Mi Vida Loca : Who knew the BBC made Spanish action films?

One of the best Spanish learning sites I’ve ever tooled around on is the BBC’s interactive language program Mi Vida Loca. Truly multimedia, it’s part film, part grammar and vocabulary text, and part video game. And it’s free! The storyline is that you’ve been given the keys to a friend’s flat in Madrid, only to discover that her sister Merche is crashing there already. Merche comes off as an oddball at first—extremely paranoid, but also extremely friendly. And in order to challenge your language skills, she speaks no English. Luckily, you have a virtual friend who pops up on occasion to act as your dictionary, cultural reference, and pronunciation guide.

You quickly come to find out that Merche is a journalist working on a big story about environmental concerns with tourist developments in the Canary Islands. Her research has landed her on the wrong side of some very dangerous people, which explains her paranoia. It’s also reason enough for her to drag you around different parts of Spain. All the while, you’re put into useful situations: ordering at a restaurant, asking for directions, booking a room, renting a car, and even getting some help at a drug store (gulp!). You also sit in on a Spanish class run by one of Merche’s friends (portrayed by the BBC employee who helped develop the program), try your luck at crossword puzzles and other language games, and finish up the series with a skills exam to see how far you’ve come. And trust me, by the time you get to the end, you’ll have picked up quite a bit of Spanish. For that reason, the series is particularly good for folks preparing for a trip.

Screenshot of Merche thinking about bopping you with a frying pan.

Since the film takes place mostly in central Spain, castellano is generally used throughout. So expect to hear some “th” sounds and vosotros forms—though you do get a taste of español de Canarias in the last few episodes. And just as American and British English vary in vocabulary occasionally, the same is true for Castilian and Latin American Spanish: billete instead of boleto for instance. But that shouldn’t stop you from using this fantastic program. You’re bound to meet and speak with a Spaniard at some point in your life. Better yet, just start planning a trip to Spain! That’ll justify this course for sure.

42 responses to “Mi Vida Loca : Who knew the BBC made Spanish action films?

  1. i really need to watch this finally. shall we plan a trip to sevilla? islas canarias? almodóvar’s ciudad?

  2. I love Mi Vida Loca. I watched the entire series, and at the very beginning shes says “Me casa, Tu casa” meaning, “My house, your house”. Then you go through all those other episodes, building a liking towards the characters. In the end when you head back to the UK, you get a call from Merche, saying about she got a prize and etc…

    At the end…she says: “Me casa, Tu casa.” It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. and you think “Ah..The good old days..”

  3. I just completed this series today, and it was absolutely awesome. Not only did I get to practice and improve on my Spanish, but I also got to travel all over Spain and even visit the Canary Islands! Okay, I know I didn’t really get to go, but it felt like I did. The cinematography was very good…and convincing! I’m sorry it’s over.

  4. i love playing mi vida loca when her tape recorder get’s stolen in episodo cinco tapas i automaticly feel sorry for merche i think all the characters except for the person you play are involved in a plot to keep merche quiet

  5. I’m hooked. Am supposed to be licking my wounds from an OU French course and psyching myself up for the next level – instead I really want to know how the story goes and grab the Spanish to be able to cope with it. I think that all online language-learning courses could benefit from the kind of imaginative learning offered here. It deserves an award. How/where could it be nominated?

  6. What is the name of the actress who plays Merche Munoyerro? Is she well known in Spain? Going through the course I feel I know her personally🙂

  7. Does she die?!

  8. i love mi vida loca with a fiery passion
    this was my 15th time watching i love it i know the all the words to every episode
    #mi vida loca for eva

  9. Hi, I was the director of Mi Vida Loca and it’s very nice to hear all your lovely comments! It was an amazing time filming and editing this show. It won the 2009 Bafta Crafts Award for Interactive Innovation. The name of the actress who plays Merche is Africa Luca de Tena. It was a lot of fun working with her. I totally agree that it’s a shame not more language shows are made like this. All the best with your studies! Mi casa tu casa… XX

    • Matthias – Congratulations on a fantastic production. I have used it with my young students – grades 2 to 5 and they were beyond inspired. Do you have any plans to work on something similar? I’m left wanting more and keep hoping the BBC will produce a sequel.

