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Jim Hitch (London, UK)

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A Book on Writing
A Book on Writing
by Sam McCarter
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent ideas and key, over elaborate in some areas. Of less use to business learners., 10 Dec 2009
This review is from: A Book on Writing (Paperback)
This is a book I discovered a couple of years ago. It's very different in style from it's competitors, whether intentionally or because it was published in 1997: spiral-bound, all black and white, no pictures. Furthermore, it doesn't try any of that 'humour' that many books have.

So, it is a very functional book, and get's straight down to business. It's split into five sections, which are:

1.Focus on coherence
2.Focus on cohesion
3.Writing letters
4.Correcting written English

Each of the above are broken up into easily digestible pieces which are a series of exercises that double up as chapters that general have a paragraph of introduction and then dive straight into a task. Most of the sections begin with tasks that make you think about what you're trying to achieve, rather than simply lexical/word-related tasks.

This is an interesting approach, and can be rather difficult to follow at times, as well as sometimes it being difficult to see the reason for some of the questions involved. I have been teaching for more than 12 years and am still unsure if the following are conjunctions or adverbs:

however, whatever, besides, consequently

and yet I am asked, at one point, to decide. My point is, does it matter?

Section 1 deals exclusively with essays, which is a shame, as it could easily be transferred to reports and proposals (I have to admit that it would make it easier for me too, as majority of my clients are already working in London and so don't have to write essays too often).

I most use sections 2, 4 & 5, which I find to be very well laid out and really quite challenging in places. They have been brilliant with my clients for getting them to think about the language in different ways, what differences there are between ways of using the language, some of which I still have trouble explaining.

Lastly, and one of the best parts of the book is the key. It takes up the last 30% of the pages, with detailed explanations of each exercise. This is a trait that all books should follow, and not enough do. If a book is to be used for both self-study and reference at a later date (as this can be), then it is less important that a student knows whether they are correct than that they know WHY they were wrong.

Overall this is a useful addition to the books on offer in the ELT sector. It is simple and unfussy, and has aimed to fill a gap in the market. It mostly succeeds, though I think that sometimes it covers what isn't necessary for a good grasp of the language. For teachers, this is a great book to have on hand, as there are many parts that are excellent. For the student this would be a good supplement to other coursework.

English Grammar In Use with Answers and CD ROM: A Self-study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Students of English
English Grammar In Use with Answers and CD ROM: A Self-study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Students of English
by Raymond Murphy
Edition: Paperback
Price: 23.41

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good reference perhaps, but not the best book out there for learning, practicing and improving, 23 Mar 2009
I've been teaching for more than ten years, and if ever there was a book that I could guarantee a student had used, if not actually owned, it was this. There are a couple of others in the series, the 'Essential' (elementary) and the Advanced, but this is the one that most people know.

I don't like it, and never really have. I think that when it was first published (in 1985?), it must have been quite ground breaking, but I think over the years it has been overtaken by much better grammar books, and the revisions of the 1985 edition in 1994 and 2004 have been largely cosmetic. I think it looks a bit tired.

It's not to say it's not useful, or that students can't learn from it, but that there are much better out there. I think it would be better to think of this as a reference book with some exercises, and not a book which students can use to practice, learn and develop.

And that's the basic problem. The explanations are good, and the appendices useful, but there are not enough exercises and what there are are frequently unclear. What learners need is practice, and lots of it, a single page of practice at this level (at the very low end of intermediate to First Certificate level) is not enough.

The biggest crime, which less and less grammar books now commit, is to have numbered exercises in which each question is independent of the last, which means that there is no, or not enough, context for the student to work with. In the real world everything is in context, in many cases little could be understood without it. The most effective grammar practice is achieved with exercises in which each set of questions is based around a single situation, accompanied by an explanatory picture; this sets the scene and will help a student 'feel' they are there (Real English Grammar, for example, does this - Real English Grammar: Intermediate to Upper Intermediate).

It has been five years since the last edition, perhaps a new, and improved, version is on the cards.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 4, 2012 9:46 PM BST

Grammar and Vocabulary for Cambridge Advanced and Proficiency: With Key
Grammar and Vocabulary for Cambridge Advanced and Proficiency: With Key
by Richard Side
Edition: Paperback
Price: 27.63

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for anyone who wants to get to grips with high level and complex English, 23 Mar 2009
I recently bought this book for a client of mine who is looking to take the CAE this year. I didn't have a copy myself so I ordered two, and when it arrived it reminded me that I'd used it a lot when I used to work in schools and language colleges.

