Big Brother, Take Me Out, Come Dine With Me… The list goes on. There are those reality TV programme formats that go from unknown to national obsessions almost overnight. As we are bombarded with ever greater choice in television, viewing habits have become very fickle, with preferred styles going out of fashion as quickly as they emerged. Reality TV seems to epitomise our viewing habits over the last decade, despite its relatively low budget and preparation. In Spain, Españoles en el Mundo (roughly translated as ‘Spaniards around the world’) is one of those programmes that has enjoyed near unrivalled success in the ratings over many years, yet maintains a deceptively basic format.
Españoles en el Mundo was first broadcast in 2009 on the national Spanish television network RTVE, and has now run to over 200 episodes, which can typically draw in as many as three million viewers on a Tuesday night. The premise is simple: each episode focuses on a particular city or region somewhere in the world besides Spain, and follows a handful of Spanish expats who are living there. From Istanbul in episode one, to Missouri at the end of series 12 this year, a varying cast of presenters have jetted to all four corners of the globe, tracking down Spanish natives who have settled there. Destinations range from tranquil Caribbean backwaters, to frozen Polar Regions, and thriving Asian metropolises.
The Españoles themselves are equally varied; finding themselves overseas for reasons of work, study, love, or pure accident. The cameras follow these diverse lives – entering places of work and homes, and exploring local attractions through foreign yet accustomed eyes. Perhaps this is why the format is so appealing, as Spanish people see others just like them, and how they respond to, and ultimately thrive in, completely different surroundings. Whether planning their next holiday or perhaps a move abroad, it gives the viewer a distinctly personal insight. However the programme has not been without criticism, with some suggesting that it paints the destinations in an overwhelmingly positive light, avoiding the hardships of living abroad. Indeed, it is sadly the case that many of the stories in recent series have been those of economic migration, with those featured representing the many thousands that have left an economically distressed Spain in search of work elsewhere.
From our perspectives as language learners, keen to practice our Spanish, Españoles en el Mundo is a good option for many reasons, besides from the obvious immersion in Spanish it provides. Firstly, the subject matter tends to be relatively simple, and often supported by textual information points on screen. For the same reasons of its appeal for a Spanish audience, the programme is particularly strong in its exposure of Spanish cultural traits and behaviours. For more advanced learners, it can be an interesting means of attempting to distinguish between distinct accents and dialects of different parts of Spain, exhibited by those featured in an episode. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the episodes are all freely available online here in the UK. So why not have a look and see which destination takes your fancy… http://www.rtve.es/television/espanoles-en-el-mundo/
Your Friendly Spanish team