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Old modern language courses

I'm thinking of doing a bit of research into old modern language courses and wondered if anyone could recall the course they had used in their youth (French or other languages).

I used Cours Illustré de Français (Mark Gilbert), some Whitmarsh and Actualités Françaises (Nott and Trickey) at A-level. For German we used Deutsches Leben for a while. For A-level I do not recall.

When I began teaching in 1980 I used Le Français d'Aujourd'hui (Downes and Griffith) et then Longman's Audio-Visual French. Actualités Françaises was still going at A-level then.

Anyway, please let me know if you can.


  1. I think I have learned German using "Hallo Freunde" but I am not 100% sure (a long time ago!!!) and then in Lycée we used "Unterwegs". I cannot remember anything about English though

  2. Thanks for that - you say "lycée" - so I guess you went to school in France.

  3. I had a Whitmarsh green book a very very long time ago for A level. So far as I can remember it was only exercises and grammar but I have fond memories of it. It didn't teach me to speak French but it did make me understand how the language hung together and I still find my mind running through the rules it taught me occasionally! I also remember a book about Toto in primary school... circa 1960 I think!

  4. Was Toto a monkey? Nikki's dad maybe?

  5. yes I went to school in France. I learned English and German

  6. I'd be interested to know more about methodological changes in French course books over the years. Books I have seen have looked very demanding for all but the best students. I remember Speak English from when I was an assistant years ago.

    My guess is that British text books would be more innovative, as I imagine UK education to be generally when compared to France.

  7. Sorry not to have spotted this. I started French in 1952 and am eternally grateful that my teacher (at St Edward's Grammar School in Liverpool) used the alternative version, using the International Phonetic Alphabet for the first 10 (I think) chapters, of the 1st year in a series of text-books whose name I am afraid I can no longer remember. Could have been one of Whitmarsh's, but it did have some illustrations, and I've read that he didn't go in for that. I'd be delighted if someone else had more info. It might be of interest - maybe to froggieflo - that when I spent a year at Grenoble Uni, for a "proper" understanding of French grammar, we used a text for French lyceens called something like "Pour le latin, le grec et les langues ..., etudions le grammaire" ie du francais. I used this later to stun my own FL students at what French, and other Continental, schoolchildren were expected to know about the grammar of their own language. What it revealed to me was that what I had thought from studying, in England, Latin, 3 Romance langs, German and Russian, was a universal (at least for European languages) grammatical meta-language (Didn't know that term then) - subj, verb, obj, complement etc - didn't even stretch across the channel.

  8. Just remembered (and have dug it out - Marvellous!) that in France I also used Gaston Cayrou: Grammaire francaise, Classes de 4e,3e,2e,1re: Armand Colin.
    I wonder what depth of grammatical knowledge is required for a ML degree now. For O level we covered all tenses except les surcomposes, but I have met a graduate teacher of French who didn't know that term and ditto Spanish who queried my mention of a Future Subjunctive. I've also taught foreign Bac and undergrad students on summer courses, and had many "qualified" EFL teachers come into the staffroom at breaks asking if anyone could explain some question s/he had been asked on a fine point of grammar. They had usually suggested that such points were not highly relevant to improving the student's competence in English, and were astonished and somewhat contemptuous when I would reply "Yes, but it'll probably be in their exam syllabus".

  9. Some 40 years on and now travelling to France quite often, I am eager to buy my old O level text books from the 60s.Alas all that I can remember is the line-drawing on the front cover. It was a Frenchman riding a bike with a baguette under his arm and cycling past a row of shops. Each year the cover line drawing was in a different colour. I think there must have been 4 or 5 books. The format of each lesson was to have a passage, eg an Aesops Fable, Le Corbeau et Fromage and then there would be a vocab list from this extract, plus a grammar point and an exercise to translate from English to French & vice versa. The format was interesting and seemed thorough and clear. Does it ring any bells? CAN ANYONE TELL ME THE TITLE OR AUTHOR PLEASE?

  10. GCSE:
    Tricolore 3, 4A, 4B,
    Actualites francaises 1
    A Comprehensive French Grammar (Byrne & Churchill)

    'A' -Level
    Actualites francaises 2
    La Pratique du francais, (Secretan) 1,2 ,
    French Structures (Astington),
    Using French: A Guide to Contemporary Usage (Batchelor & Offord)
    The Transformational Cycle in French Syntax (Kayne)

    I self-studied so nobody told me what I 'couldn't' read.


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