9th March 2008 at 00:00

ASigue! 1: curso avanzado, primera parte, segunda edicion. By John Connor, Helena Jimenez, David Mort, and Niobe O'Connor. John Murray pound;12.99. Teacher's Book pound;40. Cassette set pound;50 + VAT. (ASigue! 2 will be available in June).

All credit to John Murray for having this course ready for the first year of the new AS. It is aimed at taking post-GCSE students to AS in Spanish with any of the three awarding bodies (and Higher Spanish in Scotland); however, it is closest to OCR's specifications and has its blessing.

I have not see any rivals yet, so if teachers are not prepared to adapt what they have in stock ASigue! 1 is in a dominant position. It is the first of two volumes and is concerned only with AS. The content is topic-based with eight units: La vida, la gente; Los deportes, el ocio; La comida, la salud; Los medios de comunicaci"n; Un viaje por Espa$a; Dossier: Las artes espa$olas; Viajar, las vacaciones; and Panorama de Mexico.While I agree with the authors that success at an advanced level depends on a firm grasp of grammatical structure, it is not easy to understand the logic behind "we therefore presentthe grammar in an authentic context". This belief may have caused the structural fault typical of A-level coursebooks in Spanish in the past decade. The subjunctive, for example, is introduced in unit 2 (and completed in unit 6) whereas plurals come in unit 3 and comparatives in unit 7. The renewed emphasis on grammar and a larger number of non-specialist linguists in the sixth-form classroom should surely have led to a book whose top priority was the revision and teaching of new grammar in a logical, progressive manner.

A second weakness, carried over from the previous edition, is the over-loading of grammatical content.

Nevertheless, it is visually splendid and there are more than enough texts so the teacher can pick and choose; the exercises are varied and interesting; and there are first-class study skills and grammar reference sections. The teacher's resource book has helpful grids to advise on matters such as which exercise types are used and ICT. It contains solutions to exercises and full transcripts of the tape

Peter Bull teaches Spanish at William Hulme's grammar school, Manchester

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