A week or so later I bought it for another client of mine who works as a senior executive in a large multinational, because I had been stuck on where we could go next with his grammar. He has no intention of taking the exam. When I gave it to him he told me that he already had a copy in his home country, but was quite happy to have another copy because he had once been told by an English teacher that there "are only two grammar books you need to learn English. The first is English Grammar in Use, and the second, if you are serious a learning to use English at a higher level, is Grammar and Vocabulary for CAE and CPE."

Personally, I don't think English Grammar in Use (English Grammar In Use with Answers and CD ROM: A Self-study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Students of English) is as good as everyone thinks, but this book certainly is. Yes, it's excellent for those taking the respective exams, but it is just as good for those who just what to know, understand and use more complex English.

Let me see if I can explain why. Most books that deal with Grammar and Vocabulary are not, they are published separately. There are some, like the very good 'Language Practice' series by Michael Vince (Advanced Language Practice: With Key, Intermediate Language Practice: With Key, First Certificate Language Practice: With Key, Elementary Language Practice: With Key) that put vocabulary in a separate section at the back. This book, however, incorporates the vocabulary section in each unit.

There are fifteen units covering different topics, such as Modal Verbs, Passives, and Determiners and Pronouns. Each unit is laid out in the same way, which mixes thorough explanation with practice. Let me give you a typical example:

Unit 7 - Adjectives and Adverbs
Entry test (how much do you know about this topic?) - 1 full page
The Basics (a full page of explanation with four subheadings)
Sections 1-3 (each section deals in more detail with the topic with a full page of explanation followed by a full page of practice)
Vocabulary Sections 4-5 (each section deals in more detail with the topic with a full page of explanation followed by a full page of practice)

To save you counting, Unit 7 is 12 pages long. That is a lot of detail.

And it's the kind of detail that my clients demand.

What I particularly like about it is that fact that it tackles areas that 'students should already know'. For example, I have several French clients who still have problems with 'this' and 'that'. This area can normally only be found in Elementary and Intermediate grammar books, which is no good for my clients; this book deals with it at a much higher level.

I also have an Indian client who has some difficulties with one particular aspect of British English when compared to Indian English: Indian English tends to use the continuous form for many verbs that British English would consider to be Stative. This book has a whole vocabulary section on this which he found very useful.

On top of all this, there are highlighted 'Watch Out' paragraphs which point out danger areas and common mistakes.

This book tough for learners. But for those who want to both learn and teach in a more traditional way to understand complex (but still useful) British English, this book is a must.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2010 8:00 PM GMT

Business English Handbook Advanced
Business English Handbook Advanced
by Emmerson Paul
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.00

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good for both self study and teaching, but specialist chapters mean it can't be everything to everyone, 17 Mar 2009
This is a book that I have had constant use for ever since it was published in 2007. It's one of the rare books that I've yet to get bored of using, though it must be said that the truth is that I only use about a third of it, for reasons that will become obvious. The book is for advanced level students, though the very useful spidergrams or mind maps can be used with even intermediate level clients.

It's split into three sections. The first two are 12 units long each, the final section being 10 interviews with worksheets which can be listened to on the accompanying CD or read in the tapescript.

The first 12 units cover different business sectors, not general Business English, some of which are very specialised. For my work, these are not so useful, as I teach in London where accountant clients of mine already know 'Capital Expenditure' & 'EBITDA' - if they didn't, they wouldn't be working for PWC or KPMG. However, it can be fun to see how they do, because often there will be at least one moment of surprised delight when they come across a term that has been misunderstood by them for years.

These are the opening 12 chapters.

1.Industries and companies
2.Globalization and economic policy
3.Corporate strategy and structure
4.Managing people
5.Operations management
7.Marketing strategy and product development
8.Distribution and promotion
9.Accounting and financial statements
10.Financial markets
11.Human resources
12.Information and communications technology

You can see that they are very specialised. Each chapter follows the same format (though some chapters are longer than others):

Introductory page with context for the subject / topic in question (this is something often missed in other books), with some exercises for general understanding
Mind map / spidergram (very good for vocabulary development)
A couple of pages of standard learning exercises, but quite challenging for anyone not familiar with the language

It's in the second section that the book really comes into it's own, however. The layout is the same. If I give you the chapter headings here, you'll see what I mean.

13.Trends, graphs and figures
14.Presentations - structure and key phrases
15.Presentations - being lively and persuasive
17.Social English and cultural awareness
18.Style - clarity and emphasis
19.Style - politeness and softening
20.Developing an argument - linking words 1
21.Developing an argument - linking words 2
22.Developing an argument - linking words 3
23.Writing paragraphs
24.CV (resume) / Job interview

This section is packed with useful phrases and language. The Mind maps / spidergrams are worth the money themselves, and the practice exercises help to give some context.

