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Back on the fast track

Alle Einsteigen! 3, By Keith Saunders, Mike Simpsonand Karin Ernst Student's book Pounds 8.99Set of 3 Cassettes Pounds 35 + VAT File of overhead transparencies Pounds 60 + VAT, Hodder Stoughton

In a highly mature and sophisticated approach to learning German, Alle Einsteigen! 3 continues to challenge pupils' general knowledge and social awareness, using an interesting combination of complex and up-to-date language. In a full-page questionnaire, for example, pupils are invited to comment on their relationships with fellow pupils.

The choices range from the disturbingly negative: "Diese Woche hat ein Mitschuler mich uberredet, jemand anders zu verprugeln . . ." to a smaller number of positive alternatives: "hat mit mir gespielt . . ., hat etwas mit mir geteilt . . ." and offer a depressing reflection of contemporary playground society. This is serious stuff for a GCSEStandard Grade course.

A brief glance at the chapter titles in Alle Einsteigen! 3 confirms that the course is continuing in the "fast track" mode of the first two parts: Bei der Arbeit, Werbung, Theater, Die Welt in der wir leben, Substanzen and Feste und Feiertage. Each chapter, divided into five parts, offers a huge diversity of material on the topic, with the underlying assumption that pupils are both highly motivated and intellectually very able. In the first chapter, for example, the pupil is immediately faced with a consideration of the question "Was heisst Arbeit?" and a subsequent discussion of the definitions of women's and men's work. This, fortunately, is combined with more mundane and linguistically more accessible descriptions of daily routines (for which the superb glossy overhead projector colour transparencies would be an excellent visual aid).

Listening tasks are very structured, generally using tabulated formats to record answers. The taped material itself is at times rather stilted and "casual comments" from interviewees can sometimes sound like prepared press statements.

The sheer subject content of Alle Einsteigen! 3 is weighty and impressive. It is in some ways heartening to see a course which does not compromise on academic standards. Mature and able pupils, for example, will rise willingly to the challenge of each chapter's Projekt. But for others, the prospect of writing and performing an original play, writing a 12-bar blues song, or planning a new town in accordance with strict criteria, is hopelessly beyond their general intellectual capacity, let alone their ability in the German language. An article on the costumes for Cats or regulations for television advertising in Germany undoubtedly offer stimulating material. However, the less able will be left to accept that they too will have to develop the "Geduld und Selbstdisziplin" needed for work on schools radio, according to Alle Einsteigen!.

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