A Uniquely Flexible English Teaching Tool

1) "Tuning In Language and Culture" was designed to be a very FLEXIBLE system that delivers entertaining and methodologically sound English language education to audiences in many different situations. It can be used and enjoyed by teen or adult out-of-school learners (at work or wherever) via radio, CD, or cassette, and either aided or unaided by the print components. This implies great potential for improving English competence among mass audiences of people who have some prior English language capacity but whose English skills are limited. One must look long and hard to find another English learning system with this potential reach.

2) While "Tuning In Language and Culture" functions well for a person at work, say, at the wheel of his taxicab, it is an even better resource in formal educational institution settings where language labs, listening rooms, or desktop computers provide learners with high quality audio that can be supported by print-based reading and learning activities. The key asset is an ongoing series of two-act 10-minute audio dramas (designed for radio or audio distribution). No drama is dependent on a preceding one for understanding or enjoyment, but each lends support to the others and builds interest in the learner's experience through deepening familiarity with the attractive characters and interesting situations and many locations represented in the dramas.

3) The materials are methodologically sound, presenting and teaching English in the context of naturalistic speech and real-life dramas. The programs feature interactive language focus segments that are both entertaining and educational in the various ways they engage learners, addressing multiple learning styles.

4) Culturally, the materials are highly relevant to international students’ interests today. The stories were created with the active oversight of the Smithsonian Institution to give a non-political and accurate view of the dynamism and diversity of United States society. Themes treated include civics, community participation, continuing and higher education, environmental stewardship, industrial processes, modern family farming, Native Americans, our many American musics, family life, county fairs, etc. Thus they help put a human face on our country apart from considerations of celebrity and power.

5) Great attention was paid to the lure of American music. The musical concept and execution is original, sophisticated, upbeat, diverse, and ethnographically aware.

6) Over 40 actors were hired to voice the dramas - written by skilled dramatic writers and ESL consultants - and the programs were recorded at RCA studios in New York (the same room and equipment used for New York Philharmonic recordings), and mixed with scrupulous attention to detail. Audio recordings are all in stereo with spatially accurate sound effects and audio ambiences by master radio SFX artists. The series won the Gold Medal from the International Radio Festivals of New York for the Best Educational Radio Series.

7) The modular design of the programs allows them to be adapted to particular local needs and particular intervention designs. For example, the short (30-40 second) introductions to each act, now in English, can be rerecorded in various local languages (mixed with the same musical underscorings) so that audiences have a better sense of the actions that follow (while maintaining the same high production values).

8) Programs may be aired in 5 or 10-minute (1 or 2 act) units. Most often, airing has been with 10-minute programs presented multiple times each week, and a new program aired each week over the course of one or more years (there are 52 programs). Or a station may choose to air two 5-minute programs per week - again we recommend airing the same program multiple times - (Under this plan there are 104 "programs").

9) If books are too expensive for some radio listeners who could otherwise benefit from the print materials, a sponsor may work with us to purchase space in local language newspapers once a week to make available the printed scripts, vocabulary, and interactive learning activities to broad mass audiences, effectively reinforcing and extending learning opportunities.

10) The US Government's English teaching and cultural offices have a long history of successful use of these materials with radio distribution and successful use in over 25 countries.

11) Expanded radio adaptations have included a 25-minute adaptation in China in Mandarin and English, and a series of tri-lingual adaptations for the Philippines that include local languages (e.g. Maranao, Tausug) around a "core program in English and Tagalog. These successes suggest other country specific radio adaptations and materials promotions that may be developed to particular country's needs. .

12) We are ready to work with governments, publishers, and interested educators to produce new materials and workshops for teachers and trainers to extend the effective use of these materials.