Introducing Mi Vida Loca, an interactive mystery for beginning Spanish learners and brusher-uppers.

23rd June, Westminster, London. The ECA was invited to the BBC’s launch of a new resource in interactive language learning in the form of a mystery thriller in 22 episodes. It is filmed in Madrid, northern Castile and the Canaries. It puts the learner at the centre of the action and uses authentic, practical spoken Spanish. There’s a choice of English or Spanish subtitles, plus an on-screen guide to grammar and printable vocabulary. Learners can choose the level of on-screen support they need. On completion of the 22 parts, they can send in their own films to continue the story.

Bill Rammell, Minister of State, Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education – a self-confessed French student -- introduced the evening by emphasising the importance of language learning and reminded the participants that every primary student would have the opportunity for a modern foreign language within the next few years. “But it’s also for adults,” he added. “27% of adults regret not going on with their language learning. Here is an opportunity to enrich their Spanish in a new way.”

Liz Cleaver, Controller for Learning and Interactive, the BBC’s most senior executive in Learning, continued the presentation with a thumbnail sketch of BBC’s involvement with language learning. “When language teaching was withdrawn from TV and radio, how could we then best serve the audience we wanted to reach? Even Lord Reith encouraged adults to learn languages”. Online learning makes it personalised. Broadband completely changed BBC’s provision, and can provide what Cleaver called “rich immersive environments” The next step was to bring this immersive environment to a language. “I hope you understand what an incredibly hard challenge it was to create a thriller, in Spanish, fused with serious formal learning steps to language mastery.” she said.

Tonight’s launch of Mi Vida Loca was one of several. It is estimated that 100 000 unique users have already accessed the BBC website and are using it as a learning tool. Cleaver was overwhelmed with the favourable responses pouring it. “I’m hooked already,” said one. “Worth the license fee on its own.” was another. “Congratulations to the BBC, well done!”

The next speaker was the Spanish actor in the film whose name was Africa. She related how surprised she was to have got the part, but was certain to be fired because she had to speak slowly, an impossible task. “To ask a Spaniard to speak slowly is like asking an Englishman to solve a problem without a cup of tea. It can’t be done.” She enjoyed the work and wished the learners every success as they studied.

“Bill Rammell is my friend” …was the startlingly unexpected comment that came from behind the camera of the BBC photographer. Every large event is interlaced with hundreds of rich life stories running through them. Deepak, the BBC’s photographer for the night, was hoping to meet Bill Rammell. “I just finished my PCGE in Brighton,” he said. ”I’ve learned all about the government changes that are taking place in adult education. It’s not easy, is it? My placement was a B Tec photography course with students from 16 to 53. I loved it. The teacher training course was hard – unbelievably hard, and so packed with information that it is only now, after it’s over, that I’m starting to reflect on all I’ve learned.” Deepak exhibited the energy, enthusiasm, and liveliness typical of a switched-on learner. Best wishes, Deepak. May there be more like you, who aren’t afraid to share your excitement with the rest of the world. And maybe some of them will be fluent in Spanish, thanks to Mi Vida Loca.

Judith Robinson

To find out more about this programme visit the BBC languages website by clicking here

Date Added: June 26th 2008