Skip to main content

Review: This is Language





https://www.thisislanguage.com

It's been a while since I've had a good look at This is Language which was established in 2011 and seems to be going strong. They have been kind enough to supply me with a temporary logon to review the site. There are three languages available, French, German and Spanish. I'm looking at the French resources here.

The site is best known for its authentic video interview content which is primarily aimed at KS3 and GCSE students. Categories to choose from are Friends and Family, Free Time and Leisure, Education and Work, My Area, Home and Health, Holidays and Travel, Prompt cards and Compilations. In the friends and family there are over 50 short video clips tagged "My friends" ranging length from 15 seconds to two minutes. (Most are under one minute long.) The whole archive is enormous. A star rating system ranks clips from Easy to Hard.

The hardest clips are well within the range of good GCSE pupils while the easiest are more limited in vocabulary range and could be used at KS3 (near novice level). Sound quality is excellent and interviewees are all young.

Each clip is accompanied by interactive tasks such as drag and drop gap-fill, individual words read aloud to repeat, timed gap-fill requiring spelling out of words and multi-choice comprehension. There is a transcription and printed worksheet which can be printed off. There is also a facility to set video tasks for students to do for homework for example.

The Vocab section allows teachers to set blocks of categorised words to learn. Some may like this, though it doesn't appeal to me greatly. The new Grammar section also allows teachers to set exercises including cloze, write-out gap-fill and jumbled sentences. (A useful introductory video explains how it works by the way.)

If you choose a particular item of grammar you are led to a video introduction in English which explains the rule, then you move on to to the timed training exercises. Written notes provide further guidance. The exercises themselves are clear and navigation is simple. I would say that this section could be used in class, but would be better for self-study or revision.

In the Resources section a small set of "hypersheets" consists of colourful pdf worksheets. Both this section and the Grammar section are works in progress. I should also mention that there is a page ("Nutty Tilez") which allows students to play online against others students and to take part in leader boards.

Overall, This is Language is a very good resource indeed. The killer content is the video material which can be used in many ways, either for teacher-led multi-skill practice or for self-study. It was just the type of video listening material I was keen to see and which was so hard to find. The Testimonials page has a couple of case study videos.

The fly in the ointment is the price. A yearly subscription costs £300 for one language, £480 for two and £540 for three. If you want individual student logons these cost an extra £2.40 per student. This is Language tell me prices are inclusive of VAT, which a lot of schools can claim back. So before VAT prices are £250 for 1 language, £400 for 2, £450 for 3 and £2 per student. So this is not a cheap resource and will be beyond the reach of many departments. That said, compared with the well-known Kerboodle, the content is in my view far superior. Going abroad to record authentic material and put it on a professional platform does not come cheap, which is why so much publisher material is disappointing. You can get a 14 day free trial to see what you think. The team who run the site are friendly and keen to help.

As a practising teacher I would have done my best to subscribe to This is Language. The video content alone makes it worthwhile and it looks like they are adding to the site all the time. Good luck to them!






Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


English 

_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

Preparing for GCSE speaking: building a repertoire

As your Y11 classes start their final year of GCSE, one potential danger of moving from Controlled Assessment to terminal assessment of speaking is to believe that in this new regime there will be little place for the rote learning or memorisation of language. While it is true that the amount of learning by heart is likely to go down and that greater use of unrehearsed (spontaneous) should be encouraged, there are undoubtedly some good techniques to help your pupils perform well on the day.

I clearly recall, when I marked speaking tests for AQA 15-20 years ago, that schools whose candidates performed the best were often those who had prepared their students with ready-made short paragraphs of language. Candidates who didn't sound particularly like "natural linguists" (e.g. displaying poor accents) nevertheless got high marks. As far as an examiner is concerned is doesn't matter if every single candidate says that last weekend they went to the cinema, saw a James Bond…

Worried about the new GCSEs?

Twitter and MFL Facebook groups are replete with posts expressing concerns about the new GCSEs and, in particular, the difficulty of the exam, grades and tiers. I can only comment from a distance since I am no longer in the classroom, but I have been through a number of sea changes in assessment over the years so may have something useful to say.

Firstly, as far as general difficulty of papers is concerned, I think it’s fair to say that the new assessment is harder (not necessarily in terms of grades though). This is particularly evident in the writing tasks and speaking test. Although it will still be possible to work in some memorised material in these parts of the exam, there is no doubt that weaker candidates will have more problems coping with the greater requirement for unrehearsed language. Past experience working with average to very able students tells me some, even those with reasonable attainment, will flounder on the written questions in the heat of the moment. Others will…

GCSE and IGCSE revision links 2018

It's coming up to that time of year again. In England and Wales. Here is a handy list of some good interactive revision links for this level. These links are also good for intermediate exams in Scotland, Ireland and other English-speaking countries. You could copy and paste this to print off for students.

Don't forget the GCSE revision material on frenchteacher.net of course! How could you?

As far as apps for students are concerned, I would suggest the Cramit one, Memrise and Learn French which is pretty good for vocabulary. For Android devices try the Learn French Vocabulary Free. For listening, you could suggest Coffee Break French from Radio Lingua Network (iTunes podcasts).

Listening
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/french/ (Foundation/Higher) http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/ (Foundation/Higher)
http://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?rubrique1&lang=fr (Foundation/Higher) http://www.ashcombe.surrey.sch.uk/07-langcoll/MFL-resources/french/fr-video-index.shtml