We don't speak English here

14th March 1997 at 00:00
Nigel Norman reviews materials for target language learning while John Trafford considers the background

CARTE BLANCHE Edition francaise, Basic and Higher Reading cards Carte Blanche Junior, Edition francaise, Reading cards Carta Blanca Junior, Edici"n espanola, Reading cards Kartei, Deutsche Ausgabe, Basic Higher Reading cards Junioren Kartei, Reading cards Pounds 23 per set of 30 Basic cards, Pounds 23 per set of 30 Higher cards, Pounds 35 per set of 36 Junior cards

EUROLAB Edition francaise, Basic and Higher Listening practice Eurolab, Deutsche Ausgabe, Basic and Higher Listening practice.Set of 25 cassettes, task cards, record sheet, transcript: Pounds 75 Both from Revilo Language Cards, PO Box 71, Winchester, SO23 8VL

These self-service target language reading materials provide practice for the new-style GCSE in 1998. Their timely appearance will establish them as market leaders in an area that is seriously short of resources with task rubrics exclusively in the target language.

Revilo already enjoys a high reputation for the quality of its sturdily laminated authentic resources. Here they have produced up-to-date, clear and accessible language tasks ideally suited for autonomous pupil use. The answer cards and a record sheet, that also includes a helpful glossary of instructions used, add to the user-friendly format.

A wide range of task types differentiates appropriately between the levels ("Basic" has been retained instead of the new term "Foundation", although this will make very little difference in the classroom).

In some typical tasks at basic level, learners have to identify words, link pictures with words, give times, prices, telephone numbers, answer truefalse questions. There are examples of more demanding, denser texts, including some inference, but the task invariably remains a simple one of identification.

Higher level texts are often longer, and may involve, in addition to yesno, truefalse questions and linking of picture and word, gap-filling, multi-choice questions and answers in the target language, and sequencing.

The Junior cards cater admirably for the less able GCSE or key stage 3 learner and cover all the standard topics using unambiguous graphics and readily achievable tasks.

There are one or two errors - letters or accents missing - but they are barely noticeable. The print is rather small and unclear on one or two cards, but otherwise reproduction quality is very high. None of this detracts, however, from a resource that will be in high demand as 1998 draws nearer.

The Eurolab stimulus materials are also wholly target language-based. They cover all the familiar GCSE topic areas, and are perfect for individual study. Recordings are of high quality, clear and with unobtrusive background noise.

The format often consists of two parts, for example, two conversations, or a radio or TV announcement followed by a conversation. This breaks down what might otherwise be a long, and rather difficult exercise, into manageable sections.

Task types are very similar to those on the reading cards, with much use at Basic level of matching pictures and words, gap-filling, truefalse questions. At Higher level questions tend to be more text-based, but also include joining two halves of a sentence together, matching definitions with words heard on tape, answering in the target language, usually one or two words only.

All tasks last no more than two minutes and are repeated once. The same stimulus is used for both Basic and Higher level, and tasks are printed back-to-back on the same A5-size card. This makes for extremely good value, and is an eminent illustration of differentiation in practice.

Cultural relevance is apparent with the differences of school system, for example, and in spite of a necessarily heavy emphasis on everyday transactional situations there are items on sports, pop, fashion, that will appeal to the teenage learner.

One or two quibbles concern different phrases used on tape and the task cards (Le tourisme and Les grandes vacances, EF, No 5), one section that mistakenly is not repeated (EF, No.2), and linguistic accuracy (EF, No 25, Higher). Nevertheless, this is a flexible and attractive resource that should have a place on every languages department shelf.

Nigel Norman is a lecturer in education at the University of Wales Swansea

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