French made far too simple

10th October 1997 at 01:00
PRIMARY FRENCH - A first resource. By Helen Dwyer. Longman. Pack Pounds 9.95 +VAT.

The new Longman primary French course is a small pack of materials to cover the first term's work with young beginners. It comes with two unfortunate claims - that it can be taught "with little preparation" and is "suitable for ages six to 11".

Teaching a foreign language requires as much careful preparation as any other area of the primary curriculum. The simple and unsophisticated presentation of these materials is more suited to infants than to eight to 10-year-olds, who would be insulted by the artwork and the appearance of Dino the dinosaur on almost every page.

The pack covers predictable topics common to most primary foreign language schemes. It contains a sound collection of simple, accessible activities that non-specialist teachers of French would find useful as a starter resource.

The activity book provides elementary drawing, join-the-numbers, colouring and matching tasks and a few well-known French songs. Most captions are in French - but always translated into English.

This pack is cheaply produced, the flashcards are too small , and the teacher's guide, while offering some good suggestions, is marred by a patronising tone.

The crude "phonetic" transcripts of French words are unnecessary when there is a cassette available. Bleu is not pronounced "bler", nor septembre as "septombra", let alone juin as "june". If your French is as insecure as this guide seems to assume, you have no business teaching it.

This new course from Longman is distinctly amateurish compared with the many high-quality resources for primary languages that have appeared in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany in the past five years.

Peter Satchwell is chairman of the Primary Languages Network, based at the Centre for Inform-ation on Language Teaching and Research

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