or abilities. There is more thought and skill in my design than meets the eye.

The designs of my lessons are no where near complexity of Squid Game. But they might be just as subtle. You only have to ask, unpack, and learn.

Today I reflect on the importance of appreciating context.

I probably watched more than my fair share of streaming video programmes during lockdown. I watched several shows that were not in English, e.g., Dark (German), Kingdom (Korean), Money Heist (Spanish), various Miyazaki animations (Japanese), and more.

I listened to the soundtrack of those non-English shows in their original language and had the benefit of English subtitles. I could have activated the English soundtracks, but I found them oddly disconcerting — they did not seem to suit the context.

It was more difficult to watch while reading subtitles, but I was experiencing the narratives in context. The voiceovers seemed to remove expressions and nuance. Think of it this way: Imagine watching the Singaporean comedy series Phua Chu Kang as voiced by British voice actors!

Not appreciating shows in the language they were originally spoken is like like travelling overseas but not taking in the local customs and food. You can insist on having your own way, but what then is the point of travelling?

How is this relevant to learning? Just about anything worth teaching and learning has context. Such context should precede content. But in our rush to cover curriculum (whose root word means “to race”) we focus on content at the expense of context. Context focuses on narratives and the reasons for learning that context.

Since teachers often do not bother with context (or perhaps do not even know the context), I wonder if there might be a way to subtitle teaching as it happens online and electronically. I am not just talking about hyperlinking interesting talking points. I am thinking about subtitles that run like chyrons so that context enriches content as it is delivered and discovered.


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