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English File 3e Pre Intermediate Student Book
English File 3e Pre Intermediate Student Book

4.0 out of 5 stars Third Edition Much Better, 16 Jan 2013
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The Third Edition (2012) Pre-Intermediate New English File is a vast improvement on older editions. Here are some pros and cons.

The Pros :
The horrifically bad "artwork" and "photographic" imagery have principally been scrapped and replaced in the main by more humane and uplifting images. Students will therefore not be discouraged and desensitised before they start. I've nearly finished reading this book from cover to cover and I must say that I'm extremely impressed with the lessons. Let me focus on the good points :
1. Presentation is much improved on older editions and quite appealing. Unlike Headway, where a lesson begins and ends is very clear to students, as are the language points they are about to cover. I really like the compact and orderly way in which the book is partitioned. There are specific chapters for communication, vocabulary and writing skills. The sophisticated yet easy to use phonemic chart is wonderful (it even covers typical spellings and variants).
2. Coverage is great. Students are introduced to, and get a thorough working knowledge of, grammar and important lexis. There is no doubt about it, they will be given a very wide and sure foundation for the next language level. It is abundantly clear that the authors are well aware of the common linguistic pitfalls of L2 students from different language groups, and seek to address these through getting students involved with pertinent language activities.
3. Activities and tasks are quite varied. I really like the discovery exercises. It might be argued that at times the authors have played it safe with the range of activities. Conversely, however, some activity types show a welcome innovation, and the discovery exercises are very well devised. With the more repetitively used activity types, the authors have been very assiduous in making sure that these activities have numerous, definable (but manageable) purposes/outcomes. Sequencing and pacing of activities are admirable, and I like some of the treats that the authors sometimes throw in at the end of certain lessons.
4. Reading and listening topics are refreshing and intriguing giving good scope for parley. What's more, the authors definitely show a knack for selecting topics which exemplify key language points. Although the L2 has in the main been carefully adapted (and there seems to be an absence of truly authentic material), the articles and scripts do sound natural and genuine. They are also more emotionally mature than before, and occasional humour is true humour. The "So do I/Neither do I etc." lesson is fab.
5. I really like the way the authors have shown a supportive approach to language learning, how students can reflect and gain something from the materials themselves, and how there is still scope for the more proficient students to demonstrate their prowess. Also, many learning styles seem to be catered for throughout - though "artistic" types may be disappointed.

The Cons :
Having said all this, I do have a few criticisms.
1. First and foremost, the "Social English" activities, although well scripted, place a very heavy reliance on American which is sad, not least for cultural reasons. It makes a nonsense of some of the phonological activities. If students want to learn American they will choose a student book specifically about it, they will not choose the NEF. It's all rather xenophobic (eg. no Australian, New Zealand, Scots, Welsh, Indian English etc. etc.) and all rather mercenary and cynical.
2. Listening scripts. Some of the listening scripts are absent, but having said that the important ones are present.
3. Explanations of tenses. Although language pointers are very enlightening, there could be a handful of instances where grammar explanations of tenses might be a bit thin (perhaps not as in-depth as Headway's). But then, it could be argued that this book is just for pre-intermediate level.
4. Lastly, some people may be a bit annoyed at the well-worn topics of restaurants, airports, holidays, etc. (thank goodness there's no actual lesson on the bloody cinema). However, it must be said that these are presented in a fresh way, and there are some refreshingly new topics which have been used to exemplify common Pre-Intermediate language requirements.

All-in-all, I really like this book. Although it uses supposed public media materials to a large degree, the more down-to-earth topics show a bit more maturity and sophistication than Headway's can. There is less of the contrived topic in this book. If it weren't for "Con No.1" above, and perhaps a slightly greater range in activity types, I think this book would have deserved 5 stars.


English Grammar in Use Students Book Intermediate with Answers: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Students of English
English Grammar in Use Students Book Intermediate with Answers: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Students of English
by Raymond Murphy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.38

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's to you, Murphy, 13 Nov 2012
This isn't the latest edition, and so it has much better pictures. Despite its limitations, Murphy's Grammar is an impressive achievement. It's great how he compares and distinguishes similar words, and helps students to understand some of the supple and eloquent expressions of the language. Thank goodness the English (or Irish?) got this one together.


Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes
by Carleton Hobbs & Norman Shelley
Edition: Audio Cassette

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matchless, 13 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Sherlock Holmes (Audio Cassette)
I consider these to be the definitive recordings of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Not only were Hobbs and Shelley extremely proficient radio actors, but the supporting cast were quite remarkable too. They brought a new vitality to Conan Doyle's often stereotypical lesser characters, helping to make these recordings timeless and endlessly entertaining. Great productions which I believe must be heard on cassette or CD to be fully appreciated.


Planning Lessons and Courses: Designing Sequences of Work for the Language Classroom (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers)
Planning Lessons and Courses: Designing Sequences of Work for the Language Classroom (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers)
by Tessa Woodward
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.65

1.0 out of 5 stars Buy a Good Student's Text Book Instead, 13 Nov 2012
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This volume has so little to commend it that its a wonder it was ever published. One thing it certainly didn't teach me about was a new strategy (or indeed any strategy) for designing a lesson. It was one of those books that you carry on reading because it seems to be just about to lead on to an incredible revelation or insight but never ever ever ever yields the goods. So, I finished reading it feeling like I'd just seen one of those "movies" - ie pretty bl...dy cheap. What was worse, the diction the author deployed was often very hard to stomach, and I found some of her "advice" about real textbooks quite disturbing. So, I really wish I'd just bought a good standard student's text book instead, and reflected more on how the real experts go about things.


Sony WM-FX290 Silver Cassette Player
Sony WM-FX290 Silver Cassette Player

2.0 out of 5 stars Could be better, 13 Nov 2012
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As you probably already know, new portable cassette players are scarce these days. This Sony player is Sony's more expensive model. I've not got an issue with the sound quality which is full and rounded. The radio reception, at least in the area I'm in, is quite incredible - it seems to be omni-directional - reception remains constant whichever direction the walkman is pointed in; and that's quite a feat for such a relatively small gadget. Then again, I can only pick up a few stations due to the limitations of the digital tuner. In terms of size, the walkman is bordering on the bulky. In terms of powering it, it seems to run perfectly on just the single AA battery that it requires. There are however, two important setbacks with this player. Just like the cheaper model which I also own, it won't play many cassettes that are over 22 years old, and it has a tendancy to stretch some tapes after only a few playings. I'm therefore disappointed with the product because Sony could at least have got the cassette mechanisms finely tuned as well. I could have been sold two duff models, but now, that would be something.


Sony SRS-T70 Personal Speakers
Sony SRS-T70 Personal Speakers

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite Good for the Price - Sony SRS T70 Speakers, 28 Jun 2012
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These Sony speakers are nice and compact, and can run off batteries, or, apparently, an AC adaptor (not supplied). There is an option for getting them to work direct from the power of the device you're using, but the volume with this option is so weak as not to be a viable one. The speakers come with a short length of lead with a 3.5mm jack at the end of it. You simply plug this into the headphone socket of your player (cassette player, MP3 player, CD player etc.)and away you go. The sound quality is not quite as good as I would have expected from a Sony product; my Sony radio has fabulous sound quality. Having said that, the speakers themselves do have a fairly good roundness of tone, and a fuller bass than you might expect from comparable ones in the same price bracket. Overall, despite this, and it's lack of a trendy design (though it is quite slim), I'd say these speakers were a reasonable purchase for the price - please note I bought them second hand for only £15 plus P&P.


Bbc Radio Collection Sherlock Holmes 2: The Empty House, The Final Problem, The Blue Carbuncle, Silver Blaze
Bbc Radio Collection Sherlock Holmes 2: The Empty House, The Final Problem, The Blue Carbuncle, Silver Blaze
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Audio Cassette

5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Sherlock Holmes Productions, 29 May 2012
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Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley cannot be bettered in their renditions of Holmes and Watson. They play their parts with such style, vitality and perception that they remain unsurpassed. The scripts bring out the essence of the stories, and the, sadly, unnamed supporting cast are delight to listen to. Unlike later productions, not only are these closer to the time giving them a quality of authenticity, but they do not seek to pander to the latest propaganda of a tasteless media. Thank goodness these productions were not mysteriously lost by the BBC.


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