      • Hi Emily, Glad to hear your students love MVL!! Sadly the entire BBC Languages site has been mothballed for a while now and there are no plans to resurrect Merche😦 But if enough people were to get in touch with BBC, maybe they’ll listen…

  10. I enjoyed it a lot! Very well done! Who’s the actor who plays the online teacher? (He reminds me of Colin Firth🙂 ).

    Thanks!

  11. Pingback: Learning Spanish | In search for...

  12. I still think about it. I can just see Merche saying, “Mmmmm…..vino.” LOL!

  13. Hola! I just wanted to thank you from heart, cause, that experience was truly special for me. I really did feel like I visited Madrid myself. Spanish is one of the best languages and when I get to chance I want to go to Spain and just listen to that beautiful language. I wish there were more films/games like Mi vida loca. I’d watch them all!🙂. And, in a way, I connected to Merche. I wish I knew “her” personally.
    I have a question for everybody: is there another film/course/game for learning a language like Mi vida loca? Matthias, I love you man!🙂

    • Thank you Caroline! I’m so glad you felt a connection with Merche and MVL! To answer your question, I haven’t come across many language courses like this. The BBC made a similar one for Italian, but I wasn’t involved with that one. I hope you get to go to Madrid or Medina de Rioseco or Gran Canaria one day!

  14. For everyone looking for the credits/cast of this serie, here you are:

    CREDITS:
    Directed, shot and edited by: Matthias Laeis
    Writers: Andrew Bernhardt, José Déniz, Matthias Laeis, Mick Webb
    Producer: José Déniz
    Executive Producer: Mick Webb
    Interactivity: Secuoyas
    1st AD / Fixer: Rafael del Vigo
    Production Manager: Rebbecca Rahman
    Production Assistant: Aurora Fernández
    Dubbing Mixer: Tom Parsons

    CAST:
    Merche: Africa Luca de Tena
    Phrasebook: Luis Soto
    Raul: Jose Manuel Trujillo
    Jorge: Alejandro Palomo
    Neighbour: Aurora Fernández
    Esther: Esther Sahagun
    Man from Madrid: Bernardo Riaza

    And as sweet anectode, Africa Luca de Tena, the actress performing Merche, has nowadays a traditional cookie’s shop.

    http://360gradospress.com/not/104367/
    http://www.afriscookies.com/

  15. So glad to find like minded souls who love Mi Vida Loca! Matthias you should be very proud of the whole thing (as I’m sure you are), for people still to be raving about it several years later. Ironically I never found it when it was released, but only a year or 2 ago my girlfriend found it when starting to improve her spanish. We really really need a sequel, it was torture when that last episode ended! Maybe we should organise a mass emailing of fans to the BBC to request they commission another series. I’d love to see NHK do one for Japanese (oh, and one for Ukrainian as well while were wishing!).

    Lost count of how many times we’ve both watched MVL now, it’s just so good.
    And Africa Luca De Tena’s cookie shop looks good (but I don’t see any Palmeras from nosey neighbours in it !)

  16. Leigh, thank you so much for the kind words. It would be great to resurrect Merche😉 Perhaps we would need to ask Africa first, as she would have to be willing to play Merche all over again. Unfortunately the BBC have stopped investing in their language learning content, but you never know; it would be interesting to see how many signatures a petition would get!

  17. They are well deserved Matthias !
    I really do think you should ask Africa if she would be willing, surely another broadcaster could do it (maybe one of the spanish stations or government to promote the language and tourism..) , or how about crowdfunding/kickstarter it? I might have to look at setting up a petition and then figure out the best way to let everyone know (aside from posting on here of course).

    We’ve been wanting to visit Madrid for a while now, but when we do finally go we *have* to visit some of the locations, but keeping a sharp eye out for dodgy looking guys on mobiles..!
    We just came back from another holiday in Lanzarote, everytime there was a suitable looking situation, we’d do an imitation of the initial dramatic opening music !

    I wonder is it possible to download the entire series still keeping it in interactive format, I’m worried that one day I’ll get a “404 page not found” on BBC’s site given that it’s now not maintained anymore. Might need to email BBC and ask if they would be willing to package it up or at least make the files available for someone else to do the necessary.

