Words in context of history;Reviews;Secondary;Modern languages;Books

19th June 1998 at 01:00
ESPANA NUEVO SIGLO. By Tim Connell and Juan Kattan-Ibarra. Stanley Thornes. coursebook pound;13. cassette (1 x C90) pound;19.

Developed out of the popular Spain after Franco (first published 1980), Espa$a Nuevo Siglo enables intermediate and advanced students to improve their Spanish in the context of Spain's recent history.

By way of introduction, there is a solid seven-page summary of the transition to democracy, followed by two pages of key dates (1973-1997) and a map of the autonomous regions. It is perhaps surprising (given the title of the book), but welcome, that a proportion of the texts relate to Latin America.

The eight sections cover aspects of daily life, matters of public concern or topics of current interest: for example, Sociedad, Educaci"n y trabajo and Ocio y deportes. Texts of varying length and complexity, mainly from newspapers, have been chosen not only as good examples of a theme, but also for the elements of language they illustrate. The material is not presented in any order of difficulty; rather it is left for the teacher to select as appropriate. An introduction in English to each topic ensures the student has adequate background knowledge before tackling the Spanish.

Linked to these written texts is a cassette containing recordings of interviews, group discussions, radio news broadcasts and actual events.

The Actividades sections contain exercises using either English or Spanish, testing comprehension by various means, such as answering questions, translation, summary, synonym-matching and cloze tests. There are also open-ended exercises requiring the production of Spanish whether written or spoken, with careful guidance to help students develop their ideas on each topic.

The presentation is attractive and practical. Although colour is not used there are varieties of font, cartoons, charts, clear photographs and the welcome device of placing key vocabulary in the margins adjacent to the text. At the back of the book we find transcripts of the cassette plus useful glossaries of instructions and grammatical terms. The final page gives advice on using relevant web sites.

This is an essential item for all serious students which will take us far into the next century.

Peter Bull is head of Spanish, William Hulme's Grammar School, Manchester

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