Title Tell Me More
Author Tell Me More Language Learning Software
Publisher Auralog
Reviewer Thomas Underwood
 

http://www.tellmemore.com/

 

 

Tell Me More (originally Auralog) is a well-established language learning resource which has been developed and refined over 25 years. Auralog was also the first company of its kind to offer advanced speech recognition. The web-based software, which will run on tablets as well as PCs, is based on the communicative approach and encourages the user to interact as much as possible and to apply language skills to real-life situations. There are several languages to choose from (English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch and Mandarin Chinese) and around 40 different activities, including video, interactive speaking tasks, grammar modules and consolidation tests.

The first stage for any user is to watch a short video explaining how to use the software and then either select a level or to take the initial placement test. This test is completed on-line using the software in order to assess the learner and place them at the appropriate level, from beginner to expert, using levels A1 to C1 established by the European Council. Tell Me More promises to raise attainment by one skill level after 40 hours of practice using the programme.

Once logged-in the user is presented with a very useful homepage which offers instant access to lesson details, news, messages, a summary of lessons completed and progress and options for training, resources, tests and useful statistics. My first impressions were that the software and programme are clear, comprehensive and motivating for the individual learner and very professional in their presentation and operation. Once the user has established the appropriate language level they click on “continue” to start a learning path that follows a pedagogical progression. When a student closes and reopens their programme they pick up at the point at which they were last working. The Resource page allows one to access a number of different areas, such as language explanations, conjugations, glossary, etc. The main language reinforcement and testing takes place under Training though and here you have access to all of the lessons and the interactive situations. There are hours and hours of material to test all four key skills, all based on the various skill levels established earlier.  Once the user has selected a topic and a range of skills to test, the software will set up the course in a matter of seconds and let you know how long it will last (it does not have to be completed in one sitting) and the range of exercises involved.  I particularly liked the multiple-choice conversation tasks where the user has to respond to the situation. In one German task this meant the unexpected arrival of a friend whilst packing for holiday and in another French exercise responding to somebody shouting ‘au secours’ whilst in a café in France. These tasks lend themselves very well to the role-play scenarios in CIE IGCSE and the need to react on the spot and listen for a reaction from the other speaker.  Pupils would also very much enjoy the interactive nature and the ‘conversation’ element that uses voice recognition technology. The fact that the user has the options to each part of the conversation and can therefore guide the situation is also appealing and builds confidence. When beginning a learning path, all three options are ‘correct’, however later in the learning path, having completed a range of activities to build vocabulary, grammar and language skills, you need to look at the image presented and then choose and say the correct response, for example ordering a hot chocolate for breakfast rather than a coffee. The fluid, natural feel of these tasks is really engaging.

 Such speaking exercises are really only the tip of the iceberg; there are so many other options and assignments to complete within the various topic areas. Some are more basic than others, for example lists of vocabulary to learn (on any word the user can select to hear the pronunciation, practise speaking the word in a ‘virtual language laboratory’ and if it is a verb the conjugation too), picture mix and match ups, word pronunciation tasks, grammar gap fills, word searches and video instructions. Aside from a couple of incidents of the microphone working slowly (the trick is to wait a second before launching into an answer) the whole programme and website functions quickly and seamlessly.  The hardest part, certainly for any class teacher, would be to work out exactly what it is that you would want from the software and how the programmes would tie into a particular scheme of work, exam board or topic that one may be covering in class. The language practice and learning on offer is excellent though and would be of particular benefit to individual students and beginners. Tell Me More is responsive, detailed and interesting and in my experience also offers excellent support and advice from their staff.

 Students receive instant feedback while working in each activity (including speaking) and are given a percentage success rate which they can see on their welcome page and under ‘Statistics’, which provides motivation. Teachers have access to a Tracking Portal where they can access statistics on pupil activity that can be downloaded into Excel files for reporting purposes. The Automatic Grading function enables teachers to generate reports very quickly according to 9 predetermined criteria and within a specified time frame. Teachers can communicate with pupils and assign content to pupils and classes via the Tutor Portal. Contents are catalogued in “Scopes and Sequence” documents that enable teachers to identify the learning paths to blend with coursework. Because TELL ME MORE is online the pupil can complete activities at home as part of their homework. This might be particularly useful for speaking activities that are difficult to work on in class and can help build confidence.