When our daughters came home from Ethiopia last summer, an experienced parent of older adopted children told us that TV captions help kids learn English. We began turning on TV captions hoping to help improve the girls’ understanding, but since then we have discovered other benefits. In fact, our family has gotten hooked on captions.
Not only do captions help new English speakers, they help new readers. They give kids practice at reading. I think that being able to see the word as it is spoken might even help kids with spelling. Of course there are misspellings, esp. on PBS kids programming, I’ve noticed. But movie captions tend to be accurate. Sometimes one of our elementary aged kids will say, “I didn’t know that’s how you spelled that word.” (One caution about captioning movies: do keep in mind that captions will also display cuss words.)
But there are more benefits than disadvantages. As parents, we’ve discovered that watching movies with a bunch of kids is much easier with captions. Sometimes kids’ chatter can drown out dialogue, but with the captions, it is an easy thing to just read the words you’ve missed. This makes for more relaxed family TV viewing.
Captions are also nice after the little kids have gone to bed. Being able to read the words on the screen makes it easy to leave the TV volume a little quieter, making it easier for intermittant conversations, and offering less disturbance to sleeping kids in the back bedrooms.
Sometimes our captions get turned off accidentally. But when they do, we’ve gotten so used to them that someone is sure to soon ask to have them turned back on. TV captions– they work for us.