Teaching Modern Foreign Languages. A Handbook for Teachers
By Dr Carol Morgan and Dr Peter Neil
I wish I had had access to a book like this when I was doing my PGCE in the Seventies. In those days the only advice my tutor could give when I asked what a teacher could possibly do to motivate a class of switched-off 15-year-olds was "Oh, give them something about car number plates. That'll keep 'em quiet".
How things have changed! This book - ideal for student teachers, NQTs and their mentors - is full of excellent ideas on the nitty-gritty of the language teacher's craft. It starts with a broad history of MFL teaching - how we got to where we are today and why we do things the way we do - and then takes the reader through the main issues surrounding the job. These include the place of MFL in the curriculum, planning and classroom management, using ICT, assessment, using the target language, equal opportunities and special needs and lots more.
The book gives the impression that it is on the teacher's side. It sets out clear objectives at the start of every chapter and gives a balanced view of the issues. It's not a government mouthpiece, nor does it uncritically embrace the latest fads. Its tone is accessible and supportive - students are encouraged to think through the issues for themselves and consider each of them in terms of their own work as professionals in the classroom. There are suggestions for discussion topics between student and mentor, as well as school-based projects to give students a practical "earthing" of the theoretical points.
Some may argue that the book tries to do too much and therefore does it superficially - you can't do justice to a topic such as "Boys and Languages" in two-and-a-half pages. This is to miss the point, however. This book presents the overall picture, and then provides a long list of references for any readers who want to follow up the scores of issues it raises.
I particularly like the absence of jargon. Acronyms are carefully spelled out, and unavoidable technical words are always explained in plain English. This book on its own will not make anyone a good teacher, but if it is representative of what is being used on current PGCE courses, then we may be confident that the new generation of language teachers will be very well informed indeed about the issues they face in today's classrooms.
Richard Marsden is a former head of languages, now working as a writer and languages consultant. His GCSE French course Periscope 2 is published by John Murray