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Back to basics;Secondary;Books;Subject of the week;Modern languages

A GUIDE TO TEACHING LANGUAGES. By Terry Atkinson and Elisabeth Lazarus. Mary Glasgow PublicationsAssociation for Language Learning pound;8.50

This latest in the Concepts series of handbooks offers a starting point for re-examining the familiar routine procedures of language teaching. Within the constraints of 38 pages, which even the most hard-pressed teacher should make a point of reading, it modestly attempts "to reduce the highly complex activity of teaching languages to its foundations".

The authors move logically and clearly through the stages of the teaching process: from preparation, presenting language, drill and practice, to use and performance, making sense of language and assessment.

Methodological possibilities are outlined, examples given; reflection and questioning unerringly underpin the whole. The pedagogy is resoundingly contemporary, reflecting the best practice in communicative language teaching, but also reasserting the pivotal significance of structure, patterns and rules (Chapter 6, "Making sense of language", is particularly valuable in this respect).

At the end of each chapter a summary draws out principles firmly grounded in practice with a short and useful list of further reading for the vital flesh on the bones.

The format is reader-friendly, avoiding dense, over-technical text in favour of short paragraphs under key headings, often numbered or in bullet-point form. This "text-bite" approach will commend itself to the busy practitioner, as well as to the inexperienced novice and student looking for a vade mecum.

Nigel Norman

Nigel Norman is lecturer in education at the University of Wales, Swansea

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