SPOTLIGHT ON GOING ABROAD. By Christiane Barchfeld, Georgia Herlt and Sonja Schanz. Goethe Institut pound;5. Tel: 0161 237 1077
The Goethe Institut has made a bold attempt to address the social and cultural dimensions of language-learning with this collection of photocopiable sheets. They are intended for pupils to use before, during, and after a visit to Germany and to focus attention on stereotypes, caricatures and preconceptions.
The idea is a sound one - anything that stimulates critical awareness and gives pupils the opportunity to evaluate their experiences is welcome, particularly in languages, where for so long we have provided a diet of buying plane tickets and asking about the opening hours of museums.
In three main sections - mainly in German but with some use of English - pupils are encouraged to state what they regard as typically German and typically British in terms of food, drink, personal characteristics, home life, and so on. There are extensive and imaginative questions for pupils to use with individuals in Germany, though I'm not sure how kindly a supermarket checkout assistant would take to being collared on the job, as suggested. There are grids to fill on returning home, stating how your views have changed and what understanding you have acquired.
So far, so good, but I have two main gripes. The first concerns the level of the German. If you assume the book is for use with, say, a Year 9 group going to Germany for the first time, your heart will sink when you see such phrases as "im hAufigsten" in the first question on sheet 1. It's laudable to include young Germans' responses, and to reproduce these, spelling mistakes and all, gives an added dimension. But some of them are printed so small and the handwriting is so characteristically German that teachers will have to do a serious interpreting exercise before pupils can use them.
Don't be put off though; this is a most promising book, giving lots of ideas and food for thought.
Richard Marsden is a writer and teacher trainer. 'Klartext', his grammar-based German GCSE course, is published this month by John Murray