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Concentrate on the basics

Nigel Norman looks at two German courses written to prepare students for the new-style GCSE. VORSPRUNG 1 By By Kate Corney Student's book Pounds 6.50 Workbook Pounds 2.75 Teacher's Resource Book Pounds 10.75 Resources and Assessment Pack Pounds 39.50 Eight cassettes Pounds 59.95 + VAT Collins.

Vorsprung 1 is the first level of a two-year course for pupils preparing for the foundation tier of the revised GCSE syllabuses in German.

With its practical, user-friendly format, modular assessment, advice on examination preparation and vocational framework, this course amply fulfils a need for suitable materials to motivate the less able within the context of a new examination.

Given the image of German as a relatively "difficult" language, it is the declared intention of Vorsprung to focus only on the language required to achieve a Grade C at GCSE, to concentrate on listening and speaking, and to pare grammar down to a small core of terminology-free essentials.

The approach is minimalist, needs-based and highly pragmatic. The premium is on maximum practice of a clearly-defined, limited set of language patterns. Thus pupils will be given objectives (Lernziele) at the beginning of each unit (for example, to say what you do at weekends, to say what you did last weekend), which will be supported with photographs, drawings, taped dialogues, and practised in pairs, groups or individually. Important expressions (Die wichtigen Ausdruecke) are highlighted in boxes, and at the end of each unit, in a word-list (Die Wortliste) are translated into English, providing a mini phrase-book of the essential language needed to fulfil each objective.

The individual components of the course are attractively presented and complement each other well. The Student's Book (Schuelerbuch) is a colourful and varied combination of authentic pictorial and textual material that is uncluttered and carefully and supportively structured. The Workbook (Arbeitsbuch), in black and white, provides vital additional practice activities, but more significantly contains valuable advice on using dictionaries, giving presentations, revising for module tests and exam technique.

Teachers are provided with well-produced, clear cassettes (eerily free of background noise), a Resources and Assessment Pack (complete with end-of-module tests and certificates, photocopiable worksheets and overhead transparency masters), and a Teacher's Resource Book that represents a blend of the pedagogical and the pragmatic. For here are not only ideas for teaching, use of the target language, differentiation and other cultural "live" issues, but also a teacher's manual for surviving an OFSTED inspection. This is a book written with accountability and league tables in mind, as well as the vocational interests of the less-motivated 14 to 16-year-old.

While there can be no avoiding topics such as train travel and the post office, so it seems, the inclusion of telephone skills and job interviews does much to raise the content to a more welcome level of sophistication. With its no nonsense approach, its clear sense of audience and ease of use, this is a course that will cater well for a significant new generation of learners of German.

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