Saturday, January 14, 2012

TV: How times have changed!

About 25 years ago, when I was teaching introductory Russian classes as a sideline at Adrian College, I looked into what we would need to do to allow our students to watch Soviet TV. I thought it would improve student ability to understand spoken Russian and make the subject more interesting.

The answer was that the special equipment needed to tune in on satellites carrying Soviet TV would cost about $50,000, which was completely unthinkable for a small college with only a dozen or so students of Russian.

After the Soviet Union cracked up in December of 1991, so that it was no longer public nuisance number one, our students lost interest in studying Russian, so I discontinued the classes and went back to teaching only political science classes plus, each semester, one course in the computer science department.

This evening, I have just spent the better part of an hour watching a very interesting program from Russian TV, a documentary on energy use and its impact on the environment and the long-term problems our expanding population and depleting oil and gas will probably bring. I am doing it on a computer that cost less than $600 four or five years ago with a DSL connection to the internet. It probably would come in just as well on my 3 year old netbook, which can currently be bought for as little as $150 in occasional sales.

The same website,, lists hundreds of other TV stations around the world, all of which can be watched by anybody with a computer and a fast enough (DSL or cable) internet connection. For free!

I hope language teachers are making full use of these wonderful new opportunities to have their students tune in on the world!

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