TV AKTUELL CD-ROM. by Mike McAleavy. pound;75 + VAT. (Five or more pound;45 + VAT). Oxford University Press
There is only so much that can be done with a three-minute video clip: you can watch it, watch it again, watch it and read the transcript, read the transcript without seeing the pictures, see the pictures without hearing the transcript, select bits to watch again, answer questions on it, look up new vocabulary.
But there comes a point where the text has been milked dry, and we have not even begun to explore the other options - recording ourselves reading the script, writing our own exercises, printing out our answers, changing the size of the writing on the screen, choosing a different background colour.
This product brings to mind those mobile phones which do far more than you ever need - the ones whose user manuals run to dozens of pages describing functions and options which no ordinary mortal ever uses - they impress us with the manufacturer's know-how rather than by meeting the users'needs.
The idea here is a soundone, however - 16 video clips taken from German television broadcasts and a selection of well thought-out tasks to exploit them. The extracts cover popular A-level topics - Obdachlosigkeit, Drogenpolitik, Kosovo - and for each extract there are exercises on content and grammar, questions in German, truefalse, gap filling, "find the German for", and so on. The video picture occupies about a third of the screen and the rest is used for displaying tasks, transcript and vocabulary.
It is extremely useful to be able to see the transcript while listening and to have the option of hiding it at any point, and I particularly liked the chance to click on a coloured word in the transcript and get an immediate gloss at the top of the screen, or else scroll through the chronological glossary.
This will be a useful resource for departments seeking to build up its stock of self-study materials, but it is a pity that there is not a little bit more German to get our teeth into and less in the way of the technological distractions.