First taste and a Spanish feast

Sue Brown

Aarriba!, By Ana Kolkowska and Libby Mitchell, Pupil's Book Pounds 8.25, Teacher's Guide Pounds 19.99m, Resource and Assessment File Pounds 59.95, Cassette pack Pounds 45 + VAT, Flashcards Pounds 49.95, Workbook (pack of 8) Pounds 14.99 Workbook Masters Pounds 36.50, Heinemann, Age range 11 - 14

ISigue! Curso Avanzado, By David Mort, Sally Ann Pye and Helena Aixendri, Student's book Pounds 11.99, Teacher's book Pounds 25, John Murray, Age 16-plus

Espa$a Hoy, Video Profiles. 67 minutes, Cambridge University Press Pounds 45 Age range 16-plus

Mary O'Sullivan on Spanish resources for beginners to A-level.

It is gratifying to witness the growth in the publication of lively beginners' courses in Spanish. Healthy competition makes for more innovative and comprehensive materials.

AArriba! is a welcome addition. It is the first part of a bang up to date course for schoolchildren. It has instant visual appeal. The graphics are excellent and the photo stories particularly appealing. Some 11-year-old testers enjoyed the magazine-type format and said it would be fun to learn the language from AArriba!.

This is a demanding generation, accustomed to instant gratification, colour and new technologies: it is vital and very difficult to capture their imaginations. The authors of this course know their readers and how to hold their attention.

The Pupil's Book comprises six temas and there are mid-tema and end of tema tests for assessment. There is a grammar summary and word lists at the end of the book.

Accompanying the course are workbooks designed for self-study and homework (predominantly reading and writing tasks).

The Resource and Assessment File provides differentiated, photocopiable worksheets on all four skills plus check lists and pupilteacher profile sheets for record keeping.

The accompanying Teacher's Guide is a useful manual with a host of suggestions on how to approach the material and subsequently exploit it. Teachers will save valuable time with the mapping to the national curriculum.

The cassettes contain meaningful listening exercises, dialogues and songs delivered by a variety of native voices, clearly enunciated and authentic.

This is a thorough, exciting new course which will provide a wealth of ideas for exploitation and offers continual reinforcement. Lengthier reading passages towards the later units might have been a useful addition.

Another feature, which makes the course rather pricey, is the number of components. The workbooks, for example, could have been incorporated into the Pupil's Book. Nevertheless, AArriba! will surely be a source of delight for students and teachers.

There has long been a need for suitable material to address the difficulty of taking students from GCSE to A-level. ASigue! fulfils this need admirably.

The awkwardness of bridging the gap is a real source of concern for language teachers who find their A* GCSE pupils initially struggling to cope with a traditional A-level course. The authors of ASigue! deal with sophisticated topics by presenting short to medium-length reading passages in the first stages. This helps to alleviate the fear students may experience when faced with long, off-putting press articles.

The first unit of the attractive student's book gently breaks the reader in with a comic sequence and a multiple choice task to fill in the speech bubbles. Grammar revision exercises follow; more in-depth (but still quite short) passages on adolescents' problems; listening comprehensions; role plays and even some mini translations into Spanish. By the end of the course the student will have focused on weighty topics such as the world of work and unemployment; marginalisation; racism; drug and alcohol abuse and the environment. The course offers a well-balanced diet of material to enhance all four language skills.

Although the material is authentic and challenging in the student's book, it is not as plentiful or weighty as other A-level courses. Everything it contains is relevant, but might need some supplementing towards the later units. The cassettes offer a range of interviews delivered at a natural pace by a cross-section of native voices. ASigue! will undoubtedly provide an enjoyable two-year course for A-level students.

This video would be an asset in any Spanish department. It presents six short profiles of people from different parts of Spain: a flamenco dancer, a fisherman, an actress, a member of the Tuna, an aspiring young footballer and a guide who provides an overview of Catalu$a. The language is wide-ranging - suitable for A level students or a good Year 11 or even an adult evening class.

The accompanying booklet contains glossaries and transcripts and may be photocopied and used in whichever way seems most appropriate. The programmes are divided subtly into manageable, natural breaks for exploitation.

This is a pleasurable trip around Spain guaranteed to provide excellent exposure to the language.

Mary O'Sullivan is a lecturer in Spanish at the University of Hertfordshire.

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