While European language teachers forge ahead with speech recognition technology, the British continue to reserve judgment on its benefits.
The latest version of Paris based Auralog's TeLL me More CD-Rom offers twice as much content as earlier packs, boasting 200 hours of learning with more than 1,000 exercises at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
Individual learning programmes and optional on-line tutor service form the new focus at all levels. Within a tightly prescriptive but ultimately flexible format, students select their own time span, number of hours to be worked each day and specific language skills to be practised in the course. With this input, the student is told the exact number of hours their own learning programme will entail.
The optional on-line tutoring service, based initially in Paris with a small team of tutors and soon to be expanded, offers the increasingly familiar distance earning service of consultation, evaluation and assessment of students' work.
Exercises are all from the CD-Rom material and tutors will be able not only to check answers but also to see how many attempts the student has made to complete the work.
Tutors will not have access to recordings of students' spoken work. however, the course's advanced technology of voice graphs, intonations curves and phonetic animations offers an easy-to-use system for self-assessment.
Full screen videos practise listening comprehension and grammar exercises are backed up with very extensive glossaries and verb tables.
The range of material in TeLL me More is impressive to the extent of being daunting to the class teacher.
For the ongoing renaissance of languages such as Italian and Spanish however, TeLL Me More could make a lively and effective contribution.
However, real teacher input would also be essential to lend a human face to this highly systematised approach to language learning.
Eleanor Caldwell is a freelance writer, teacher and co-author of 'French, German amp; Spanish to Standard Grade' (Oxford University Press)