Voices of the peopl

14th March 2003 at 00:00
Feu Vert: conversations authentiques en francais By Dave Padfield pound;24.95, French Language Services, 19 Amados Drive, Plympton, Plymouth PL7 1TS. Telfax: 01752 341306 Email: davepad@hotmail.com

Feu vert consists of 15 interviews in French recorded on CD and an accompanying booklet of transcripts and teaching notes. These are concise and practical; for each conversation there are brief background details, a list of topics covered, explanations of any unusual vocabulary items and suggestions for follow-up oral and written assignments. Aimed primarily at students in higher and further education, it would also provide valuable authentic listening material for good A2 candidates.

The content of Feu Vert is interesting and varied, as speakers from different areas of France talk about both their own experiences and attitudes and about regional and national issues. Gilbert, for example, describes his local newspaper, Ouest France, then moves on to discuss the importance of the press in France and the specific characteristics of the Breton people. Some interviewees come across as fascinating individuals, such as the computer engineer who designs pipe organs as a hobby and the "Johnny" who has been selling his Roscoff onions in England for more than 50 years. There is a strong sense of authenticity and the informal conversations develop naturally.

The language is equally authentic, with the hesitations, unfinished sentences and "Comment dirais-je"-type phrases which characterise unscripted spoken French. This should prove challenging but not unduly daunting for students accustomed to more structured formal language; the recordings are admirably clear and the speed of delivery natural but not too rapid. Regional accents add a further dimension.

Feu Vert provides challenging material for individual listening; students could complete a gapped text, note the main points mentioned or write a summary. The ideas expressed could be used as a stimulus for class discussion. They could also be valuable to students researching individual coursework, particularly on regional issues. For linguistic study, the recordings and transcripts provide the ideal basis for a comparison of spoken and written French. By analysing the phrases and structures used by the interviewees and the interviewer's use of "ah, bon" or "oui, bien sur" to help the conversation flow, students can learn practical ways of increasing their own oral confidence.

Gill Maynard is languages development officer at the Anglo-European School, Ingatestone and teacher of French and German at Chelmsford County High School, Essex

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