Modern Languages

7th January 2000 at 00:00
TEACHING MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES AT ADVANCED LEVEL. Edited by Norbert Pachler. Routledge pound;17.99

This book is a timely discussion of the theory, policy and practice of MFL teaching and learning at the immediate post-compulsory level.

Early chapters offer a detailed resume of the state of curriculum development. The character and content of the traditional A-level are set alongside the new AAS-level, and later, NVQ, GNVQ and other pre-vocational courses. The all-important GCSEA-level gap is explained, and the authors show how it can be turned to the teacher's advantage in promoting linguistic progression for the advanced learner.

The core of the book deals with planning, teaching and assessment. Various topics - grammar, culture, the four skills, literature and translation - are covered by separate contributors. There is some overlap between chapers, but they mostly complement each other. Many include "reflection" activities for teachers to work on - alone or with colleagues - to develop their thinking and practice. Each chapter also ends with an extensive bibliography.

Questions do remain - about collecting, deconstructing and exploiting authentic materials at the level of the individual lesson, for example. The pioneering work of Frank Corless and Ralph Gaskell in the 1980s gets an occasional mention, along with their methodological schema based on working in a text, around a text and away from a text. But a genuine methodological vision building on this work does not emerge, although the authors succeed in offering coherence and consensus in a sector that can seem fragmented and lacking in focus.

Michael Grenfell is a senior lecturer in education at the University of Southampton

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