Editors Note: Distance Learning has long been focused on transmission of knowledge in numerous disciplines to preschools, all levels of formal academics, training, business, industry and leisure studies. The article below captures the extent to which formal distance learning is now used to transmit understanding of culture through video based TV delivery of English Language programs. We were electrified to discover that the same ELT programs, Family Album USA, and the same TV delivery mode are used in Texas, USA, and Tashtrent, Uzbekistan. Small world indeed!
English is not only the language of international commerce and diplomacy, it has also become, in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union, an important vehicle of promoting an open society in the newly independent states, such as the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan. Although Uzbekistan has taken some significant steps towards democratization and human rights since independence, the level of social and political development in still leaves much to be desired. To solve the most important issue of the day, promoting and teaching English language in Uzbekistan, involves teachers and mass media, as well.
Hopefully, our experience of managing ELT TV Programs will be interesting for teachers and distance learning educators in non-English speaking countries.
Background: ELT Programming and its Objectives.
The International Channel of UzTV in collaboration with UzTEA (Uzbekistan Teachers of English Association) and USIS signed an agreement in December 1998 for broadcasting the American Television series, "Family Album. USA" on Channel 4, UzTV.
"Family Album. USA" (FAUSA) is the only television series with integrated classroom texts designed to teach American English and promote American values. In cooperation with the United States Informational Agency (USIA) and an Advisory Board of experts in the fields of English language teaching, television, radio, and educational publishing, an entertaining and educational series consisting of 26 episodes, each lasting 23 minutes, was created to teach English to speakers of other languages. In addition to focusing upon English grammar, punctuation, and usage, the series also exposes the audience to American values. The program uses a combination of teaching methodologies, such as functional, communicative, interactive, and natural, and is designed for young adults learners who have studied English for at least one year.
In Central Asia, FAUSA video and print materials are distributed solely by USIS. In addition to each FAUSA episode, International Channel broadcast short segments that are filmed locally with the members of UzTEA. "English for you" includes FAUSA and local episodes, with the whole program lasting 30 minutes (23 minutes of FAUSA and 7-8 minutes of local material). These short segments have pedagogical content; they offer additional language practice and cultural information/contrast to adapt the FAUSA episodes for Uzbek audience.
Currently, Larisa Agakhanyants of UzTEA and Anne Polatchek of USIS English Teaching Fellow lead a group of UzTEA members who record this segments with me.
Taking in consideration the needs of UzTV viewers, the creative group is trying to adapt this video course to local conditions in order to assist the Uzbek population to learn spoken English. In accordance with this goal, the creative group shoots and assembles grammar, commentary, and linguistic material chosen by Larisa Agakhanyants and Anne Polatchek. In year 2000 the whole program of 26 episodes will be re-broadcast. The course will be evaluated in segments and overall. USIS monitors the participants' progress at six-monthly intervals over 2 years.
In November and December 1998, the "English for you" program crew covered activities carried out by the International Organizations such as USIS, IREX, British Council, Accels, Peace Corps, and others dealing with the problems of ELT and teacher training in Uzbekistan. We also arranged coverage of such events as the UzTEA Annual International Conference organized and sponsored by UzTEA, USIS, British Council, IREX, University of World Economy and Diplomacy and other local organizations. Moreover, the International Channel of UzTV in cooperation with the British Embassy in Tashkent and Ulugbek International School has begun translating the series "Fun Time" starting March 1999. The creative group collaborates with International School EL Teachers.
In the ELT TV Program for children we added an educational cartoon-series made by the BBC and presented by British Embassy specialists for our program.
It is a prime-time quality program, aimed of 7 to 13 years of age, but watchers include people of all ages. Length of each program is 10 minutes (5 minutes of educational cartoon and 5 minutes of local episodes). Each episode relies on elements of comedy and games to assist viewers in learning English as a second language. The series centers on some characters experiencing all the humor of everyday life in Tashkent: two teachers, Toto (a puppet) and their friends. Learners watch each episode and may use the correlated text materials to advance their English language skills. "Fun Time" is designed to give beginners a good start with basic, everyday English. However, it may also be used successfully to give students listening and oral fluency practice. "Fun Time" provides many opportunities for practicing extra words and phrases, especially useful expressions.
Both programs have been shown once a week on Sunday morning, and are repeated the following week. These two ELT TV Programs projects give students a wide range of suggestions for exploiting the main language points on video in some depth: a rich source of ideas designed to help students enjoy using TV programs and discover the possibilities it offers for excellent language learning.
I should stress that all our assistants (UzTEA members, teachers of International School, excepting "Toto") are not professional actors. The great work of creating two TV Programs was done entirely by incredible volunteers. We DO appreciate their assistance.
Uzbekistan is in desperate need of tools and technology to teach English in an effective manner. Unfortunately, we have no resources to enhance our proficiency in producing ELT programs for TV. Despite these limitations, based on the viewers letters, we can say that our programs are very useful and helpful for the students.
About The Author:
Saodat Khaitova has been journalist-translator of International Channel of UzTV since 1994. During this period he has translated a number of documentary films and cartoons produced by NHK (in accordance with an agreement between Japanese Found of Culture and UzTV). Also, he has been co-author, producer and manager of two ELT TV programs, which he translated in the past 2 years.