Keep the flag flying

20th October 2000 at 01:00
ESPANOL DE PRIMERO. By Isabel Alonso de Sudea and Cathy Knill. Students' Book pound;11. Guia del Professor pound;27.50 Hojas Extra pound;40. Cuaderno pound;2.20. Cassettes pound;60 plus VAT. Oxford University Press

Espanol de Primero is a stimulating, most attractive beginners' course for key stage 3 pupils which provides a fully comprehensive grounding in Spanish up to key stage 4.

It offers a practical and economic solution to the regrettable fact that Spanish, in most cases, is the second modern foreign language and introduced at varying stages depending on timetable constraints and staffing. Three years' language work are included in one set of materials - a considerable advantage to budget-stretched departments.

The students' book is colourful and well designed. Expected learning outcomes are listed in English at the beginning of each new language function and instructions are given consistently in Spanish, ensuring familiarity with target language rubrics.

The focus on grammar is addressed in sections entitled "Orientate" with explanations in Spanish and suggestions for further grammatical observations and deductions to be made with the help of the grammar summary at the back of the student's book. Here the grammar is laid out clearly and explanations are given in English. By the end of the course pupils will have covered all the basic tenses required for KS4 and should easily be ready for a GCSE revision course.

t the end of every Paso there is a Repaso providing ample opportunity for consolidation. The latter is also made possible with the help of the Hojas (repromasters) which extend language practice in the basic skills plus extra assessment materials for monitoring progress.

The students' book has a strong focus on the Basque country, and derives much of its source material and inspiration from there. This is a welcome departure from the usual over-emphasis on the monolingual Castilian-speaking autonomous regions of Spain. There are references to other areas of Spain and their traditions and there is generous coverage of Guatemala and other Spanish-speaking countries, but some individual teachers may feel the need to compensate for the over exposure of the ikurrina (Basque flag) and the occasional unexplained word of Basque. The authors do generally exploit the Basque language in a commendable way, using it as a language awareness tool and as a means of championing minority languages in general.

The cassettes are well produced and provide lively listening exercises, pronunciation practice and songs. Some of the native teenagers have better diction than others - a reflection of reality.

Espanol de Primero is thoroughly up to date comprising exhaustive material to motivate and instruct pupils in an enjoyable way.

Mary O'Sullivan is a senior lecturer in Spanish at the University of Hertfordshire

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