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WGBH Launches Connect With English, New Drama for Learning English

Rebecca Casey is hitting the road -- and she's inviting the millions of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students across the United States to come along. Like them, Rebecca is leaving behind everything familiar to start over in a new place. Like them, she's pursuing her dream.

Rebecca's adventure forms the plot of Connect With English, a groundbreaking new television series that begins airing on PBS in January 1998 (check local listings). A continuing drama in twenty-five programs, Connect With English integrates powerful storytelling, natural language, and innovative teaching methods to give non-English speaking viewers the skills they need to communicate in everyday settings where English is spoken. Accompanying print materials have been published by the McGraw-Hill Companies.

Produced by WGBH Boston with major funding by the Annenberg/CPB Project, Connect With English is designed to meet the various needs of a rapidly expanding group of adult learners. "With fourteen percent of the United States population speaking a language of other than English at home ESOL courses are in short supply," says Executive Producer Michele Korf. "Public television is the ideal way to make ESOL instruction accessible to the widest possible audience. Not only can Connect With English be used both in schools and informal settings, the series is also crafted so that it actually makes learning English irresistible."

Each half-hour program of Connect With English continues Rebecca's story. A gifted musician, Rebecca (Karin Anglin) sets out from her home in Boston headed for San Francisco, where she plans to study music. The experiences she has on the way to her new life -- from tearful departures and the death of a family member to car trouble and romance with a new acquaintance (played by All My Children's Mark Consuelos) -- parallel those of many new arrivals to the United States. Throughout the series, Rebecca's ups and downs are discussed on-screen by a group of non-native English speakers from Argentina, Belgium, Bosnia, China, Columbia, Eritrea, Haiti, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, Vietnam and Yemen. Their real lives provide a counterpoint to Rebecca's fictional journey.

Connect With English builds on the success of French in Action and Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish, both from WGBH Boston and the Annenberg/CPB Project. "Connect With English uses the same winning formula that made our previous language courses so popular -- language taught through a dramatic storyline," says Scott Roberts, Director of the Annenberg/CPB Project. Television reinforces vocabulary, grammar, and idioms with visual clues and spoken natural language, doubling a learner's ability to grasp language and concepts. In Connect With English, on-screen dialogue is authentic but subtly simplified, and key lines are repeated, idioms paraphrased, and important events retold in a way that's natural to the ongoing drama. The storyline of Connect With English is constructed so that students learn the language they need specific to a variety of situations: work, school, home, hospitals, and urban and rural locations throughout the United States.

Connect With English can be used in educational institutions or workplace training programs, as a college-credit telecourse for distance learners, as a classroom resource, or as a self-study enrichment course for learners at home. Like the broadcast series, the accompanying set of companion print materials from the McGraw-Hill Companies is designed for a variety of group and individual learning situations. For more information on accompanying print materials, call 1-800-LEARNER.

Connect With English is produced by WGBH Boston with major funding from the Annenberg/CPB Project. Additional funding is provided by The Stratford Foundation, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, George Alden Trust, Alfred E. Chase Charity Foundation, with special thanks to The Abbot and Dorothy H. Stevens Foundation. Michele Korf is the co-executive producer. Fred Barzyk is the director and co-executive producer.

Connect With English is closed captioned for deaf and hard of hearing viewers by The Caption Center at WGBH Boston.

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