Accent on accent

Talk To Me. Interactive CD-Roms for French, German and Spanish (Beginner Level). System requirements: 486 DX Multimedia PC with Windows 3.1 or above, Pounds 65 (ex VAT) each, or Pounds 145 (ex VAT) for all three. All prices include microphone and headphones Yorkshire International Thomson MultimediaSemerc, 1 Broadbent Road, Watersheddings, OldhamOL1 4HU. Tel 0161 627 4469.

Talk To Me claims to be one of the latest CALL (computer- aided language learning) aids available to language teachers. While not strictly multimedia, it does contain a mixture of sound and text files, and includes evaluation of the work completed.

This is a set of three CD-Roms (French, German and Spanish), prepared for use by beginners, which would be immediately useful in the classroom. The material is pedagogically sound, easy and pleasant to use and has an admirable built-in student tracking and recording system.

A novel feature is in a form of voice recognition, which, it is claimed, allows the learner to have a genuine dialogue with the computer. In practical terms, this works well, and the learner can vary the acceptance level, so that the voice recognition is more or less forgiving. As a fluent French speaker, I found that, at the higher levels of acceptance, quite an effort was required to satisfy the software that pronunciation was accurate. However, the learner need not be deterred by this, as the model sound and the student's efforts are represented graphically, so that a colour-coded comparison of the soundwaves can be made. This could be very useful, though won't yet completely replace correction by a teacher, and the class would need to be well-briefed and disciplined to exploit the feature fully.

Other features include exercises on word association, blank filling, word order, a "Hangman" game, and dictation exercises.

Various options include the ability to vary acceptance levels, the possibility of modifying background noise and of creating a file to record student scores.

The teacher's guide included with the CD-Rom is comprehensive, covering installation as well as exploitation of the material.

This is not one of the most attractive CD-Roms on the market - it only has still pictures, rather than a video presentation as many rivals have. That being said, the system requirement is modest, and the situational content of the material cannot be faulted.

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