The days are long gone when the BBC and the big EFL publishers would spend large amounts of money on video courses for learners of English. I still feel nostalgic about the BBC's wonderful Bid for Power, which I used extensively at the start of my teaching career in the early eighties. These days no-one can afford to invest in superproductions like that any more, or so I thought until I came across Olive Green, an interactive action movie and English learning service by SuperMemo World. Judging from the trailer you'd think it was a proper feature film, which in fact it is (see IMDb entry), except that it has been created with learners of English in mind.
Olive Green is a ground-breaking combination of an interactive feature movie, a computer game and an English learning application. The project, developed by SuperMemo World, one of the leading developers of online learning solutions, opens a brand new chapter in what is referred to as “edutainment”. In addition to being an action flick, Olive Green is a comprehensive film-based English course. The learning process takes you from the basics up to proficiency level. [From the Olive Green website].
Olive Green has won several awards and one can see why. It's refreshing to see a video course that has high production values, good acting and an engaging plot. I ended up watching all the episodes, not to improve my English, but because I wanted to find out how it ended. I thought the language activities were well integrated and motivating, especially if you are a believer in spaced repetition. Subtitles are available in ten different languages, and can be turned on or off. I was surprised that the only review I could find, on ELTjam, gave it just 2.7 out of 5. I would say it's worth a 4 at least. However, I do have one or two reservations. The user interface took a while to figure out (a 'Help' feature would be useful), but my main one is the fact that the level goes from A1 to C1 during the course of the movie. A low level learner would normally take several months (if not years!) to make that amount of progress, but by definition a movie is something you watch in one sitting, or possibly over a couple of nights on DVD. It would probably have made more pedagogical sense to have a less ambitious progression, but I can understand why they wanted to include all levels.
ACCESS & PRICING
You can watch the first four scenes (there are 60 in all) for free. To have full access, you have to pay, although the pricing system seems a bit bizarre. It's €9.90 for three days, €9,90 monthly, or €119 for a year, which means there is basically no discount if you sign up for a year. I know people expect everything to be free these days, but €9.90 seems more than reasonable to me. More advanced learners should be able to use it as an intensive course over three days or a month (though why one would choose three days when you can have a month for the same price and then cancel is not clear). You can find full details here. I should also add that you can also access the course using apps for iOS and Android, which is a big plus for mobile learners.
If you like watching action movies like James Bond or series such as Alias, Olive Green is a great way to improve your English in an enjoyable way. There's really nothing else like it out there at the moment, so let's hope it gets the popular success it deserves.