This week I’ve been practising my languages alongside tuneful trolls and celebrity sambas – all thanks to a bit of franchise hopping.
International rollouts of TV franchise successes are nothing new. I remember my excitement in the early noughties on discovering that the UK’s Pop Idol had a German version. Yes, it had the slightly unwieldy name Deutschland sucht den Superstar (Germany is looking for the superstar). But it was the same glitzy, shiny, melodramatic format that I loved in the UK.
Back then, of course, it was still pretty difficult to find clips online to watch (28.8k modem, anyone?). Needless to say, I came back from a trip to Cologne that year with both the series CD and DVD. I still have them somewhere, in my piles of foreign language authentica.
Nowadays, of course, it’s a completely different story. With whole shows widely available through national broadcaster platforms, there are few barriers to enjoying overseas versions of your favourite shows.
So what’s so great about franchise hunting as a language learner?
Franchise exports are excellent language learning resources for a number of reasons:
- the format is familiar, so you can guess a lot of vocabulary from context
- they are fun to watch, especially if you are already a fan of the original
- franchise exports are often some of the biggest shows, so are both really easy to find, and have lots of supporting material on social media channels
- transplanted shows often include local twists that give an insight in your target language culture
- they can be a stepping stone to get to know well-known personalities in the target language country, which you can then track down in more home-grown shows
‘Easy to find’ is always a winner for language learning resources, of course. The simplest way to track down a particular franchise in a foreign language version is to locate its entry on Wikipedia. For instance, on the entry for The Masked Singer, you can find out local names for the show’s incarnations, and marvel at just how far the show has travelled.
The online encyclopaedia can throw out some quite surprising facts, too. Before my franchise hunt, I would never have guessed that the Masked Singer started life as a South Korean series. Now that’s a great excuse for Korean learners to watch some gloriously silly TV – not to mention further temptation in my way to learn Korean some day!
Another thing to look out for in franchise exports is how they are adapted to the local audience. There are often some lovely cultural twists; Norway’s 2020 edition of Maskorama, for example, featured the staple Nordic troll as one of the singers. And that’s not to mention the cultural crossovers. Looking up China’s The Singer (another South Korean export), UK learners can enjoy watching home-grown talent Jessie J storm to victory in the 2018 series.
Once you’ve located the show itself, you can then follow its social media trail for even more authentic material. Instagram is great for short texts and videos. For example, Skal vi danse? – or ‘Norwegian Strictly’ to UK viewers – features bite-sized interviews and behind-the-scenes presentations which make for great listening practice. Likewise, the comments are great for reading some often very colloquial language (if you can handle the barbed tongues of irate viewers!).
Franchise telly might be as far away from highbrow as you can get with authentic material in the target language. But it can punch well above its weight as a bit of fun practice content!