German Software Reviewed

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Software Title:         Talk Now !  -  Eurotalk
Publisher :   Eurotalk
Age Group : 10 - 12
Curriculum Area : German Language Software
Year of Publication : 1995
Mac, PC or other :    Win / Mac
Recommended Price 29.99 / Network Version 320.00
Summary
As the product boasts, Talk now is designed for people who want to learn a language quickly.   It's addictive, fun and makes learning easy.   Nine topics (first words, food, colours, phrases, parts of the body, numbers, time, shopping and countries) are presented on a wheel and the user chooses a topic.  Within each topic, there are various modes of interaction.  Word practise which teaches the vocabulary, easy game and hard game which tests the vocabulary, speaking practise which allows the user to record their voice and practise pronunciation and finally, the picture dictionary which allows the user to print out vocabulary both text and picture.
Overview of Teaching with this Title
Listening, Reading and Speaking in German are all supported in this product.  Appropriate vocabulary is introduced according to the topics outlined above. Because the title contains different levels special needs pupils may also enjoy using this program.  The activities are short (less than ten minutes) and would be suitable for pupils with short attention span or poor concentration. The pupils receive instant feedback in answers and can test themselves quickly.They worked in pairs on the software.
Pupils can work individually or in pairs at this product.  It is enjoyable enough to access all topics in one or two sessions or to allow short ten minute long sessions at each topic.The advantage of this product is that it fully engages the user's interest.  It is attractive, colourful and stimulating.  The vocabulary is extensive enough to be a useful teaching tool yet not exhaustive as to tire the user.  The two levels of game provide motivation to progress yet they are both attainable.   Scores are kept which maintain interest and motivation.  A weakness of this product is that you can't preview the picture dictionary before printing it out.   It would be useful to see the list of words and pictures on screen, whether they are in colour or black and white, if they are suitable to topics being covered in existing classroom practise or in existing materials etc.   Topics selected are not greyed out or disabled in any way to indicate that they have been accessed, therefore the teacher can't keep track of what sections were covered.  When learning vocabulary, no text is written to accompany the pictures of the nouns.  The user develops aural skills only.
Content

In general the content is accurate reliable and up-to-date, with the exception of one grammatical error where one word is incorrectly spoken and doesn't correspond to the written word. (einen Fahrkarte/eine Fahrkarte)
It is culturally, gender and racially non-biased.  Images of people from different cultures are used e.g. Indians, South Africans, Europeans.  There is a gender balance.  Both a man and a woman are represented visually and aurally in the product.The language and product style is appropriate for the age group in consideration.  The pupils were highly motivated and stimulated by this product.
Two levels of difficulty are included in each topic, although there is little real difference in ability required.  A final matching game using all the vocabulary and skills in the program can be played also.  It increases with difficulty as you play and is considerably more challenging.
The user has no control over the rate of delivery but can control the level of difficulty by choosing different tasks.

Design and Navigation

Onscreen help is available in over forty different languages.  It is available at all times in written and spoken form.  To change the language, in which the help is given, one must return to the first frame.
The volume can be adjusted at the start of the game.   The software does not support use of the keyboard instead of the mouse.
The interface is extremely clear, uncluttered and easy to use.  No instructions or prior reading of the documentation are necessary to navigate the package.   Primary school children navigated the package quickly and without any difficulty.
There is a very short musical introduction that cannot be bypassed however it's not intrusive.
Users cannot bookmark where they have been or record an individual user's place.  It is easy to choose a topic however there is no obvious icon to go back or to stop the game.
Spoken feedback is encouraging and positive throughout the program.  In the "difficult" game, if the wrong item is clicked, it is taken away and the choice is reduced for the user.  Spoken words can be repeated as often as the user requires.  Scores are kept and displayed on a barometer.  A bronze, silver and gold award can be achieved depending on scores.  The ultimate score is 1800 points.  A record of scores can be printed.
It is possible to create, delete and print records at the start of the program.  A printout displays the name of the user, the date they last used the software, the score achieved and if an award was given.  It does not note what section was covered, for how long or how successfully.

Installation and Use

There is an auto play feature that starts the game when you insert the CDROM.  This can be disabled in QuickTime Settings in the Control Panel, as advised on the CDROM cover.The product launches quickly but at times responses are slow within the program although they do not take considerably from the effectiveness of the product.
To my knowledge there is no network version of the program available.
For the purpose of this project SIP21A, only one CDROM was used on one PC.

Supporting Documentation

 There is no supporting documentation, other than the CDROM cover which contains a brief outline of the program's features, the minimum system requirements, the installation instructions and advertisements of Eurotalk products. The loading and operating instructions are clear and basic information is given on the CDROM cover to explain the main features of the product.
There are no ancillary teacher notes and pupil activities with this product.
The information is structured in nine topic-based sections, which teach vocabulary, test vocabulary in the form of games, practise vocabulary in the form of speech and allow printout of vocabulary.

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