Real English for the real world
First Impressions looks at some new book titles for summer 2010 including some new courses providing “real English for the real world”.
If you were at the IATEFL conference in April, you can’t have failed to notice the giant mobile billboards passing through the narrow streets of Harrogate promoting English Unlimited, the new adult course from Cambridge University Press.
The aim of English Unlimited is to enable adult learners to communicate effectively in English in real situations. The course calls itself practical, authentic, international and flexible. Each unit of the book is designed to help learners achieve specific communicative goals. The practical nature of these goals means the course features authentic language used by native speakers and proficient non-native speakers of English in everyday situations.
To achieve this authenticity the authors (Alex Tilbury, David Rea, Leslie Anne Hendra, Theresa Clementson with Adrian Doff) have made good use of the Cambridge International Corpus (CIC), a collection of more than a billion words of real text, both spoken and written, which can be used to discover the most common words, expressions and structures of the language, and the kinds of situations in which they are used.
The first five pages of each unit are connected to each other and make up the core of the unit. After that, there’s an “Explore” section, two pages of activities which have a topical or linguistic link to the unit but which can be used separately. On the last page of each unit is the “Look Again” section with review and extension activities. The idea is that this structure can be adapted not only for lessons of different lengths, but also for shorter and longer courses.
As with other new adult courses, English Unlimited steers away from celebrity culture, and focuses instead on more universal themes that will appeal to international learners of different backgrounds from around the world. The course also contains unscripted audio and video material, recorded using non-actors, both native and non-native speakers.
For teachers in Spain there’s a special “English for Spanish Speakers” edition. Apart from a different cover design, this includes extra content specifically designed for Spanish speakers, including “Get it right!” pages, which provide practice on common errors made by Spanish speakers.
Apart from English Unlimited, this year Cambridge is launching “English for Spanish Speakers” editions for more levels of Kid’s Box and face2face and a second edition of English in Mind.
Outcomes (Heinle) is a new general English course by Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley. It’s “real English for the real world”, which could be the slogan for most of the new adult courses being published these days. Each of its 16 units has three double-page spreads linked by a common theme. Each spread is a self-contained lesson and the first lesson in each unit focuses on conversation, while the next two feature reading or listening.
The special focus on conversation at the beginning of each unit is supported by some nice features such as “Developing Conversations” – to get students to put language into practice in real-life situations; “Language Patterns” – to train students to notice common patterns in language, and to use them correctly; and “Native English Speaker” – to develop students’ ability to express themselves naturally and clearly.
As you’d expect from a course called Outcomes, there are clear outcomes in every lesson to provide students with a sense of achievement as they progress through the course.
Heinle was one of the first publishers to move away from celebrity culture in its books, thanks to its association with National Geographic. Founded in 1988 to “inspire people to care about the planet”, National Geographic’s message has never felt so topical. One of the latest titles to come through this collaboration is English Explorer, a four-level course that encourages secondary-level students to explore amazing places and fascinating cultures, learn how to use English to communicate effectively in the real world, and develop critical thinking and other practical, real-world skills, including study skills and writing techniques.
As you’d expect, the course has a strong international focus, combining a communicative approach to learning English with a focus on the world and its different cultures through National Geographic images, video and content.
A new grammar book out this month, Top Grammar (Helbling), is aimed at teenagers and young adults learning English at all levels from elementary to advanced. It covers all the main grammatical areas of the language and can be used for individual study, for exam preparation, or in class for work on specific grammar in the syllabus.
The student’s book has 25 sections, each focusing on a specific grammar area. Each section contains several two-page units that have grammar explanations on the left page and practice exercises on the right. The lexical themes that run through each section are broadly based on the vocabulary topics in the PET and FCE syllabuses. And at the end of each section there’s an exam preparation spread as well as a review spread.
The book comes with a CD containing extra activities and authentic texts from English and American newspapers and magazines, accompanied by exercises. There’s also a Teacher’s Guide with tips on how to use Top Grammar, including practical suggestions on how to develop grammar competence and deal with error correction.
Also from Helbling is a new series of graded readers for primary schools. Each book in the Helbling Young Readers series has a picture dictionary, CLIL links, and a CD with educational games. Each of the five levels has its own mascot that grows in size as the reader gets older.
With so many ELT publishers out there, you’d think it would be impossible to find a gap in the market. But that’s what designer Ken Gomez has set out to fill with his English Learner Notebook (enleno). As the title suggests, it’s a notebook for learners of English to use in class, a place to organise vocabulary lists and keep a record of what happened in class.
The notebook is divided into different sections: There’s a “Lesson Index”, which the student completes after each lesson and which allows for quick reference when revising or checking material already covered. The “Lesson Notes” pages include an “after lesson” section to note down post-lesson notes or thoughts about the lesson. There’s a “Vocabulary by Topic” section for noting down new related vocabulary using spider diagrams, a “Collocation” section for storing word collocations, a “Vocabulary by Word” section for new words, and an “Alternative Word” section to help students expand their vocabulary by noting down other alternatives to avoid repetition. The book also includes a reference section at the back.
The “Lesson Notes” pages also include unusual facts about English. For example, did you know that typewriter is the longest word that can be typed using the letters on only one row of the keyboard?
This year is the 25th anniversary of English Grammar in Use (Cambridge), the world’s bestselling grammar title. To coincide with the anniversary, Cambridge has produced two apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch which allow students to practise grammar on the move.
The English Grammar in Use Tests app provides over 1,700 multiple-choice questions to practise key grammar points. Users can choose between two modes of practice: Shuffle mode chooses questions randomly, and Practice mode allows you to choose which grammar points to focus on. English Grammar in Use Activities has over 2,800 questions to practise key grammar. It includes audio recordings of all the main exercises, and users can record and play back audio notes for each exercise.
To celebrate the anniversary of English Grammar in Use, Cambridge is also organising a global grammar competition for students. The winners will receive a two-week English course in Cambridge in August 2010. Look for the Cambridge ad in this issue for more details.
And while we’re on the subject of competitions, Trinity Guildhall has launched a new International Playwriting Competition. One of the aims of the competition is to provide an opportunity and encouragement for new, aspiring (and possibly established) writers to create plays for children and young people. Writers must submit a one-act play intended for young audiences; the competition is open to entrants from anywhere in the world. You can follow this link to the competition webpage. The deadline to receive entries is July 1, 2010.