With more than 70 stands, the show was the largest ever, and included not only publishers but universities, examination boards, IT manufacturers and embassies as well. The range of materials covered nursery to higher education, all ability levels, and more languages than I have seen there before.
The overall impression was one of an incredibly wide choice, healthy competition, a lot of new publications and resources which were so attractively presented that conference participants rarely passed a stand without stopping to take a closer look.
Among the main publishers a clear priority has been to produce good key stage 4 coursebooks ready for the new style GCSE. Since most schools held off purchasing such courses last year, awaiting the new syllabuses, the exhibition was a wonderful opportunity to inspect the new publications: Francscope a la Mode (Oxford University Press) to link with the new Southern Examining Group modular GCSE, Auto-Examen B (Collins), Francais Direct and Ja (Longman), Camarades (Mary Glasgow Publications), Avantage and Auf Deutsch (Heinemann), Route Nationale 4, Encore Tricolore, Lernziel Deutsch (Nelson) and Carnaval (Cambridge University Press). The Revilo company has also taken account of the needs of the new GCSE by producing totally new versions of their resources in the target language.
One of the main issues that these new courses have addressed is differentiation, either within one coursebook or by producing two levels of books. Camarades is particularly impressive in the way it handles differentiation, progression and the teaching of grammar. The LCP's Rubrics Book is a must as we move to target language rubrics throughout the new GCSEs.
Dictionaries and dictionary skills are another priority, again closely linked to the needs of the national curriculum and the new GCSEs. Most interesting were the Collins New Easy Learning Dictionary, with its clear, simple layout, and the Larousse School French and School Spanish Dictionaries, which have an optional school supplement pack of photocopiable activity sheets.
Other dictionary skills photocopiable packs on display were Dictionary Skills, French and Spanish (LCP), Developing Dictionary Skills in French (Collins) and the CILT Pathfinder 28, a useful source of information for teachers.
Differentiation was also clearly addressed by many publishers, both towards low-ability pupils and high-fliers. For the former: Rendez-Vous, Heinemann's key stage 4 course, Le Francais C'est Facile and Deutsch? Kein Problem from John Murray and, coming soon from Nelson, Passe-partout, Route Nationale Extra 3 and Examen Extra, which all promise the road to exam success for low achievers.
Oxford University Press has published Envol for high-fliers at GCSE and as preparation for A-level, while John Murray has intermediate materials for 14 to 18: Je t'Ecoute, for intermediate listening and InfoFrance, for reading.
Publishers have also recognised that success in GCSE is a high priority for teachers, so grammar, practice and revision were much in evidence. Most interesting were the LCP grammar packs for French, German and Spanish, the practical grammars in the same three languages to support high level key stage 4 and A-level, from Hodder Stoughton, John Murray's Bravo and Basic Grammars and OUP's French, German and Spanish course companions and revision guides.
A number of publications for A-level particularly caught my eye: the new-style Authentik, the interesting Champs Elysees Audio Magazines and Bristol Classical Press's French Regional Studies of Brittany and Normandy, beautifully presented in French and suitable for undergraduates as well. John Murray's video-based Dossiers France Television also looked exciting.
OUP has produced good A-level language learning videos as well as multi-media CD-Roms in French, German and Spanish, and Collins also has CD-Roms for 14 to 19s in all three languages. Nelson's wide range of interactive CD-Roms to bring multi-media into the classroom for key stages 3 and 4 attracted a lot of interest.
The new resources for technical and business studies are much more attractive than they used to be. Managed Learning, a company that has been providing business foreign language training for more than 10 years, had courses for tour operators, telephone skills and the tourist industry. Routledge has produced German and French technical dictionaries with CD-Rom and diskettes, as well as French and German dictionaries of business, commerce and finance. Wolverhampton University had their best-seller CD-Rom English for Business, while Hodder Stoughton showed Matires Premires, their vocational advanced topics on modern France.
Finally, some discoveries that seemed well worth closer inspection. An attractive new magazine from France-Galles Publications BD1 is easy to read and with an interesting emphasis on changing attitudes to Europe.
The European Parliament stand suprisingly offered a wonderful range of brochures and leaflets in class sets as well as very attractive materials for classroom display - a must, I felt, for any teacher.
And last, for anyone who has a Language Master Machine lost somewhere between Special Needs and Languages in their school, Drake now has language master cards in French, German and Spanish, which link with most of the main coursebooks, and provide useful blanks for home-produced materials.
Last year we were waiting for publishers' responses to the new syllabuses. This year, Language World revealed a marvellous range of possibilities. I look forward to seeing what next year's exhibition at the University of Keele has to offer.
Sue Brown is head of modern languages at Stoke Damerel Community College, Plymouth