Asian lyrics need English subtitles

Watch any Indian-made film in a British cinema and you will find it subtitled in English.

The business case for subtitling is a complete no-brainer: it makes the film accesible to all English speakers, as well as speakers of the film’s original language, and so guarantees higher takings at the box office.

Now watch any video for a track by a British Asian artist that features Asian lyrics. Despite the fact that all British Asian artists are at least bi-lingual, nobody is bothering to take the simple step of subtitling in post-production.

Despite all the effort that goes into recording songs and producing videos, most of the potential audience for these tracks is excluded from understanding what the song is actually about. So why should they care?

One of the worst side-effects of not subtitling videos is that it perpetuates a myth: that all Asian people can understand all Asian languages. The truth of the matter is that (for instance) Gujaratis don’t understand Punjabi songs any better than English speakers, and so on with all the different regional languages of India.

It would make English-only audiences a lot more comfortable to join in and show interest if they could see that everyone needs a helping hand to understand Asian lyrics now and again.

Hard working artists and producers should recognise the obvious benefits of subtitling videos.


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