Firm foundations

Foundations multimedia course

French and German

Site licence pound;499 + vat for each language

Vektor Ltd

Foundations FrenchGerman describes itself as a multimedia course suitable for key stages 34 and post-16 which can be used on a network or on stand-alone computers.

In each language the package comprises a slim user guide and two CD-Roms, each containing 15 dialogues. Covering all the usual GCSE topics, the format is the same for each section. First there comes a conversation, usually between a pair of teenagers, which presents the new language with optional display of English or German subtitles.

The linguistic content of most of the conversations is more suited to higher-level GCSE, despite the claim on the packaging, but they could provide useful models for the conversation exam. Pupils should work on this section until they are familiar with the dialogue.

The on-screen display shows the speakers (unfortunately with lips not quite synchronised to the soundtrack) and between them a pictogram to represent each sentence they say. This pictogram acts as a mnemonic for the next part, where pupils have to supply the sentences from memory.

Hints are available on three levels: a word at a time, the whole written sentence or the spoken and written reminder. In this section pupils can record their own voice repeating each sentence and play this back. At this stage the script or vocabulary list can be printed.

After this, pupils could move to the role-play. Here they take the role of one of the two speakers for some further interactive practice, still using the same dialogue.

Each dialogue has two consolidation tests which takes various forms, such as cloze, anagram sentences or multiple choice. These are a good test of pupils' mastery of the language from the conversation.

A crossword finishes off the work on each dialogue by consolidating new vocabulary.

A grammar section consists of a "virtual chalkboard" (video of a teacher explaining a grammar point) with printable script and comprehension exercises.

The topics covered span GCSE and AS-level and explanations are clear enough for fairly able pupils to teach themselves.

One excellent feature of the package is the "learner progress tracking", which helps teachers track what pupils have done in a session, complete with topics, timings, exercises attempted and scores. For me this suggests that the optimum use of this resource would be as a revisionself-study package in the library.

"Foundations" was an unfortunate choice of word for the title since the material is much too difficult for most KS3 pupils or even foundation level GCSE. However, having completed the 30 sections and the grammar area, any learner would have a solid foundation for further study.

Andrea Osborne is an MFL consultant for Essex County Council

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