Schools television;Features amp; Arts

19th November 1999 at 00:00

Learning a foreign language is, for most people, a bit of a struggle. In spite of the fact that France is just a stone's throw across the water, a large number of people still fail to master even rudimentary conversation.

One of the reasons is that the French the French speak bears little resemblance to what we practise in classrooms. Another is that programmes that try to teach it can often lean towards the repetitive. However necessary, this is never really going to bring a class to the edge of its seat.

Cue a new language series Vingt Minutes, which stars one of sport's true demigods: the dashing French footballer, David Ginola, who plays in England for Tottenham Hotspur. There isn't a 11-14-year-old in the country that isn't going to hang on his every word. Which is just as well because when "Daveed" starts chatting about life in the south of France, you'll need the rewind button. Luckily there is someone who speaks BritFrench to elucidate, as David's command of the language may well baffle the age group it's intended for.

The programmes revolve around a humorous linguasoap in which a French family hosts an exchange student from Belfast. Their French is as rapid and puzzling as Ginola's but our student doesn't seem to have any problems and breaks it down into bite-sized pieces for those who didn't catch it first time. It's a winning combination. And, as M Ginola might say, we're worth it.

Vingt Minutes, BBC2 Learning ZoneNovember 24, 2-4am


As the autumn term winds down, the first programmes of a new literacy series for 5-7-year-olds from Channel 4 come to a close.

The Writing House has one of those sparky, never-a-dull-moment sets - a sort of Playschool with a double espresso chaser - that pairs a bespectacled and cardiganned chap with a cheerleadery Scots lass. With an animated magpie called Wordbird, they explore reading and writing and how to string a sentence together. To make it seem more purposeful, much of the writing centres on communication; writing to pen-pals, using the Internet and e-mail but also the practical side of words - telling you how to get from A to B using a signpost.

The Writing House, Channel 4, Mondays 10.15-10.30am, Rpt Thursdays 11.20-11.35am


We begin and end on a Gallic note and a Timewatch special that looks at the Eiffel Tower. Like the Millennium Dome, the Eiffel Tower was never intended to be permanent but merely an entry into the World Fair. More than 100 years later, it has become the defining symbol of a city.

It wasn't always popular, however. In 1889 it was described as "a truly tragic lampost" by writer Leon Bloy. But the visitors, including Buffalo Bill, Thomas Edison and Edward VII, poured in.

Timewatch: Tales of the Eiffel Tower, BBC2, Saturday, November 20, 8.05-8.55pm


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