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City news
Reality Show Puts Teens Into TV ‘English-Land’
08.04.2006 15:35

english By Evgenia Ivanova

Staff Writer

As English-Land, a television reality show in which teenagers must use English to compete for a prize, prepares to air, its creators say they want to shift viewers from voyeurism — the concept used in the majority of such programs — to learning and self-improvement.

“The need emerged to think up something that would serve as a counter to Dom 2 (House 2) [a show in which contestants have to find partners and pair off to win a house] and other reality shows currently popular on Russian TV,” Alexei Lvov, England-Land’s creative producer said Wednesday.

“Don’t be put off by the term ‘reality show.’ We rise in revolt against numerous reality shows that pester us on our screens and we are absolutely not interested in dirty laundry,” the project’s head Nikolai Desyatskov said at a press conference Thursday.

The show will feature four teams of 13 to 15 year olds, living in an all-English speaking holiday camp on the Gulf of Finland. The producers said the show will be broadcast on consecutive Sundays on the TV3 television channel beginning Aug. 13.

The aim of the show is not only to improve teens’ knowledge of English but also to help them boost their creativity, Desyatskov said.

The contestants will have to prepare stage performances in the musical, cinematic, dramatic genres and to produce a final show in order to win the big prize — a trip to England.

English, understandably, is to be the main language of the show but it will also be accompanied by Russian language subtitles and will be partly dubbed in Russian so as to attract wider audiences, the organizers said.

Andrei Grigoriyev-Apolonov, a member of the prominent Russian boysband Ivanushki-International will be the show’s presenter.

Grigoriev-Apolonov said he already had an experience in working for children’s shows as he hosted Polundra (“Batten Down the Hatches”), a show produced by STS television, and will be happy to perform in such a role again, he said.

Asked whether he knows English himself the singer said he is able to converse at the “restaurant-and-shops level,” but his English is as not as good as it should be “to express his feelings.”

“I will be delighted to dip into English together with the guys for a month,” he said speaking at the press conference Thursday.

English is the most popular foreign language taught in schools in St. Petersburg, but Russian teenagers still lag behind their European counterparts in the knowledge of English.

Yulia Fyodorova, program director of Department of Foreign Languages at Lingua Consult language center thinks the part of the problem is the low quality of English teaching in St. Petersburg schools.

According to Fyodorova, English is taught in up to 75 percent of the city’s secondary schools, but “unfortunately, in many schools it is not taught very well,” and therefore the general level of English of local teenagers is not very high.

“Sometimes the books are too old-fashioned, sometimes the teenagers are only taught to translate texts from one language to the other or to do numerous grammar drills.

“Sometimes there are no good professional teachers who speak the modern language and are familiar with contemporary teaching methods,” she said in an emailed statement Thursday.

English-Land’s co-creator, William Hackett-Jones, thinks the ability of local teens to speak English has significantly improved in the last five years but it is still takes a long time before they start speaking English well.

“When I first came here five years ago, I was teaching kids and they couldn’t say anything, it was a real nightmare,” Hackett-Jones, who is also the chief editor of “Cool English,” a St. Petersburg magazine for learners of English.

“Nowadays the kids are already at a certain level by the age of 13-14 and they already understand things and they want to learn,” he said.

“They, however, still need some kind of stimulation to know why they should be learning English, because for lots of them it is highly unreal that they’ll ever go to Britain or America,” he said.

A show in which “people [are] learning English], enjoying it, using it” will give them such stimuli, he said.

“The only thing lacking in many cases is communication or speaking practice. And this project gives them what they need — a chance not to learn English as such, but to speak English, “ Fyodorova of Lingua Consult added.

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