The Reporter, April 25th, 1995

English Language  Teaching pag. 15

Happy Days in England

by Mario Papa, Janet Shelly and Peter Walton, Zanichelli Editore, Bologna, 1995


When the team of ELT experts that had built up the BBC English Department suddenly  and unexpedtedly found themselves victims  of a massive “restructuring” programme last year, other publishers found themselves in the position of being able to make use of the talents of producers of prize-winning videos such as Follow Me and Muzzy in Gondoland. Zanichelli has done so  to the extent of making available to Italian teachers an excellent and highly affordable video produced by Petr Walton on the basis of dialogues written by Mario Papa and Janet Shelly.

Happy Days in England consists of ten episodes showing the everyday life of four young people in Britain. Two young brothers, John and Mike, , John’s American girlfriend, Judy, who works in the City in a computer firm, and a young Swiss student, Nathalie, meet up and spend time together in London and Cambridge. They also have parties, go shopping together and do the kinds of things that most young people normally do in their spare time in Britain today.

The first episode takes us down the Thames on a riverboat with the two brothers and Judy and shows the viewer all the main sights. This is an excellent introduction to London as it reflects more or less the kind of trip that many visitors might take on their first day in the city.

This is followed in the second episode by Nathalie’s arrival from Switzerland,  after which all four meet up for a day out in Cambridge. We then follow Nathalie as she learns how to make a phone call, deal with the Underground and sign up for a course at a language school

The language content in Happy Days in England progresses quickly but  naturally through simple  but totally authentic dialogues that never make the mistake of intruding into the presentation of the characters or the events  in which they participate.  This is unusual. We so often feel, when watching videos for language learners,  that the language is somehow “forced” and artificial. This is not the case with Happy Days in England. The viewer is so interested in the four people and the development of their relationships that he or she is motivated to understand the language in order to understand them.

            At the same time the structures presented in each episode are reinforced by a simple but effective device called Video Frames which freezes, one by one, each element of dialogue on the screen at the end of each episode so that they can be studied and  reproduced. This of course also means that Happy Days in England is effective for self-study.

            The original score and costumes by Benetton U.K.  also combine to give the impression of London as it is today: a youthful city where fashion and music are important.

            This video is accompanied by an Activity Book and Teacher’s Guide (which can be used alongside TakeTurns) and both components are available at the modest price of L. 32.000.