    • Hi Leigh, I’m so glad you enjoy your holidays with a MVL soundtrack😉 Working on the music has been one of my favourite things to do on this project. The opening track driving into Madrid was composed specifically for the series and inspired by the opening in Michael Mann’s The Insider.
      Sadly the interactive series is not available for download, but if the 404 page does show up one day, I will be the first to find out what happened.
      I think it would be fun to collect signatures for a new series! How can we do that?

  18. Ashley Simmons Totty

    Matthias,

    Please help! I am a teacher in the US and have started my class watching this series and now it will not play!! Is there anything y’all can do for us to continue watching??🙂 My students and I would be so grateful!

    Thanks!

    Ashley Totty
    ashley.simmons@hickmank12.org
    lasimmons12@gmail.com

    • Ashley, I am so sorry to hear you’re having trouble with MLV playback. Unfortunately the BBC has mothballed their languages pages, so if there are any problems I don’t think they will do anything about it😦

    • Hi Ashley,
      I’ve created a form to collect signatures for a second series…
      http://goo.gl/forms/hjFcdv12Nf
      Have you managed to watch it again?
      Best wishes,
      Matthias

      • Ashley Simmons Totty

        Matthias,

        I am still unable to watch to the series. Any news? I would love to continue this with my students.

        Thanks!

        Ashley

    • Ashely, what happens when you try to watch the episodes?
      Do you get any error messages? I’m an IT geek so might be able to help.

      • Ashley Simmons Totty

        Leigh,

        I get as far as choosing the episode number and checking male or female and ‘watch full interactive video.’ Then, a message appears and says something along the lines of ‘sorry your speed connection running slower than required…’ I’m just so bummed because I watched the whole series from the same place(network) and same computer all last year!

        Any advice?

        Thanks,

        Ashley

  19. Hi Matthias.
    Not sure of the best online place to organise collecting signatures in support of a 2nd series, but I’ll start searching and hopefully find somewhere suitable,
    Any ideas on how to get the ‘word’ out about it would be appreciated, aside from obviously posting about it here,Facebook,twitter etc I can try emailing the BBC to see if they would put a message on the page (30 seconds work in html) but with their language stuff mothballed who knows.

  20. Hi everyone, I’ve created a form to see how many people are interested in a second series. Please note that I have no influence over the decision, but if you like to sign, please go to:

    http://goo.gl/forms/hjFcdv12Nf

    …and forward to anyone you think may be interested.

    Thanks!

  21. Great ! Have visited the page and chose the “Yes, I would use it for personal study” option. Here’s hoping for a lot more people🙂

  22. Hi Matthias,

    Absolutely loved the series and definitely would like to see a sequel!
    I was also wondering whether you know the locations as seen in the series. When I’ll finally get to visit Madrid I would love to go to one of the terraces I “visited” with Merche.

    Thanks

  23. Hello
    I started beginners’ Spanish a few months ago and I can’t tell you how helpful it was to have done this course prior to starting beginners. Unfortunately I suspect you’ll get nowhere with the BBC since experience has shown that the larger the corporation, the less anyone has the authority to make decisions about anything. I would definitely love to see a second series and would suggest a Facebook campaign is the way to go.

  24. I would love to sign for the next season of Mi Vida Loca to start but the form is no longer accepting responses😦 I do hope you go on. It´s been one of the best language learning experiences for me.
    And I tried watching Africa doing standup comedy… Let´s say she speaks a wee bit faster :))

  25. I don’t know if you’re still around Matthias Laeis, but I really enjoyed a lot of the music used in Mi Vida Loca – is it available anywhere?

    • Hi Malcolm, thank you very much! The music took me a long time to source and choose, but it was a really enjoyable part of the process. I also had a composer for a few tracks, for example when you first drive into Madrid in Episode 1, that track was commissioned (referencing The Subordinate from The Insider soundtrack). The majority of tracks came from production music publishers because that was cheaper. For example a track called Lost In Madrid, which I used on episode 7 came from Universal Production Music. Maybe I’ll put them all on Soundcloud one day!

  26. So it’s finally happened: I’ve created a Mi Vida Loca Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bbcmividaloca

    I’ve uploaded some rare behind the scenes photos and a music track from the series.

    Please share and like.

    Thanks!

    Matthias

  27. Who is the actress who played Merche?

  28. Killer program, my pupils are diggin it too! They love the interactive side. Make more shows like this!

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