Advanced language courses need to serve many purposes: they should contain relevant contemporary resource stimuli, advanced language progression and practice in new exam requirements. Equally they must establish an appropriate pedagogy, develop the key skills of autonomy, cultural awareness and critical response. These two books admirably fulfil these needs and represent very good value for money.
Durchblick is the first part of a two-stage course providing a transition from GCSE to A-level or equivalent, and constitutes a complete coursebook for AS German or Higher German, while stage two, Uberblick, completes the full A2 course. Aufgeklart is the second part of a two-part course (Aufgeschlossen is the first part), and leads directly to A level.
In Durchblick topics are clearly linked to the new specifications, including young people, leisure, school and future plans, holidays, environment and women in the workplace, but also, crucially, up-to-date units on the media and ICT, German cinema and "dossiers" on Thuringen and Austria.
The layout is attractive and motivating, with ample authentic materials (photographs, magazinenewspaper extracts and cartoons) support the varied range of exercises and tasks. Alongside familiar activities such as gap filling, truefalse, sentence completion, there are increasingly mixed-skill tasks of the "listen and respond", "read and respond" type, as well as mini translation, synonym and summary, to develop more advanced learning strategies.
Opportunities for individual, pair and group work are provided, ICT tasks are included and even the occasional workplace task. The format is accessible, with short, manageable texts and unmistakable progression of skills development, vocabulary and grammar. This latter is skilfully interwoven with the main material in the unit and highlighted in separate Praxis boxes, which enable students to practise grammar points arising from the cotext, and cross refer to the grammar section at the end of the book.
These explanations, while traditional looking and in English, are strikingly concise and avoid unnessary jargon.
Simarly, vocabulary, idiom and opinion-building are supportively structured in the form of Takitk boxes, which progressively establish a solid base of study skills and independent learning strategies.
Cultural background is supplied in bite-size Infopunkt boxes, and there are pronunciation hints (Sprechtipps).
Each unit contains an extract from literature relevant to the topic, which begins the process of critical reading without overburdening the student with forbiddeningly dense and apparently unrelated text.
Aufgeklart admirably addresses the renewed emphasis on German culture and history, with topics on German reunification, Germany 1918-1945, as well as the German- speaking world, the world of technology, the media, equality and foreigners. Again the layout is accessible, although the black and white is marginally less appealing. There are integrated skills activities, pair and group work and grammar presented in context, with related support exercises (Zum Uben) and a comprehensive grammar summary.
Distinctive features include additional photocopiable worksheets, to provide consolidation and extension, extra grammar practice sheets offering reinforcement of a more formal kind, and specific examination advice Prufungstipps) within the units.
Valuable extra practice is provided in two formal assessments in the teacher's book.
Extracts from literature are carefully selected (Kulturmagazin) to reflect the topics, but take their place alongside a wealth of different text types.
There are passages from Boll Becher, Borchert, Wohmann, and songs by Reinhard Mey, as well as examples of dialects, items on online shopping, text messaging and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Listening material for both books is clear and authentic, and in accordance with the new specification students will benefit considerably from individual access to audiocassette work. Understanding native speech at this level will remain for many the hardest skill, although the exercises are appropriate and manageable.
Nigel Norman is lecturer in education at the University of Wales, Swansea.