BRENNPUNKT. EXAMINATION LISTENING. By Alan Seaton and Ulli Neuhoff. Student Workbook, pound;3.99. Teacher;s Book and Cassette. pound;54.50 + VAT. Nelson.
These self-study resources consist of recordings of French and German broadcast news stories, with introductory notes, vocabulary and tasks which provide individualised preparation for the revised A and AS-level syllabuses.
The 15 topics match those of Au Point and Brennpunkt, but would admirably complement any similar course material. Topics 1 to 6 provide a useful "bridge" to advanced level work with structured support and a progression in difficulty, while in topics 7 to 15 there is less support and the approach is closer to actual examination practice.
Each topic includes two or three items, graded from simple to the more demanding and generally faster spoken. Within each unit there is a vocabulary list and introduction, printed for the first six units, but spoken for the remainder. A complete list of topics, each individual item and a brief description in English is provided in the Teacher's Book, and would surely provide essential reference for students. the tasks are similarly graded in difficulty, moving from truefalse and gap-filling to synonym work, sequencing sentences, joining sentence halves, gist and detailed comprehension, resume and transcription.
Although both resources properly develop recognition of statistics, dates and the like, Brennpunkt opts for the graphic approach of filling in grids. This technique is particularly effective in an exercise on the highly topical issue of Rechtschreibreform.
Recording quality is very high, although students will find those directly recorded from France Info and France Inter extremely fast and taxing. The duration rarely exceeds three minutes. The printed texts are faithful, but there is an inconsistency between Teacher's Book and Student workbook in the transcription task in 10b of the French material.
Without doubt these topical resources will extend students' listening skills through the variety of authentic sources and range of tasks that wrest meaning from often fiendishly rapid and complex text.
More valuable, however, will be the opportunity provided for independent access to what has become for many the most exacting of the language skills.
* Nigel Norman is a lecturer in education at the University of Wales, Swansea.