Back with an old friend

Eleanor Caldwell

THEMATISCH 7 AND THEMATIQUE 7 Age range: 16-plus Sets of audio cassette, photocopiable masters and full transcripts. Pounds 49.99 each. Available on subscription from Mary Glasgow Publications, Ellenborough House, Wellington Street, Cheltenham, Glos GL50 1YD

Considering a review of the new set of Thematisch 7 and Thematique 7 is rather like pondering a conversation with an old friend. There's a comforting feeling that all the basics in this latest addition to the successful Thematisch and Thematique series remain reassuringly the same.

Since the series' inception in 1989, these publications have gone from strength to strength, providing a whole library of material for A-level and Higher classes in French and German.

In purely practical and financial terms, the packs have always offered sets of highly relevant contemporary material. In 1990, Thematisch 2 looked at a newly re-united Berlin and Thematisch 4, in 1992, looked at the new Germany, in Die Neuen Bundeslander. It would be virtually impossible to produce a core textbook with this level of up-to-the minute material and few teachers have access to the necessary range of newspaper articles and interviews.

In this seventh edition, there is a certain amount of similarity between the topics in the two languages, with exercises on La Mode and Die Mode (fashion), La Criminalite and Die Gewalt (crime). To add a historical perspective, Thematique 7 explores La Resistance, while its German counterpart, Thematisch 7, looks at Nazism in Aspekte der Nazizeit.

Taking the Thematisch 7 topic, Aspekte der Nazizeit as an example, reading material includes interviews conducted in Munich for Bravo magazine on the film Schindler's List, a description of the little known "Weisse Rose" student resistance group within Germany and even a dose of Third Reich humour and extremely dangerous satire: "Adolf der Ubermensch schluckt Gold und redet Blech" ("Adolf the superman, swallows gold and speaks tin").

The listening exercises, reminiscences and contemporary thoughts on the Third Reich are linguistically dense and extremely demanding. In other topics, however, the listening tasks are noticeably more accessible. Just as Thematique 6 (1994) devoted a topic to the culinary vagaries of the French, it seems only right that the new edition should tackle that equally French issue la Mode. Again, the level of language in most articles is high, but this is compensated for by the variety of content and style.

Much could be said about the details of individual topics in both Thematique and Thematisch. However, it is more important to note that the series so far in each language offer a range of 28 topic areas, each packed with material and exercises which could form the core of any A-level or Higher syllabus.

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