Real and relevant
Catalina Valenzuela reviews a three-part Spanish course
So You Really Want to Learn Spanish is a three-part course to GCSE.
The package currently includes two student books, an interactive CD-Rom that can be used at home or on an interactive whiteboard, and complementary material. It follows the QCA scheme of work for key stage 3. Book 3 becomes available next year.
The books are divided into six units, each containing an explanation of learning objectives, new language content and contexts. They benefit from an uncluttered presentation but could use a few more illustrations.
Vocabulary and grammar boxes have dominant places in the pages. The grammar explanations are extensive with lots of examples and take into account the differences between English and Spanish. This is useful for revision and independent study. Learning activities cater for different ability ranges but will suit best the middle and upper ranges. Some tasks would be difficult even for gifted students. Set tasks can be differentiated to challenge the most able students while maintaining the interest of the less able.
For every task, the level of difficulty increases as students acquire more vocabulary and tools to use the language in a more realistic way. For instance, the speaking tasks move from two or three exchanges in the first units to longer and more relevant dialogues as the course advances. The listening tasks develop the whole range of requirements of GCSE, from true-or-false activities to taking notes of the most relevant information.
The reading material of these textbooks is probably their strongest asset as it is relevant and interesting for students' lives. Questions on reading comprehension are demanding and well suited to developing thinking and language-learning. Writing tasks are also relevant and cover the main grammar points.
The course is ambitious in terms of the grammar and vocabulary it covers.
It is well written and generally user-friendly, though its use of long texts and dialogues may occasionally seem more suited for higher-ability students.
Catalina Valenzuela teaches Spanish and French at the Business Academy Bexley, London, and writes the Spanish texts for TES Teacher's language resources, page 6