ERIC Identifier: ED372662
Publication Date: 1994-07-00
Author: Parks, Carolyn
Source: Adjunct ERIC Clearinghouse
for ESL Literacy Education Washington DC.
Closed Captioned TV: A Resource for ESL Literacy Education.
It has been four years since the publication of "Closed Captioned Television
for Adult ESL Literacy Learners" (Spanos & Smith, 1990). Since that time,
interest in the subject has been growing among teachers, students, and
researchers. What is new in closed captioned television (CCTV)? Recent
technological, pedagogical, and regulatory developments have heightened
awareness and appreciation of the medium's educational potential. This digest
reports on new captioning legislation that increases access to captioned
programs and on new research, technology, and uses of closed captions in the
field of adult ESL.
INCREASED ACCESS TO CAPTIONED PROGRAMMING
In 1990, Congress
passed the "Television Decoder Circuitry Act" mandating that all new TV sets 13
inches or larger manufactured for sale in the United States have a built-in
computer chip that decodes captions. This eliminates the necessity of buying a
separate decoder (about $150) for this purpose. Sets with the built-in decoder
offer a menu with a "caption option." When this is selected, a written version
of a program's audiotrack is displayed at the bottom of the TV screen. The law
went into effect in July 1993, and the National Captioning Institute (NCI)
estimates that by the end of 1994, 40 million households will have these new
"caption-ready" sets, that will provide free access to the educational benefits
of captioned TV and video ("National Captioning Institute," 1993).
MORE CAPTIONED PROGRAMMING
Educators and learners now have
many captioned programs from which to choose. More than 800 hours of captioned
programming per week (up from 400 in 1990) are broadcast by the major networks,
both public and commercial, and by the cable networks ("National Captioning
Institute," 1993). Almost all primetime TV programming--news, dramas,
documentaries, situation comedies, children's fare, sports events, movies,
commercials, and special reports--is captioned. In addition, thousands of video
programs for home and school viewing are being captioned every year. The level
of language used, age appropriateness, sophistication, and overall quality of
these programs vary widely. The captioning also varies in pacing and in the
degree of correspondence with the spoken text, from verbatim to paraphrased.
Like a new wing in a library, closed captioning provides a new body of reading
material that offers teachers a rich resource and new options for instruction.
The latest research studies on the
benefits of using CCTV with second language learners of all ages continue to
confirm the findings of earlier years (Bean & Wilson, 1989; Goldman & Goldman, 1988). Students using captioned materials show significant improvement
in reading comprehension, listening comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, word
recognition, decoding skills, and overall motivation to read.
Thomas Garza (1991) used verbatim captioning with adult ESL learners and
adult Russian language learners to explore the language learning benefits of
merging spoken and printed text in one medium. He chose short (2-4 minutes),
verbatim, captioned segments from actual Russian and American TV programs which
provided a kind of visual glossary for difficult vocabulary. When, over time, he
tested students' ability to use specific vocabulary from the segments in
retellings of their content, he found significant increases in comprehension of
the segments, as well as recall of the language used in them.
In a study commissioned by the National Captioning Institute, Neuman and
Koskinen (1992) found that using captioned science materials from the television
program "3-2-1 Contact" with Asian and Hispanic seventh and eighth grade ESL
students resulted in higher scores on tests of word knowledge and recall of
science information. These results support the theory that multisensory
processing of the audio, video, and print components of captioned TV enhances
language learning and content.
ESL CLASSROOM APPLICATIONS
Several technological advances
have made the use of captioned materials a less time-consuming activity for
teachers and a rich experience for students. It is now possible to capture the
captions, i.e., transfer them directly to a printer or computer as they appear
on the TV screen. The Scriber system (Pacific Lotus Technologies, PL100 hardware
and software packet) enables the viewer to either print out the captions as they
appear on the screen or save them on the computer in a word processing program
where classroom activities such as the following can be developed: accessing key
words, generating cloze exercises, changing the font and spacing, and converting
upper case letters to lower case (all captioning is done in capital letters).
For example, Tim Rees (1993) at the International Language Institute of
Massachusetts reports success with Chinese and Japanese students of ESL using
CCTV news programs and situation comedies to expand vocabulary, improve
listening comprehension, increase knowledge of current affairs and U.S. culture,
and stimulate class discussions. Rees transcribes the captions on a word
processor and uses the printed-out script of programs students have viewed in
class for classroom and homework reading. He also designs cloze and other
vocabulary activities from TV programs the students view together in class.
Todd Ellsworth (1992), teaching at the Benjamin Franklin Institute in the
Mexican state of Yucatan, where students have little exposure to real English,
uses captioned TV programs received via satellite from the United States. He
divides his classes into three groups to view the same program: The first views
the program without captions; the second with captions; and the third with audio
only (without video or captions). From issues arising during full-class
discussions after the group viewings, Ellsworth designs lessons on grammar and
vocabulary, including idioms and slang; on U.S. cultural expectations and social
etiquette; and on the effects of emotion on stress patterns and pronunciation.
