Author photo

By Sheila Zanghi
contributing writer 

Confessions of a subtitle speed reader


June 10, 2023

Sheila Zanghi.

I developed my subtitle speed reading skills when I was trying to find something interesting and new to watch on TV. I was frustrated as I scrolled through thousands of possible choices, but everything seemed too familiar and too predictable.

The predictability, as well as my habit of speeding to the end to see if it is worth watching, made me reject many possibly satisfying shows. Every suggested movie on the list was almost exactly what I had already seen.

I longed for new adventures presented in interesting ways in beautiful locations. I stumbled upon the path I am now sliding down.

First it began with me being nostalgic about my family and wanting to hear Finnish spoken again. I started watching Finnish shows with subtitles. The stories were interesting but mostly serious. It is difficult to find frothy sweet comedies made in Finland, so I widened my search.

A delightful discovery was an Indian Bollywood movie. It was funny and light. It had great dancing scenes and the subtitles kept pace with the movie. I found the colorful scenes and the engaging acting immersed me in the culture. I could almost feel the humidity and smell the spices. In no time my suggested list started to present only Indian Bollywood shows. But I wanted more variety, so I went down the list of countries I wanted to visit and checked out the related shows.

It has been an amazing and wonderful adventure exploring different countries and cultures from the comfort of my sofa. I observed characteristics of different societies and especially enjoyed the universality of humor. I even started to understand the subtleties regarding acceptable behavior.

I was watching a show and thought, "Oh my, that person isn't showing enough respect" because the character wasn't bowing deeply enough. I also learned that Koreans sweat a lot in summer and complain about the heat and freeze in winter and complain about the cold, just as we do here in Tehachapi.

My mouth waters when I see food from India, Japan, China, France, Spain or Italy. I am especially fascinated by Korean side dishes. Food presented in Finnish, Swedish, Russian, Norwegian and British shows has never made my mouth water.

Also, product placement can be blatant. It is brilliant how often a certain sandwich company is featured in foreign shows.

Every country offers comedies, tragedies, thrillers, histories, crime, adventure and almost anything you can imagine. Foreign produced shows reveal how people live and interact with others in their country. Issues highlighted in these shows can also reveal details about their cultures. You also get to know the characters in depth because many of the shows have multiple episodes.

A common theme shows how people handle differences and how family dysfunction might improve with love, caring and humor.

If you are intrigued by foreign lands, the people and culture but would like to experience it from the comfort of your home, start with virtual touring. Take a chance on foreign language movies and tv shows.

This summer I plan to travel in a group, so I am printing up fake passports to take my grandkids on a worldwide virtual tour through film. We will choose countries to "visit," and I want to make food to match as we travel. I especially want to include those intriguing side dishes from Korea.

No matter how you travel this summer have a great time.


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