MFL - Infernal inspiration

23rd December 2011 at 00:00
Holiday reading is so rewarding when undertaken in situ

One of my greatest dilemmas at Christmas is what book I shall read, and where I shall read it. The problem is that my list of non-reads and want-to-reads is expanding even as I write. Will I revisit the classics or the Booker Prize shortlist? Or make a foray into the Ian Forster and Virginia Woolf novels I haven't read? I'm a linguist and language teacher so I have a plethora of choice - and paranoias. I worry that I'm as behind on my French and German novels, not to mention Dutch, Japanese, Finnish, Turkish and Spanish literature, as I am on my English "must reads".

My guilty obsession over the years has been to travel the world with a battered suitcase, rucksack and paperback and read novels in the locations in which they were set - or which strike me as in some way suitable. I read Les Liaisons Dangereuses in Place Vendome, A Year in Provence in Provence, Waiting for Godot in Swindon, The Metamorphosis (actually, it was Die Verwandlung, but I don't want to boast) in Prague, and (in French translation) Death on the Nile on the Nile.

There's plenty more, but I'll leave it there. So what do I do this year? We're almost certainly going to have Ofsted in the new year and I've already been bombarded by emails, photocopies, pamphlets, guidelines. But I still have a pile of potential Christmas reading: books I've bought over the past few years (unread); books that have not been on holiday with me; and books that I have taken but have not read.

And, of course, I also have to select a location. This year that, at least, will be easy. It's a wooden lodge, imported from the Netherlands, in a beautifully landscaped garden looking on to a 1920s house that belongs to a former doctor, and set high on a hill overlooking Louth - check your maps geographers, it's north Lincolnshire. (And yes, there are hills in Lincolnshire.)

Why there? Well, it's my new home. I signed the contract at the start of December and by the time you read this I'll be reading that book, snugly sat in a corner of the living room.

I've already decided it will be a book that will change my life, the way I think, and all that I believe in. Maybe it will be Dante's Inferno (dictionary in hand). Or one from the pile that's never been on holiday. What I do know is that I shall relish each word in whatever language it's written. And whatever book you choose for your holiday reading, I hope you do too. Only without the threat, hovering over the mistletoe, of a New Year's inspection from Ofsted.

Andy Holland is head of MFL at Havelock Academy and a member of the TES MFL panel

What else?

Develop language skills while engaging students in German culture. Try rosered27's German poetry resource for developing students' knowledge of vocabulary and tenses.

Try the plethora of resources on French literary texts on the Second World War.

In the forums

What are your escapist book recommendations for the Christmas break? Share your suggestions with others. You might even pick up some good reading tips, too.

Find all links and resources at

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