He finds the in-class study of closed captioned programs motivates the learners
to use their second language, English, with greater ease and confidence.
Salvatore Parlato, who works with deaf and hearing ESL students in Rochester,
NY, uses in-class captioned TV viewing as a group activity that provides a
common frame of reference or talking point from which to build vocabulary and
concepts (Parlato, 1986). He focuses the students' attention on the job of the
captioner, who often paraphrases and simplifies what is being spoken to make
captions short and slow enough for easy readability. His students view programs,
looking for differences between captions and dialogue, and discuss these
differences after the viewing. Parlato turns the volume off during a second
viewing and either he or a student reads the captions aloud while the rest of
the class reads along silently. This activity helps develop reading fluency and
metalinguistic knowledge about how language can be used and manipulated.
Webb, Vanderplank, and Parks (1994) suggest using certain closed captioned
children's programs, such as "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," and "3-2-1
Contact," with adult ESL learners. The content, speed of captioning, and
vocabulary make these programs suitable for use in the adult ESL classroom and
many adult activities can be designed around them. (See Smallwood, 1992 for a
discussion of ways to use children's literature with adults.) "Rescue 911" and
"NOVA" are two adult programs that are also suitable for the ESL classroom.
Through training in the use of CCTV and sharing
of experiences with each other, educators will continue to discover ways in
which captioning can transform the medium of television into a powerful and
effective literacy and language learning tool for all ESL students, including
Bean, R.M., & Wilson, R.M. (1989). Using
closed-captioned television to teach reading to adults. "Reading Research
Instruction," 28(4), 27-37.
Ellsworth, T. (1992, October). Integrating subtitled video into your
teaching, "English Teaching Forum."
Garza, T. (1991). Evaluating the use of captioned video materials in advanced
foreign language learning. "Foreign Language Annals, 24,(3)," 239-58.
Goldman, M., & Goldman, S. (1988). Reading with closed captioned TV.
"Journal of Reading, 31(5)," 458.
Neuman, S., & Koskinen, P. (1992). Captioned television as comprehensible
input: Effects of incidental word learning from context for language minority
students. "Reading Research Quarterly, 27(1)," 95-106.
Parlato, S. (1986). "Watch your language: Captioned media for literacy."
Silver Spring, MD: TJ Publishers.
"Programs captioned by the National Captioning Institute." National
Captioning Institute. (1993). Falls Church, VA: Author.
Rees, T. (1993). "Closed captions in the classroom." Unpublished manuscript.
Northampton, MA: International Language Institute of Massachusetts.
Smallwood, B.A., 1992. "Children's literature for adult ESL literacy." ERIC
Digest. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education. (ED
Spanos, G., & Smith, J. (1990). "Closed captioned television for adult
LEP literacy learners. ERIC Digest." Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for
ESL Literacy Education. (ED 321 623)
Webb, M., Vanderplank, R., & Parks, C. (1994, April). "Developing ESL
materials for closed-captioned video programs." Paper presented at the Teachers
of English to Speakers of Other Languages annual convention, Baltimore, MD.
Caption Center, 125 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02134 (617) 492-9225. (For
information on how to make your own captions)
National Captioning Institute, Inc., 1900 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA 22182. (703)
917-7600. (For information about decoders and research studies)
Lotus Technologies, 1 Bellevue Center, 411, 108th Avenue NE, Suite 1970,
Bellevue, Washington, 98004. (206) 454-7374. (For information about decoders and
computer software for transcribing)
BACKGROUND INFORMATION WHAT IS CLOSED CAPTIONING?
The symbols (registered trademarks of the National Captioning Institute and
of the Caption Center) and "CC" identify, in TV program listings, television
programs and videotapes that are closed captioned. These programs have captions,
or printed text, at the bottom of the screen, which can be accessed with a
decoder. The captions are synchronized with the dialogue or narration of the
WHAT KIND OF EQUIPMENT IS NEEDED TO SEE THE CAPTIONS ON A REGULAR TELEVISION SET?
When a captioned program is broadcast on TV or played on a VCR, the captions
are visible on sets that have a separate or built-in "caption decoder."
HOW ARE THE CAPTIONS ADDED TO A VIDEOTAPE?
Captioners, somewhat like court stenographers, spend many hours at
specialized computer work stations watching and listening to programs and typing
a transcript of the words being spoken.These words are then encoded on the
videotape as closed captions.They cannot be read until they are decoded.
HOW FAST DO THE CAPTIONS MOVE ACROSS THE SCREEN?
Programs are captioned at different speeds depending on the sophistication
and speed of delivery of the language of the spoken text. "Sesame Street," for
example, is captioned at 60 words per minute, "Reading Rainbow" at 120 wpm, and
the "ABC Evening News" at up to 250 wpm.
DO THE CAPTIONS MATCH THE SOUNDTRACK EXACTLY?
Some programs are captioned almost verbatim; others are paraphrased for ease