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Learning Italian - BBC La Mappa Misteriosa

La Mappa Misteriosa

If you want to learn Italian why don’t you go on the BBC languages section online and be the viewers in the Italian learning drama “La Mappa Misteriosa”. You’ll be the protagonist of a mystery adventure through the Emila Romagna region. In the first episode you’ll be given a map which will lead you to an exciting journey through the wonders of Italy.

While learning Italian you’ll uncover a family secret and some delicious regional specialities. The programme is made up of 12 short episodes, which in total make up 85min. In the interactive version the learner, who’s been part of the story all the way through, has to decide the final outcome.

The course has only been live for just over a week but it has already an illustrious precursor: “Mi Vida Loca” which received the BAFTA Award for Interactive Innovation in 2009.

The TV version of the drama “La Mappa Misteriosa” was broadcast on BBC Two Learning Zone in February, and the full interactive version is available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/lamappa/

We asked Riccardo Sai, director of ” La Mappa Misteriosa”, some questions about this project.

Why did you choose Emila Romagna?

“As far as I know Emilia Romagna was chosen because the producer who got me on board studied in Bologna a few years ago and fell in love with the region and the people.

Emila Romagna is an ideal setting because it is an interesting region with lots of different cultures and people are usually friendly and open”.

Who are the actors and how have they been selected?

“Some of the key characters were selected through a few auditions organised by a Bologna casting agency .

From the beginning the BBC wanted to use real people in order to make this journey through Italy more authentic and realistic. That's why roughly half of the people who acted in the film were not professional actors”.

Who is the author of the sound track?

“I brought on board Didier Messidoro who contributed to the project with his European touch, humour and sensitivity.

For me music plays such an important part in every film. It was really great to work with such a talented composer like Didier”.

Did you ever direct a “Giallo” before?

“No, it was the first time I directed a “giallo” even though this one is not strictly speaking a giallo. It just has some elements of this genre”.

How and where do you think we can trace the BBC touch?

“What I like of the BBC is that it always dares to improve and do things differently.

“La mappa misteriosa” represents an exciting new way of teaching Italian through interactive drama and I am very proud I was part of the project as I think I contributed to something new.

This type of project could have never happened in Italy and this is unfortunately one of the reason why I am still living in England”.

Jose Deniz, producer of “La Mappa Misteriosa” answered a few other questions on the project.

When and how did the project start?

“The project was commissioned in early 2010. It followed on from Mi Vida Loca, a Spanish interactive drama that won the BAFTA for Interactive Innovation in 2009 and Ma France, an earlier video-based online course, all available at bbc.co.uk/languages.

In deciding which was the next language we should do, our audience research revealed that Italy attracts a high number of short-break UK visitors, many of these motivated by culture.

We were also more ambitious in editorial and production terms, using higher-end photography for the video and developing a game within a drama, around the concept of the map and a treasure hunt. Our purpose with our interactive video courses, as well as with most of what we do, is to demystify language learning - which is often perceived as a difficult subject by most UK learners, and make it as attractive and straightforward as possible for the audience.

We then developed the creative format further, seeking advice and working together with a wide network of people which included game specialists, writers, film-makers and language consultants”.

Is it at the moment available online only?

“The series will be permanently available online for the foreseeable future at bbc.co.uk/lamappa.

There’s also an adaptation for TV which is repeated every few months on BBC Two Learning Zone, our record-and-play-later service which transmits overnight. The next chance to do so will be in the week commencing 24 Oct. Exact details will be published nearer the time on bbc.co.uk/languages”.

Is it only for beginners or is there also an advanced level?

“The learning content of the programme and its supporting activities have been devised with absolute beginners in mind, as that's where the bulk of our audience is. However, there's a fair amount of incidental dialogue that is of benefit to more advanced learners. Amongst other features, the learner can switch the subtitles to see the Italian transcription or its English translation. For full details of all the features, please go to: http://www.live.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/lamappa/userguide

As well as the user’s guide, please have a look at the teaching guide:


How many people have visited the web page of the Italian course? Is there a big demand for Italian language courses in the UK?

“It’s still early days as it’s only been live for just over a week and we haven't started promotion in earnest yet. We prefer to call it an introduction to Italian as it's not a comprehensive course. Indeed, we hope that it will inspire those taking it to further their learning and, as a result, increase the demand for Italian courses in the UK”.

Giulia Lombardo

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