Raising the flag again

15th June 2001 at 01:00

ENCORE TrICOLORE 1: Nouvelle Edition. By Sylvia Honnor and Heather Mascie-Taylor. Student's book pound;10 Teacher's book pound;20. Cassette pack pound;75. Flashcards pound;59. Nelson Thornes. Available from TES Direct

When the first Tricolore coursebook was published more than 20 years ago it immediately set the trend for a new approach to learning and teaching French. At one stage in the 1980s, it was the first choice for schools moving away from grammar books and audio-visual courses.

The authors recall how English teachers and pupils flocked to La Rochelle, the town around which the course was based, where the local maire and baker became stars of the course. Tricolore featured in works of fiction. Pupils grew up with it, became teachers and went on to teach with it.

The original books now seem less revolutionary than they once appeared, with their black-and-white format and focus on grammar. By the 1990s, times had moved on: target language was to the fore; grammar had been pushed to the sidelines; and the ageof the multimedia course was upon us.

Encore Tricolore was published in 1992 to respond to these trends and represented a thorough redesign of the original content. Building on the strengths of the first edition, exercises were up-dated, colour used throughout and topics linked in with the prescribed "areas of experience".

While other courses became more progressive, Encore Tricolore was welcomed for its more traditional approach but, because of the grammar focus, probably only for the more able.

The cycle has come full circle. With the revised national curriculum, it is now "all right" to teach grammar. The National Literacy Strategy and the forthcoming Key Stage 3 Strategy practically demand a more explicit treatment of knowledge about languae, structure and rules.

First impressions of Encore Tricolore: Novelle Edition are that it is more visually appealing than earlier versions. There is more space and almost all the graphics and photographs have been renewed. The number of units has been reduced, others revised for a more modern content.

New features of the course include magazine-style reading sections, self-study student cassettes and sections that train pupils to match sounds with the written word. The flashcards are bold and colourful, the cassettes bright and cheerful.

The authors' philosophy remains the same: "to combine a lively up-to-date communicative style French course with clear grammatical structure." The "Dossier-Langue" sections in each unit are more clearly set out, with attractive colour-coding to guide pupils' grammar work. The authors have redesigned many of the unit activities along contemporary lines - prices are in Euros!

The teacher's book offers all the necessary guidance: besides transcripts and exercise solutions, there are lots of suggestions for activities, games and songs.

The authors do connect with ICT and the National Literacy Strategy, but it is left to the teacher to develop links. Extension and complementary materials on copymasters are available throughout.

The history of Tricolore parallels the history of modern languages teaching in recent years. It is a phenomenon which looks set to continue. With its fashionable design and approach to grammar, it looks as if Tricolore may once again be in the right place at the right time to satisfy the needs of both teachers and pupils.

Michael Grenfell is a senior lecturer in education: modern foreign languages, Centre for Language in Education, University of Southampton

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