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Review: This is Language

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!


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What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’( The point i…

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When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

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You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…