Essential Spanish

27th February 2008 at 00:00

Wendy Adeniji looks at language-learning CD-Roms for key stage 3 and upward.

Oxford Spanish Dictionary on CD-Rom. Oxford University Press pound;38.30.

Doki Espanol 1 amp; 2. Eazyspeak pound;24.99.

The Oxford Spanish Dictionary on CD-Rom is an exciting departure from traditional dictionary software in that it allows the user to click on, type or paste words, phrases or even whole paragraphs of text and hear it read back in Castilian or Latin American Spanish. This technology has been introduced at an appropriate time when the new key stage 3 framework for modern languages emphasises the mastery of the sound-spelling system of a language to improve overall linguistic performance. The skill of being able to read aloud from a text can be developed through this software, which can be used with an interactive whiteboard or data projector for whole-class teaching.

It is also very relevant for KS4 and post-16, where being able to use reference materials appropriately is an essential language-learning skill, and is highly preferable to the often inaccurate online translation software available.

The interface is very easy to use and you can jump easily from one side of the dictionary to the other. Additional materials include the ability to link to cultural information, grammar and verb tables, as well as sample letters and curriculum vitae, which can be cut and pasted into Word. This dictionary, which is also now available in a network version, is highly recommended.

Doki's CD-Rom comes in Castilian and Latin American Spanish and is designed to amuse teenagers at KS3 and KS4. It features many of the themes in the national curriculum and is appropriate for introducing language to beginners, as it includes elements such as the alphabet and time, and offers an effective way of teaching or reinforcing some of the less interesting parts of the GCSE specification, such as "at the bank" or "at the travel agent's". It also has sections emphasising past and future tenses, which is a must for any GCSE teacher. The interface is visually stimulating, with larger-than-life cartoon characters, and animation that would make this ideal for whole-class teaching - using an interactive whiteboard or similar hardware - and for individual learning.

However, the software can be difficult to navigate, as the icons are not always clear, and there is no explanation of their meaning when the cursor moves over them. Constant reference to either the booklet or the online tutorial is necessary and this can be demotivating especially for lower-ability students.

I recommend it for whole-class teaching, rather than for a class to work on individually.

Wendy Adeniji teaches in the school of education, University of Leeds

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