While development in languages software remains relatively slow, the use of ICT in language teaching has taken a new turn. At the Sir Bernard Lovell Language College in Bristol, non-language teachers are taking courses in languages as part of their professional development programmes.
Helen Aberdeen, director of the school's Vektor Language Centre, explains that teachers are using multimedia to learn Italian and German. One of them is business studies and humanities teacher Ronnie Ward, who spends a couple of hours per week doing language work using Vektor Multimedia products. She is using the Vektor Foundations Business course to learn Italian from scratch as a means of developing school-business connections with companies in Italy. The cost of the course is pound;169 and she hopes to complete it in three months.
Phil Tapp, director of post-16 studies and a sociology and humanities teacher, puts five hours a week into following his tailor-made Vektor course in German. He is aiming to complete his course in approximately five months. It cost pound;399.
Aberdeen is personal tutor for both teachers. She monitors their progress, and, as part of their fifty-five hour courses, most of which is delivered on Vektor CD-Rom, gives them five hours of face-to-face tutorial.
At BETT, Vektor is showing foundation packages in French and German for pre- and post-GCSE pupils. In addition to interactive dialogue, the packages adopt a strong grammatical focus for pupils in A-level classes.
Twinning programmes are continuing to create new European communities for young people. Bibliotech's free service, schoolmaster.net, which is currently being used by 3,000 schools worldwide, enables students in British schools to become part of an active learning community, using French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Since the service is unique to education, Bibliotech is keen to point out its value as a safe environment for pupils of all ages throughout the world. In addition to established links between British and European schools, schoolmaster.net encourages links between Britain and the USA and Canada.
Course-based software maintains a steady position in day-to-day technology-based teaching. Nelson Thornes' interactive CD-Roms En Route and Unterwegs (from Granada Learning), for example, continue to prove their worth by being adaptable to pupils at various stages, from 2 to 4.
In addition to an integral website, award-winning Oxford University Press course Equipe offers teachers a comprehensive Coursemaster CD-Rom that takes the slog out of planning lessons, and helps with assessment and record keeping.
French company Auralog continues its attempt to woo British teachers by offering an additinal personal tutoring service for its latest Tell Me More range. Used as a means of teacher substitute, when no teacher in a minority language is available, this could serve students well. However, there is still a level of antipathy towards speech recognition technology among teachers here, who are often sceptical about a technological replacement for a live language-speaking teacher. For less confident primary teachers, a version for younger children, which Auralog is currently considering, may be more appreciated.
Ros Walker, CILT NOF trainer for modern languages, suggests that, because many language teachers are formulating their own programmes in school, they should look to primary literacy packages for ideas for the preparation of simple language work. A package such as The Alphabet Module, which is produced by Espresso, offers a full-screen video introduction to a wide range of word games and letter practice. This format could act as a shared reference resource for primary teachers of languages.
Textease language packs in French and German from Softease are designed to be used with the word processing and desktop publishing packages Textease Studio and Textease Primary. French and German spell checkers should assist in the "stop and think" approach to spelling in a foreign language, and the added option of automatic insertion of accents can prevent less able pupils from toiling for too long over the finer points of a language. The functional language of menus also adds to the immersion in the French or German.
Young Writers packages from Granada give pupils a fun opportunity to script for on-screen video in French, German and Spanish and to watch their productions.
However, the real key to the development of modern language teaching still rests with the Internet, and excellent low key CD-Roms such as Internet Text Explorer from the Useable Software Company (not showing at BETT) give structured approaches to help teachers adapt Net material into practical classroom exercises.
Eleanor Caldwell is a freelance writer and languages specialist
Auralog: Stand C152
Tel: 0207 929 6266
Bibliotech: Stand C70
Tel: 023 80792283
Espresso: Stands M8587
Tel: 0208 2371200
Granada Learning: Stand F40 and SN14
Tel: 0161 827 2927
Oxford University Press: Stand LR3
Tel: 01865 556767
Softease: Stand C56
Tel: 013335 343421
Useable Software Company
Vektor Multimedia: Stand L50
Tel: 0161 8283000