The interviews at the back at similar in subject area to the first section, there is are interviews with a marketing director and another with an auditor, for example. Much can be made of these from both a teaching and learning perspective. In fact, they are some of the most realistic interviews I've heard in the sector, they are of a good length and cut deep into the language. Any teacher who knows their stuff will be able to exploit these to the full.

This is not a big book, so it can be said that there is not enough practice, and it must be admitted that the 'Speaking Practice' at the end of final page of each section does seem like an afterthought. However, overall this can't just be considered a work book, it is also an exercise book. I know for a fact that there are many working in London today who have the mind maps / spidergrams pasted up by their computer.

Real English Grammar: Intermediate to Upper Intermediate
Real English Grammar: Intermediate to Upper Intermediate
by Hester Lott
Edition: Paperback
Price: 17.99

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Context & Clarity, 22 Dec 2008
I'm not sure if it's just me, but I think this is a great grammar text book. I say that because it has often been out of stock and very slow in being delivered by the various companies I use for books and CDs. Perhaps I'm missing something after all.

A grammar text book should have three things:
1.Have clear explanations with easy to follow contextualised examples
2.Have a good quantity of contextualised practice
3.Have a good, clear and uncomplicated reference section

Of course, there is more to it than that, but these are the minimum requirements. A grammar book needs to be accessible for self-study, whether it's going to be used in the class or not. This is because the explanations and examples should be good and clear enough for the student to use as a reference long beyond the end of the language course in which it is used.

Real English Grammar ticks all of the above and more. It's a general English non-business book aimed at a broad range of Intermediate students, and while the full colour illustrations sometimes suggest it would be more comfortable in a traditional young adult language school, I've used it with much more advanced one-to-one business clients. I've used it with these clients particularly as a refresher for people who are rusty in some areas - I find that going back to a significantly lower level than the client is at, helps them to 'see' where their fossilised mistakes are.

Yes, some of the texts and the layouts could be improved, certainly for corporate clients, but the major advantage it has over it's competitors more than outweighs this. That advantage is context and buckets of it.

There are 71 themed units, at first appearance no different in layout to many other grammar books; in other words, explanation + practice. However, the reality is different. Almost all the units follow the same pattern, two pages of explanation followed be two pages of practice (a few units have one page of each instead). The layout of both the explanations and examples is clear and uncluttered. Many grammar books have tried to pack in so much material that the appearance of the pages, crammed with text, is likely to scare all but the most thick skinned student away.

Equally, there is much more practice than some other grammar books give, but that isn't what gives this book it's edge. At the very beginning of each unit, there is a short passage or dialogue that highlights the use of the grammatical form in question. For example, the unit that introduces the present continuous has a dialogue between several people (an illustration of the dialogue is also given, this gives greater meaning and context, so that the student can concentrate on the grammatical form as opposed to the meaning), which has been written so that several examples of present continuous usage can be given, all forms included; positive, negative and interrogative. These are highlighted in bold so the student can easily pick out the form and see how it works. I think this is a great, really great, idea. Before even getting into any explanation, the student is given some real usage to look at, to kick start the learning process without any academic explanations. On top of this, these texts are reproduced in audio format on the accompanying CD, which gives some great 'real listening' to the student.

The examples page follow the same format too. Each exercise in any unit (typically four or five standard gap-fill and sentence writing exercises) is a 'whole context' exercise, i.e. not ten separate questions as would be expected, but ten questions within the same piece of text, conversation and so on. This not only gives the student some sense of continuity, it also, more importantly, adds accuracy to the questions and therefore the answers. Why? As any teacher will tell you, and most students already know, English, indeed any language, is full of double-meaning words, ambiguities, and grammar rules that are inconsistent. Context such as that in these exercises, gives a better chance that there is one answer and one answer only. This is beyond the fact that a single sentence without context can sometimes be impossible to answer accurately unless the student can read the mind of the person who wrote the question. A good example of this is when trying to work out the difference between 'going to' and the present continuous for the future. The first of these is often used for intentions, whilst the other is often used for plans. Without context how is a student to understand whether a question is referring to an intention or a plan? These questions all come with relevant illustrations that help the student understand what's going on in the text.

At the end of the book there are various tables and simple explanations of lexical terms like noun, preposition and so on, and how they're used; some basic pronunciation and of course the irregular verbs list which is split into useful groups.

I think this book is well worth taking a look at, even if it can sometimes be difficult to find. It is uncluttered and contextualised. It doesn't try to cover too much, and whilst some of the illustrations and subject areas might be considered to be a bit 'youth' or at least 'young adult', it is neither patronising nor pitched in such a way that an older and / or business client would reject it outright as part of a 'refresher' section of a course.

