Top positive review
One person found this helpful
on 30 November 2011
This is a substantial book at nearly 650 pages in length. It contains numerous sections, listed alphabetically, followed by a glossary, an index (for those of us who like to search the old-fashioned way) and a searchable CD-ROM containing the entire book and audio files matching many of the given examples.
Written specifically for students learning English as a second language, the book aims to match itself to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF) levels B1 (limited expression in familiar situations & general information processing) and B2 (competency across a range of topics & goals). It would certainly seem to fulfil the B2 requirement, but the layout and organisation of the book may prove more difficult for students below this level.
The main reason for this is the A-Z layout: whilst being a very sensible method of organising so much information, unless you actually know the term you're looking for, you'll have to flick through the book in the hopes of stumbling across it (or start at the beginning and hope it crops up in one of the early entries). For students being taught formally who already have a decent grasp of the language, this shouldn't be so much of a problem, but for someone at a lower level or trying to teach / re-teach themselves the rules of English grammar, it makes it quite tricky to use. Whilst the CD-ROM addresses this to some extent, it can still be hard to find exactly what you're looking for.
Despite its comprehensive nature, there are also some interesting omissions. Antonyms are mentioned, but synonyms and homonyms are not (something that I personally would have thought to be important for all-round competency). Whilst an audio example is available on the CD-ROM to explain the phonetic symbols used to describe when to use "a" and "an", no example is given for how to pronounce the word "the" in similar circumstances. There is also an amusing error that crops up when discussing how italics can be used to replace single quotation marks, when all of the examples are in italics already.
In their favour, the book and CD contain hundreds of practical examples as well as a very interesting section on the differences between English and American grammar and spelling. The tables discussing verb structure, prefixes, suffixes and tenses are all very helpful (even if there is no one umbrella section called "Tenses", leading back to the problem of having to know what the tense is referred to before you can find further details on it). The inclusion of incorrect examples is also useful, particularly when explaining some of the more abstract points of English grammar.
If you can come to terms with the arrangement of the information in it, this will text will provide detailed support for a variety of courses, both for native and non-native speakers alike. Without the CD-ROM to speed up searching and improve portability, I would have been forced to give it a three. With them, for all its faults, this is definitely worth a four star rating.