SCOLA Television

SCOLA is a non-profit that rebroadcasts television programming (mostly news) from around the world in original languages (everything from Albanian to Vietnamese). It’s intended as a language learning aid — and it’s great for that — but you don’t necessarily need to speak the language in order to get something out of the broadcasts. You can understand a lot about what’s being discussed — and sometimes how it’s being discussed is interesting in itself — even if you don’t understand a word of what’s being said. It’s a great way to get a sense of a country you don’t know much about. My brother-in-law said his image of Nepal as a backwater was forever changed after he saw their nightly newscast, complete with sophisticated commercials.

When I was at university in the early nineties, they ran SCOLA on the closed circuit cable system in the dorms. I’d forgotten all about it until a few years ago when I visited my mother-in-law in Omaha, where it’s on the cable system (SCOLA is based in neighboring Council Bluffs, IA). I wanted to keep watching SCOLA at home, but at that time, online streaming was only available to institutional subscribers. I went back to Omaha again recently, rediscovered SCOLA, and was excited to discover they now offer individual subscriptions (it’s also available on free-to-air satellite and from some cable providers).

The individual subscription allows you to stream SCOLA live or download individual programs. Downloading is ideal; you don’t even need to TiVo the broadcasts you want. I recently downloaded news from Cuba, Spain, Kurdistan, Burma, and Egypt. I don’t even speak Kurdish or Burmese, but where else are you going to get a chance to watch this stuff, or even hear what those languages sound like? I got a “Level 1″ subscription which means that for $10 I get 15 hours of SCOLA per month, either via streaming or download. This is cheaper than satellite radio, and besides, Sirius and XM aren’t going to give you the news in Kazakh.

-- Rob Ryan-Silva  

SCOLA TV $15, 25 hours per month $20, 40 hours per month Available from SCOLA Also included with some Comcast cable packages