1 9 7 1 – 1 9 7 4 (Australia)
This adult educational series was designed, funded and produced by the Australian Department of Immigration (with WIN Channel 4, Wollongong) and donated to commercial Australian television stations to help teach English to newly arrived migrants.
The series was split into two segments, teaching and dramatic. Both involved a group of factory workers: both were aimed at helping non-English speaking settlers learn their new country’s language as well as deal with the hassles that constantly crop up in everyday living in a strange and unfamiliar land.
The teaching segments were based on the situational method developed by Mr G.A. Pittman at the University of Sydney.
Teachers, who were mainly professional actors (with the exception of Austrian-born Lucy Raig, a trained language teacher) addressed viewers as they would a live audience.
Viewers – thousands of miles apart in Wollongong, Ballarat, Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Perth, Adelaide, Port Pirie – were asked to repeat key phrases after their screen ‘teachers’. Hence the title You Say The Word.
The dramatic segment, aptly called The Toy Factory (it was set in a toy factory!) brought “you say the word” across in a more relaxed and natural way.
The dining room in a disused migrant hostel in Wollongong, NSW, was turned into the bustling toy factory for recording the series. In this setting, where Greeks and Italians once discussed settling-in qualms, actors and actresses now played characters coping with similar situations.
Heading the dramatic cast was Valerie Newstead, who played a migrant factory worker faced with the problems of an authoritarian husband (Ben Gabriel) and children who wanted a greater freedom in Australia than they would have enjoyed in their old country.
Other leads were Joanna Lockwood (daughter of Number 96 star Johnny Lockwood) and Julieanne Newbould as two Australian girls; variety personality (and future star of Bluey) Lucky Grills as the successful migrant who owned the toy factory; John McTernan as a lonely, single migrant; and Margot Lloyd as the tea lady who made everyone else’s problems her own.
In each dramatic story, the characters ran the gamut – the loneliness of the single migrant; children torn between the more permissive Australian life and the stricter traditions of their parents; migrants with language difficulties getting tangled with the law.
The toy factory employees were also involved in day-to-day happenings, such as obtaining a driving licence, buying furniture on hire purchase and seeking finance for a new home.
The level of English used in the dramatic segments matched the standard reached in the teaching segments.
Each of the Sunday morning episodes (except in Port Pirie where the show aired on Friday evenings) was an hour long.