Televised College Class Goes Hollywood to Teach Spanish : Television: ‘Destinos,’ a $4.8-million <i> telenovela</i> , is a year-long course that premieres Saturday on KCET.


It’s not every day that a televised college course gets a review in Variety, the Hollywood trade publication. But “Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish” is not typical educational fare.

“Destinos,” which premieres Saturday at 10 a.m. on KCET-TV Channel 28, is a year-long course in Spanish, produced in the form of a telenovela , the popular Latin American style of soap opera.

“There’s actors and there’s beautiful locations and there’s plot and there’s intrigue and mystery,” said producer Olivia Tappan, who said the series cost $4.8 million and took four years to produce. “All the stuff that Hollywood loves.”

The idea, according to Tappan, “is to interest people in comprehending a story, to keep things really spicy and alive, as opposed to talking heads.”


While viewers may pick up quite a bit of Spanish by watching, the series was designed to be used with other materials. Tappan recommends purchasing an accompanying study package, which consists of a workbook, textbook and audio tapes, along with the series to reinforce the words and concepts introduced in each episode.

“Destinos” tells the story of Los Angeles lawyer Raquel Rodriguez (Liliana Abud) as she investigates a mysterious letter sent to Fernando Castillo (Augusto Benedico), the dying patriarch of a wealthy family in Mexico.

The action opens at Castillo’s estate, a sprawling hacienda that dates back to colonial times, where the aging industrialist is under the care of a nurse and two of his grown children. He summons his family to a meeting.

It turns out that he has received a letter from Spain, his home country, which he fled with his brother during the Spanish Civil War. Does the letter have something to do with the young wife he left behind, whom he thought was dead? Future episodes will tell the tale.

Set in Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico and Argentina, “Destinos” traces the quest for information about the letter and Castillo’s past. Romance and adventure, of course, abound.

“Students are encouraged to watch how characters interact with each other, ways they behave, things they’re focusing their attention on, and not worry about understanding every single word,” Tappan said.

To help students as they begin to understand Spanish, an English narration accompanies the action in the first 13 episodes. And throughout the program’s 52 episodes, review sections are included to go over new concepts and explain items of geographical or cultural significance.

On occasion, the action stops while a narrator--who speaks in Spanish in the later episodes--explains a new idea or shows a map. Other times, the characters take time out to discuss a language concept among themselves, as if it is part of the story.

Study materials and information about how to get college credit for the course are available at (800) 532-7637.