New telenovela, ‘The English Teacher,’ will tickle expats

Carolina Gúmez and Victor Mallarino star in the series, as pictured on the show's official

“The English Teacher” has reached Costa Rica. The telenovela is likely to generate an appreciative audience not only of Costa Ricans but also of expats, just like “Yo soy Betty, la fea” did in 2001 and 2002.

This is another Colombian production that is witty, well-plotted and touches on a topic dear to the hearts of expats: Learning a foreign language.

There is an evil cousin, an ungrateful spouse and the hard-working star Jesús Antonio “Kike” Peinado, played by Victor Mallarino. The show is described as a romantic comedy, but there is gunplay in some of the final episodes.

Kike is running Creaciones Merceditas, a lingerie manufacturer founded by his ex-wife who dumped him for a rich Gringo. The businessman would like to expand to suppliers in the United States, but he only speaks Spanish. The show unapologetically mixes English with Spanish.

The middle-aged Kike signs up for an English course only to have Pilar “Pili” Ortega, played by Carolina Gómez show up as the instructor. Kiki is captured by her charm and innocence.

But most certainly in telenovelas the course of true love is challenging. That is the job of evil cousins and a host of other characters. Luis Fernando Caicedo, played by Juan Alfonso Baptista, is the U.S.-based bilingual, no good cousin who tries to steal Kike’s company to settle his own narco trafficking debts. But that is in later episodes.

The show is at 8 p.m. Monday through Friday on Channel 6, Repretel. The Caracol Television series started Monday.

Anyone who has struggled with a foreign language cannot help but to commiserate with Kike as he tries to learn English. The Monday episode featured a dream sequence in which Kiki searches urgently for a bathroom in a Miami airline terminal and motions to a guard his needs, suggesting with his hands that his stomach will blow up if he does not find the bathroom. The guard, of course, mistakes him for a bomb-carrying terrorist with the logical outcome.

In Miami, Kike struggles to give an English-speaking taxi driver directions to a hotel.

They spend the trip with each speaking in their own language with about 20 percent comprehension.

At the hotel Kiki tries to order a meal. “Carne,” he tells the young, monolingual waiter. He gets a plate of corn.

Of course, Pili has her own problems including a boyfriend in the United States. So naturally the U.S. consulate denies her a visa.

“Yo soy Betty, la fea” became a hit in Costa Rica and then was duplicated in at least 12 other shows, including the U.S. version “Ugly Betty.”

The English teacher many not receive that universal approval, but for expats in Costa Rica, the plot and language conflicts hit close to home.

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