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Language packages are just the business

Talking Business French for (G)NVQ Talking Business German for (G)NVQ Talking Business Spanish for (G)NVQ Stanley Thornes Presentation packs: French Pounds 96.98 + VAT, German Pounds 104.49 + VAT, Spanish Pounds 104.49 + VAT

Acronyms are fine if they are universally understood. Unfortunately, (G)NVQ language units have been widely misunderstood, so it's good to find a resource that makes it clear that the N in (G)NVQ is for National, ie based on the National Language Standards, and the V for Vocational, ie foreign language which is used by people at work.

I would strongly advise all novice (General) National Vocational Qualification language teachers to start their investigation of these Talking Business language packages with the tutor's guide to the National Language Standards (NLS) which is included in each of the Resource and Assessment files. The respective coursebooks and cassette packs will only offer a useful basis for a (G)NVQ language programme if the implementation of the NLS is properly understood.

Given the NLS range, from basic competence, level 1, to full-time, specialised professional usage as an interpreter, level 5, it would be helpful if these (G)NVQ packages displayed on the covers that they are clearly and consistently mapped to NLS levels 1 and 2.

It is reassuring to see that the interpretation of the NLS levels 1 and 2 in each language package generally agrees with the growing national performance. Novice (G)NVQ language assessors will find this reliable guide to an NLS level 1 or 2 performance particularly helpful if they are in the difficult position of being the sole judge of language competence in their local (G)NVQ assessment and verification structure.

It is regrettable, however, that the lingering misconception that awarding bodies function like examination boards - offering formal, standardised tests for (G)NVQ language units - is reinforced in the introduction to the Spanish coursebook. While sample assessment tasks are provided by awarding bodies for guidance, these are no more definitive than the tasks included in the three Resource and Assessment files - and in some cases are less realistic.

Novice (G)NVQ language assessors must also be aware that the awarding bodies which accredit NLS levels 1, 2 and 3 are mainly vocational experts to whom the vocational relevance of the language tasks is important. Although the Talking Business series uses National Vocational Qualification labels - and begs the question of the (G) application - the assessment tasks are more appropriate to GNVQ assessment as they cover many general and vocational scenarios: NVQ assessment should be customised to a specific job.

The most consistently appropriate, general business tasks are offered in the Resource and Assessment file for French. In the Spanish file there is some confusion over the difference between a language practice task and one to demonstrate operational competence. In the German file the life experience of a teenager sits awkwardly in what is essentially a formal adult world.

The photograph of alert, well-dressed adults on the covers and files identifies the target group of the learning programme offered by the coursebook and cassettes. The German, French and Spanish texts are a re-issue of a well-worked generic formula for teaching beginner's business language to adult learners by supported self-study methods or with varying degrees of tutor input.

The French and Spanish coursebooks and cassettes provide a lean and linear preparation for NLS level 1 with some development of level 2 competence.

The German coursebook has the same internal structure but has additional transactional situations and lays much greater emphasis on the exposition and practice of grammar.

While the French and Spanish coursebooks progress from simple to more complex language, the simple and complex are juxtaposed throughout the German coursebook through the additional features of unit-by-unit German Landeskunde and the Talking business extra section, both of which, conceptually at least, cover the range of NLS level 2.

The Resource and Assessment files in each language are an add-on to the coursebooks and cassettes - although the latter determine the context and level of the sample assessments - and thus could be used as a free-standing resource.

These packages are a welcome contribution to the advancement of understanding of (G)NVQ language programmes.

Sue Roberts is manager of languages, North Warwickshire Hinckley College, Nuneaton

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