The Reading Matrix
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. Disque 2


EuroTalk interactive
EuroTalk Ltd., 315-317 New Kings Road, London, SW6 4RF, England


Windows 95/98 or Mac OS 8.5 and above, Netscape 4.0 and above or Internet Explorer 4.0 and above

Minimum hardware requirements: for PC PC: Pentium/233 MHz; MAC: PowerPC
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 resolution (PC)
CD-ROM drive
Sound Blaster card or 100% compatible; stereo speakers or headphones


$27.50 each World of Reading, Ltd. PO Box 13092 Atlanta, GA 30324;
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 acquisition.

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 possible answers.

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.























Darin Hayton is completing a doctoral dissertation in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame. His checkered past includes living in France, Austria, and Germany, all justified, post hoc, by an interest in learning languages.