Nakladatelství Klett Praha, s. 221, ISBN 978-80-7397-022-2
Francisco Lima Ramírez
University of Business in Prague
When teachers of modern languages decide to use one or other textbook in their lessons it is not always an easy decision. In the last decades the trend has been set from English textbooks. A combination of activities gives both students and teachers the opportunity to improve their communication skills. These textbooks offer activities to learn more about grammar, grammar in use, make good use of the L2 in different situations, receive the necessary input by means of real language samples, the proper amount of listening comprehension and speaking, reading comprehension as well as writing activities... they are designed to help learners develop the so called “active” skills (speaking and writing) as well as the “passive” ones (listening and reading). Speaking exercises which provide the proper amount of interaction play also a very important role in these books. The aim is that students will not only learn grammar making use of “drill” execise and lists of vocabulary but that they will also be able to understand and make themselves understood in L2.
Communicative and task-based approaches seem to set the standard for these textbooks.
Nowadays students of Spanish as a foreign language can choose among a wide number of books to help them in their learning process. It is not an easy choice as the quality of the existing books is generally speaking very high. In the case of Czech Republic very often there were two main possibilities: to make use of a traditonal Czech textbook made by Czech native speaker teachers and issued by a Czech publisher or else use a Spanish textbook made by native Spanish speakers and publishers. It is not easy to make the right choice. Until some years ago Czech books for foreign language learning were too focused on the traditional language learning approach, based on grammar and drill exercises, and lists of vocabulary. There was a lack of listening and speaking activities, very little attention was paid to interaction, listening and reading comprehension, and the input of L2 could be not enough because of lack of real language samples.
On the other hand the Spanish textbooks that could be used in this country had been prepared to be used in groups of students from different nationalities who were following a language course in Spain, mostly for adults and for learners who had different needs, characteristics and learning difficulties than those that students from Czech Republic have.
These textbooks had been prepared to be used by students who were following a course of Spanish as a foreign language in Spain in a different context than students who live and study in this country and study in groups in which most if not all of students are Czech native speakers.
These learning materials had been designed to be used by learners from different countries and cultures, students with different cultural points of view and different approaches to language learning and learning process in general.
Here is where the textbook Aventura makes a difference. This work has been made by both Czech and Spanish teachers of languages and has been made taking into account the characteristics and needs of Czech language learners.These students do not live in Spain nor a Latin American country, and they all use Czech language as their means of communication among themselves in and out of the class. They share a more homogeneous culture than the average target group of students for whom had been prepared Spanish textbooks such as Ven and Nuevo Ven.
One of the advantages of Aventura1 is that it is relatively new and has not been so widely used and for so long as Nuevo Ven in secondary nor adult education. Too often students who use Nuevo Ven already have the key to the exercises from the time they were studying Spanish before university. This renders useless many of the activities from the book and even most of dialogues as they do need to read and understand them as they need to do with new “fresh” texts if we really want them to learn the L2 and not just successfully answer during language classes.
Aventura as a textbook has been made thinking about Czech native
speakers who are learning Spanish, both in secondary and language schools, for young but also for older, more mature learners. One of the advantages this book offers is that textbook, workbook and work and audio CDs come all together in the same book. There is no need to buy and-or carry more books or CDs, they all come together in one piece. It is cheaper and also more functional than former textbooks. There are plenty of exercises in each lesson, students can benefit from a wide range of exercises, some of them follow the typical “drill” pattern, others have been devised to develop student´s speaking skills, written production skills, use of language skills...there are many kinds of different exercises that offer learners the possibility of learning by means of the more traditional grammar drill exercises but also playing with vocabulary (a kind of exercise most Czech students are very fond of), information gap tasks...
the combination of these give learners the opportunity of learning not just morphology and lists of words but also the use of words in context.
Some of the exercises pay special attention to grammar and use of Spanish issues and help learners to get familiar with traditional difficult features such as the use and differences between “ser, estar, hay”, others are focused on pronunciation and phonetic difficulties most Czechs have when learning Spanish. We should remember that Czech students do not have so many problems with Spanish pronunciation, but for a couple of sounds, as have learners whose native language is English. That means the level of pronunciation difficulty of the activities provided needs to be a little bit higher than, for instance, English native speakers. On the other hand it is necessary to put the stress where Czech learners traditionally find it harder to acquire certain sounds such as the interdental Spanish pronunciation for the letter “Z”.
This book also offers another advantage over its predecessors. It uses the variety of Spanish most common in Spain, something like the real standard variety. So students can learn it. Our students can at last find verbs speech community uses everyday which could not be found in other books, such as almorzar (to have lunch) or the verb coger used for public transport contexts. In former textbooks as Nuevo Ven both verbs are avoided, one because of the dialectal variety from certain regions fo Spain, the other because it is not used in Latin America with this meaning.
Aventura also provides rich texts wich ensure learners will get the necessary input and give them enough vocabulary in context to acquire.
Reading comprehension activities included are specially useful as they are especially devised to make learners come across grammar structures and vocabulary issues from each lesson but they are also well planned to provide students with interesting knowledge of the C2, cities, monuments, cultural issues that where not easy to find or could not be found at all in former textbooks. Students can discover new features of the country they are learning about (in Aventura 1 most of the texts are providing what we may call travel or touristic information focused on Spain, very little information is given about Latin American countries, about which more
information is provided in Aventura 2 and 3). In this way they will not only learn the language but also get important and interesting information related to travelling and tourism in Spain.
For all the aforementioned reasons we believe this a very interesting textbook for Czech learners of Spanish in general and specifically for our students from VŠO.
Francisco Lima Ramírez University of Business in Prague Department of Foreign Languages Spálená 14
110 00 Prague 1 Czech Republic