Eleanor Caldwell welcomes a flexible new programme which leaves students with a tangible sense of achievement. The dedicated production team at Revilo continues to expand the Eurolab Junior set with this German edition. The format is identical to the Edition francaise: on a "help yourself" basis, pupils select a topic-based cassette and question card. Instructions are given in basic minimal German: "Schau die Bilder an und hor zu"; "Trag die Buchstaben ein!" and pupils, having completed the tasks, check their answers from the central store of individual answer cards.
The system of working takes little practice, provides an extremely focused learning environment and leaves pupils with a tangible sense of achievement on a period-by-period basis. Little pressure has to be brought to bear about record keeping, and a healthy competitive edge begins to emerge with the record sheets towards the end of term. With each card focusing on a different topic area, it is this flexibility of approach which is popular with pupils who, at times, feel rather hide-bound by the one topic-based teaching approach.
The Deutsche Ausgabe offers the normal range of scenarios, eg: Am Bahnhof (buying rail tickets and getting travel information), Fern-sehen (finding out about TV programmes and when they are on) and topically listening out for the Lotto numbers in Die Lottozahlen, to name a few. In all cases the focus is on pure comprehension and pupils need normally to identify an answer with a letter-labelled picture and then note only the letter. Over and above this, answers require usually only one word, a price or figure. Again, once the system has been up and running, pupils work very confidently with the tapes.
It has to be said at this point that the Deutsche Ausgabe has one or two very unfortunate flaws, primarily proof-checking errors but ones that would cause immediate problems in class. In the examples for In der Post, the price of a stamp for a postcard to England is given on tape as 80 pfennig with the total correctly coming to 2,40DM. In the transcript, the price is also 80 pfennig but the total is incorrectly given as 3,90DM. And on the pupil's question card where details of the Beispiel answers are laid out, the stamp price is 1,30DM with a total 3,90DM singularly confusing, especially in an example! Similar problems occur over bus numbers in Wie komme ich dahin?, and in a section on Das Wetter, important details are omitted from the tape and the transcript, leaving one part with no information another temperature is recorded as one figure on the answer card and a different one on the tape and transcript.
It is with an extremely heavy heart that these flaws are pointed out. Similarly, on a nit-picking basis, some of the sketches are slightly ambiguous and might just confuse the less able (chemistry-style test-tubes and flasks representing physics in In der Schule), but this would cause few practical problems.
Using a great range of voices old and young, subtle and non-interfering sound effects, well-produced laminated card for the pupil's question and answer cards (now on more practical individual cards), and all put together in a sturdy box, the Eurolab Junior Deutsche Ausgabe could be another popular success for language teachers, but only if the proof readers are given a second chance.