Did you know that video is an integral and indespensable part of Direct English?

by Louis Alexander

You may think this is not even worth mentioning, but if you consider the matter for a moment, it's extremely unusual for video to be an integral part of a course. It goes without saying that it's very expensive to produce video, so what publishers generally do is to issue course materials first. If the course turns out to be successful, they then commission video material as an 'add on'. This reduces their commercial risk, but it also results in videos which are sometimes quite remote from the original course materials. Videos, in most conventional courses, are loosely derived from the textbooks, and completely optional.

In Direct English, on the other hand, the videos are integral and therefore indispensable - they were produced before the course materials were written! This is how it was done. The course designer, Louis Alexander, first created the communicative syllabus for the course. This syllabus was sent to the scriptwriter, Daisy Scott, who then based her scripts for the video on it. The textbooks in Direct English are therefore closely based on the videos and not the other way round!

You can see this right from the very first episode which is about people introducing themselves. In this episode Tony Quercio of Watson's Bookstores is checking in at the Sheraton, Boston, because he is attending the American Library Association Conference. Barbara Seaton of the New York Library is attending the same conference. These two people have known about each other for years, but the conference gives them the opportunity to meet for the first time ('It's nice to meet you finally,' says Barbara.) Drawing its information from the original syllabus, the video episode introduces the language necessary for introductions which is then picked up and practised in the coursebook. Every episode in Direct English follows this pattern. That's why you have to watch the video before you use the coursebook, not after! You can see why the Direct English videos are never 'optional'!

The video episodes of Direct English
are so enjoyable and refreshing to watch,
no matter how many times you
repeat the experience.

It's worth pointing out that in a great many English language teaching courses, the videos are sometimes written by the coursewriters, so they smell of ink and chalk. They are generally full of the language constraints you find in course books because that's the way course-writers think. They are more concerned with teaching and learning than with entertainment. Daisy Scott, the author of the scripts for Direct English, is more concerned with entertainment than with teaching and learning, but being highly-skilled as a writer she was able to build in the requirements of the syllabus. That's why the video episodes of Direct English are so enjoyable and refreshing to watch, no matter how many times you repeat the experience.

It's also worth mentioning that most 'add on' video materials are usually produced on the cheap in inexpensive locations. So, for example, instead of having a real shop, we might have a simple mock-up in a studio, which doesn't fool anyone. Videos like this also smell of ink and chalk. Again, Direct English completely rejects this approach to video production. All the episodes in Direct English are shot in real locations so they have more in common with true television productions than with educational films.


© LG & DE Limited 2006


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