You might end up with square eyes from watching too much television, or whatever it was they tried to say to scare us off the box. Although in my distant – very distant – childhood there was sufficiently little on television to make the eyes all that square, to be honest.
But I’ve only recently realised that there is one very strong incentive to learn to read in countries where English is not the main language, and which are small enough that hardly any dubbing of films or television takes place. And that is the dreaded box.
Not starting school until seven (six now) made for some uncomfortable years when there was far too much need for reading skills, but not having them. Just about the only things that do get dubbed are programmes and films for the very young, and presumably only because their audiences can’t read. Not because foreign languages are an abomination.
Hence Disney is dubbed and it took me years to accept the American voice of Baloo when I’d only ever heard Beppe Wolgers.
Unfortunately you can’t really force little British or American children to early reading in the same way, as most of their entertainment comes in English. But it’d be worth considering if there is anything at all which is so desirable and cool that children would strive to learn a new skill in order to consume more.
For speakers of small languages there is also the influence of music, and these days all of the internet. If you want to, you will work hard at overcoming problems with reading and with that foreign language, too.
It took me years as an immigrant to grasp that the natives didn’t like subtitles. To me they’d always been second nature. If needed, they were there.
So the new Nordic noir crime wave on television is proving useful for more than entertainment and making some people very rich. While watching the Swedish Wallander Daughter kept getting annoyed at herself for not being able to ignore the subtitles, and that’s always been the case. You see them and read despite not needing them. Although I have very nearly got to the stage where I can avoid the lower part of the screen.
With me being the impatient sort, we have the full set of Stieg Larsson DVDs, and having to switch on the hard-of-hearing Swedish subtitles for the Resident IT Consultant to aid him in this foreign jungle. (He does have an O-level in Swedish, but that doesn’t get you far.) That means the rest of us have more subtitles to try and ignore.
I also happen to own a DVD, some peculiar Polish version of an (obscure-ish) American film, which comes with subtitles in four Nordic languages. And when I say that I mean that you can’t switch them off. You can choose which language you want to be annoyed by, but it has to be there. All I can say to the translator is that that was no vinegar the woman sprayed over the baddie’s face. We eat vinegar. This was far worse, considering what his face looked like afterwards.
Back to Daughter and her subtitles. They work for her, too, seeing as how she can only watch the Danish crime series Rejseholdet by reading the Swedish subtitles. How she does it I don’t know, but you wouldn’t watch over thirty episodes if you didn’t get (most of) it.
And now it’s the equally Danish Forbrydelsen which has the whole country, or so it seems, by the seat of their pants every Saturday. Soon people will watch foreign programmes without noticing they are doing it.
But at least we don’t have dubbing forced on us the way the Germans do. There is no way I’d watch NCIS with those silly dubbed voices. With regard to Baloo you know that Disney cared and made sure the voice chosen was a good one.