English Pronunciation in Use Advanced (Book+CD-ROM)
English Pronunciation in Use Advanced (Book+CD-ROM)
by Martin Hewings
Edition: Paperback

67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for both teaching and self-study, 8 Dec 2008
This is a book that I feel as if I've been using for years. The truth is that until a couple of years ago there was only one, English Pronunciation in Use, which has now become the Intermediate book of a series of three. I haven't used the Elementary and used what became the Intermediate for several years before getting hold of the Advanced version.

As with others in the series, this book is laid out like many traditional grammar books are. It is not a 'handbook' for teachers, but a 'do' book for students which can be used both with and independently of a teacher; each unit has a page of explanation and a page of exercises ' whilst this isn't ever going to be enough, with the accompanying audio the committed student has plenty to work on. There are 5 audio CDs and answers that accompany it (essential for self-study), and the book is clearly and well laid out.

Part of my criticism of the Intermediate book is that much of the language is too simple. The phonetic chart, for example, is of the visual type ' is for apple', '': is for car', which patronises adult learners, particularly those already working in the target language. I have never understood why again and again publishers equate lower levels of linguistic ability to immaturity and childishness. Equally the Advanced version of this book sometimes uses grammatical structures which are unnecessarily complex. This is a pronunciation book, only, after all. However, the latter is a much lesser evil.

The book itself is split into five sections. The first 'getting started' is a great introduction for self-study, though trainers will probably skip to the meat of the text. The final section, the fifth, is the reference section, no surprises there, which does include further practice on getting the hang of phonemic symbols and what they represent (particularly useful for those learners whose first language shares the use of the Roman Alphabet with English), as well as further practice with consonant clusters (vital practice for speakers of Castilian Spanish, amongst others). The rest of the reference section deals with further practice with word stress and the ever important glossary.

The three middle sections are where the meat is:

* Pronunciation of words and phrases
* Pronunciation in conversation
* Pronunciation in formal settings

The final of these is much shorter, and to my mind, much less important. The first deals mostly with stresses in words and sentences whilst the second spends much time on intonation, an area where, beyond having some idea of 'rising' at the end when asking a question, most more advanced learners of English fall short.

Worked through methodically, the explanations and exercises are clear enough, and can form the basis of a better understanding of the subject. But only the basis. There is, of course, no substitution for real-world situations and self-recording and playback.

What you won't find in here is dedicated work on individual sounds, that is covered in the Intermediate book, but those can be covered adequately with what is here.

Overall, I've found this to be a very useful book, covering particularly well the joining of syllables and words in English and the pronunciation of functional words in their weak and strong forms.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 1, 2013 1:03 PM GMT

Talking Heads Dualdisc...
Talking Heads Dualdisc...

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where to start?, 31 Mar 2007
Like TH? Even think that they are pretty good, or perhaps just fair to middling? Well, you get this and you'll realise the genius that they were. But I'm not here to preach, esp. to those who are no doubt already converted.

Ignore for a minute that EACH of these CDs has a DVD on the flipside, and ignore that each has been remastered with 5.1 surround. This is the entire studio collection, and to say that it's awesome is a total cop out. It's full of tracks I didn't know I knew and of gems I thought I wouldn't hear again (there are extras on each CD, for example 'Sugar in my Cup', which until now appeared only on Sand in the Vaseline, appears here).

The downside is the price as it's only on import. But here's a tip, do what I did, spend the extra and go to NYC for a great w/e and pick up the set for the same price in $ as you get it here in pounds, in effect sixty quid toward your flight. I paid $[...].

Get this, I've got the whole lot on shuffle.

An A-Z of English Grammar and Usage (2nd Edition)
An A-Z of English Grammar and Usage (2nd Edition)
by Geoffrey N. Leech
Edition: Paperback
Price: 21.35

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I think I've understood the problem..., 23 Sep 2006
Aghast at the negative reviews for this book, I think I might have stumbled across the problem. I've taught for almost ten years and still use this book a lot. However, I'm not sure it's that useful for those starting out as novice's knowledge of grammar is perhaps too thin on the ground for the format provided by Leech. For a book that guides the teacher through the grammatical process and develops their knowledge through exercises aimed at teachers, get 'Grammar for English Language Teachers' (though it's no easy read itself) and get the Leech book for quick reference once your have built a basic overall knowledge of the subject.

LaCie Hard Drive Design by F. A. Porsche Firewire - Hard drive - 160 GB - external - 3.5" - Firewire - 7200 rpm - buffer: 2 MB
LaCie Hard Drive Design by F. A. Porsche Firewire - Hard drive - 160 GB - external - 3.5" - Firewire - 7200 rpm - buffer: 2 MB

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Problems, 22 Aug 2006
Had this for 6-9 months now and have had no problems at all, it's simplicity itself. Looks good, stacks, quiet. Just remember that if you have a laptop you might have a smaller firewire connection so might have to order another cable separately.

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