Vol. 2, No. 3, September 2002
Ecoutez! Dix leçons de Français
interactives. Disque 1-Ecoutez! Dix autres leçons
de Français interactives. Disque 2
Reviewed by Darin Hayton
Ecoutez! Dix leçons
de Français interactives. Disque 1-Ecoutez!
Dix autres leçons de Français interactives.
EuroTalk Ltd., 315-317 New Kings Road, London, SW6
95/98 or Mac OS 8.5 and above, Netscape 4.0 and above
or Internet Explorer 4.0 and above
hardware requirements: for PC
||PC: Pentium/233 MHz; MAC:
24 MB of RAM and 500 MB free space on the hard drive
Color monitor set at 32-bit true color and 800 x 600
Sound Blaster card or 100% compatible; stereo speakers
each World of Reading, Ltd. PO Box 13092 Atlanta,
GA 30324; http://www.wor.com
Site License: no
Note: An on-line instructors' resource
manual requires a password. Ed.
People have long thought
that computers will revolutionize the way people learn in
general and will learn languages in particular. Innumerable
'interactive' software packages have been created and distributed
that promise to make the learning process quicker, more
enjoyable, or more effective. Many of these claims have
been exaggerated. These two discs represent both the benefits
and the limitations of the role of software in language
These two CDs state that the goal is learning
"all the usual words you would be given in a classroom."
To accomplish this, the authors created ten thematic lessons
that echo topics often covered in first-year French classes;
the second disc contains an additional ten lessons, extending
the vocabulary but not the level of instruction. Consequently,
they could complement any number of current textbooks.
The twenty lessons present such every-day
situations as receiving driving directions, ordering in
a restaurant, listening to descriptions of people and places,
and recognizing common vocabulary. Two approaches are used
to present this information. In one, the student is presented
with a static drawing of a situation -a park, a room, a
restaurant- and asked a number of questions about the scene.
These are either true-false or multiple-choice questions.
The second approach offers the student a number of smaller
illustrations depicting different people, places, or things,
and asks the student to select the correct illustration
based on the oral description given. All descriptions and
questions are spoken by native French speakers, both men
and women. Each lesson has a fixed number of questions and
the student is scored based on the number of correct answers
given. Students can return to the same section as often
as they like, though they will encounter little variation
in the questions asked or their order.
In addition to listening to questions, the
software allows the student to speak an answer, and to record
and play back that response. Again, the student is presented
with a drawing, either a scene of a person, and asked a
question about that drawing. Only when the student is prepared
to respond does the recording begin, initiated by clicking
on the on-screen 'record' button. There is no software analysis
of this response, but the user can play it back to hear
how it sounds.
Finally, each disc contains a 20-question
quiz, which, fortunately, does vary each time you take it.
Again, the same approach is used: present the student with
a drawing of scene or person, ask a question about it, require
the student to select the correct answer from the four choices
given. As with the lessons, here too the student can opt
to hear the question and answers as many times as desired.
Unlike the lessons themselves, the quiz ranges across the
themes covered in the lessons, pulling its questions from
those used in the lessons. A further option allows the student
to see the text, in French of course, of the questions and
Students log in, creating a record for their
work that tracks their performance and progress. Each time
a student returns to complete more of the exercises, the
new results are added to the existing data. The instructor
can review this information using another program, which
manages these files.
Both discs come without any manual or other
aides for starting or running the programs. There is a file
that, when opened, presents the user with the minimum hardware
and software requirements to use the software, but there
is little other on-line or printed assistance. The CDs require
no set up and run well on both Macs and PCs.
The software on these two CDs point to the
continuing problem with computer-driven language acquisition.
Some tasks are quite easy to automate-the presentation of
vocabulary, the evaluation of objective questions, the recording
of voices. These are, for the most part, the same tasks
that are accomplished effectively using flash-cards or other
mundane methods of drill. It is telling that this software
was developed using Silicon Beach's SuperCard environment,
which took as its paradigm the flash-card. Other tasks,
ones we associate with fluency in language such as extemporaneous
speaking, proper intonation and rhythm, and composition,
are harder to translate into computer-centered instruction.
Given the current limitations in software development, these
two CDs succeed at their stated goal: presenting the student
with basic vocabulary and improving the students comprehension
by posing questions in French about that vocabulary. Unfortunately,
the effort required, by the student and the instructor,
to visit a language lab, start the software, and work through
the drills might exceed the rewards.