We Are NY is the new Crossroads Café, as I discovered lazing around the apartment a few Sundays ago (ok, I was hungover). The show, created by the city of New York, is fairly sophisticated. It took me a while to catch on that the overacting, slow speaking and hyper-enunciating was to teach viewers English.
Sometimes I am slow, though it didn’t take me long to figure out what was going to happen in the episode with Rosa, the Dominican grandma in Washington Heights on the verge of opening her own café who oversalts her soup and went through a pile of hard candy while filling out forms while reluctantly having a check up at the free clinic. The sugar disease! But she got that diabetes under control by walking with her Chinese friend in the park, substituting low fat milk for condensed milk and taking her medication every day, then found love and opened her café, after all—selling healthy food.
I hope teabagging types don’t tune in. In this multi-culti world all services are free, you can get an interpreter if you can’t speak English, healthcare doesn’t cost a dime and you’re entitled to it even if you’re not a legal citizen, and best of all everyone is helpful. I noticed that the woman playing a chipper Jamaican receptionist (I’ve never ever encountered a happy doctor’s office receptionist) was named Tanesha Gary. Ever since I’ve moved into this apartment five years ago, I’ve been getting mail for a Tanesha Gary. I wonder if it’s the same person? I have some Christmas cards for you.
The supplemental material for this show on the website is actually pretty cool and very comprehensive. For the episode above, “New Life Café” you can view it online, download a study guide and script. Illustration-heavy workbooks and multiple choice tests were my favorite part of grade school. You were right or wrong, no abstract thinking so it was easy to look smart. I could totally use something remedial and corny like this for my sad SSL (Spanish as a second language) needs. Yet I don’t see a Latin American municipal organization creating such a program for foreigners.
For a few seconds every couple months I feel like the kind of person who could help others. In a weak moment, I half-considered filling out the form to become a conversation group leader. “Starting in March 2010, you can help people in your community improve their English skills.” I don't think anyone in Carroll Gardens is unable to speak English. I do still hear more than a few resistant, heavy Brooklyn accents, though. Amusing, because these are the only people who have ever told me that I have an accent.