English for Academic Study: Vocabulary
Although I’m a fan of Academic Vocabulary in Use (which I reviewed here five years ago), I’ve long been looking for an alternative that is lower level, covers less stuff more thoroughly, and concentrates more on the language that I think the majority of my EAP students really need at this stage – perhaps even something I can recommend to IELTS students too (rather than warning them not to waste their time with it until they’ve passed).
Garnet Education’s English for Academic Study: Vocabulary Study Book takes a very different approach. Firstly, it’s purely for self-study. More importantly, it’s based directly on the General Service List of 2,000 frequently used word families (GSL) and (mainly) the first 300 word families from the Academic Word List (AWL). The AWL contains vocabulary which is common in academic writing but not in the GSL. The GSL words are used to introduce the concepts needed to learn vocabulary (multi-meaning words, word classes, word families, word parts, collocations and word grammar) in the first five units, then these aspects of the first five sublists of the AWL are explored in the last five units. (The AWL is arranged into sublists by frequency, making the first five sublists the most frequent examples of the AWL).
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The Company Words Keep
In The Company Words Keep the authors, Paul Davis and Hanna Kryszewska, put forward a strong case for adopting a more lexical approach to language acquisition. The title is divided into three main parts: part A outlines the theory behind the book, B sets out a number of exercises to be used in the classroom and the third encourages the instructor to reflect on his/her lessons and his/her learners. It also has suggestions of how to continue professional development in this area. To get the most out of this title in a language college setting, it would benefit from a workshop session led by someone who has read and cherry-picked activities relevant to the learners and equipment available. I found this book encouraged me to be more conscious of the elements of lexical approach that I was already incorporating in my teaching. Some of the exercises will probably be familiar to more experienced teachers (depending on the teaching methodology and coursebooks used) but there are so many activities that there’s bound to be something new.
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English Vocabulary in Use
The English Vocabulary in Use books have been around for a long time and are, I feel, invaluable classroom resources, so I was eager to see how the latest edition fared.
As in previous editions, the book is comprised of stand-alone units offering clear explanations and practice exercises which are ideal for supplementary class materials or self-study practice.
The book has 100 Units practising different vocabulary areas. There are 35 general topic-based units covering areas such as the weather, describing people, education, food, health, crime, money, and many more. The next nine units then look in more detail at feelings and actions, covering beliefs, likes, feelings and senses. These units also dealt with commenting on problematic situations and ways of offering praise and criticism, which I felt were useful areas to cover. Basic concepts, including time, quantity, dimensions, texture, are covered in the next ten-unit section. Linking words, word formation, words and pronunciation, (un)countable nouns and phrasal verbs all have individual sections of at least three units each after that. The final section introduces variety and style and looks at (in)formal language, similes, proverbs
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Using Phrasal Verbs for Natural English
This book and its accompanying audio CD are designed to be a self-study tool for intermediate to upper-intermediate proficient students. The way in which the information is presented, including its features and study tips, lends itself well to autonomous learning.
Comprised of 24 units, the text can be approached by learners in any order. However, because the first four units focus on a grammatical introduction to phrasal verbs (such as their definition, their relationship with direct objects, and general grammar patterns), it seems logical that readers begin with these initial units to establish a good understanding of the two-word lexical constituents.
After every grouping of four units, learners will find a comprehensive review by which they can test their newly-acquired phrasal verb knowledge. An answer key for each review is located at the back of the book for quick and easy measurement of
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Primary iDictionary 2
The Primary iDictionary 2 is an interactive picture dictionary CD-ROM published by Cambridge. It is designed for primary school aged learners of English with the vocabulary being suitable for children preparing for the Cambridge Movers exam.
The program contains over 300 words divided into 14 vocabulary topics ranging from animals to weather, as well as language-focused units on things like adjectives and past simple forms. In each topic, the vocabulary is presented via images with the accompanying word. The pronunciation of each word can also be listened to, as can the spelling of the word.
Each unit also contains a song, a story and a game, all of which draw on the vocabulary that is presented. The songs can be listened to with the lyrics or without, or in the ‘karaoke’ mode that allows the child to sing along. There are 4 different types of game: a drag and drop game in which words are matched to pictures; a drag and drop game in which items are added to a picture based on an audio description; a listen and match game in which a description of an item or action is listened to before choosing the corresponding image; and a memory card game in which matching pairs of cards need to be found.
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Essential Business Vocabulary Builder
Having taken on a couple of new business groups, I was looking forward to the chance to road-test Essential Business Vocabulary Builder – and I wasn’t disappointed. Presentation-wise I wasn’t initially bowled over – its text-filled pages are not easy on the eye – and wondered how my students might react, but I was quickly put right. The strength of Emmerson’s text is not in pretty pictures or glossy pages, but in the depth of what it covers.
The main part of the book is split into three areas: Business Topics (companies and sectors, money and finance, management, etc), Effective Communication (Social English, Business Travel, Emails, etc) and a section looking at word families in a business context. As if that wasn’t enough, there are also speaking and writing practice sections linked to various lexical sets, and listening practice featuring both short phrases for practice of phonological aspects and longer listening comprehensions (the book comes with a CD). Somehow the author has managed to fit all this into less than 200 pages.
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Although not all teachers want to be researchers, all good teachers should have some idea of current research in their field. This book is an excellent introduction to vocabulary research by a renowned expert, Norbert Schmitt. It is a mine of useful information, presented in a very approachable manner. It is divided into four sections: Overview of Vocabulary Issues (Chapter 1); Foundations of Vocabulary Research (Chapters 2 and 3); Researching Vocabulary (Chapters 4, 5 and 6); and Resources (Chapter 7).
The first section begins with one of my favourite quotes on language: “Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.” As a language teacher, I have been using various forms of that sentence for many years. If vocabulary is important, then it seems logical to seek to assess vocabulary proficiency. The very useful online DIALANG tests are described on pages 4 and 5, although it is a little tricky to track down other useful information on them due to no reference in the (very short) index, notes being at the end of the book, and no website address being given.
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English Idioms in Use (Advanced)
Idioms are difficult. They’re such an integral part of English yet students of all levels often struggle with them, and finding a way to systematically teach these kinds of expressions is a challenge for teachers. So where to start?
English Idioms in Use begins with an introductory section about idioms, how to use them accurately, how to play with them, and how to understand a humorous play on words. There’s also a brief look at idioms from places including Scotland and the US.
The next section considers idiom types, including proverbs, similes and clichés, before moving on to presenting idioms via topic area, covering themes such as conflict, transport, animals, body parts and literature. I was intrigued in the contents page to see a unit titled ‘Shakespeare’ and discovered that idioms such as ‘the green-eyed monster’, ‘at one fell swoop’, ‘eat me out of house and home’ and ‘wild-goose chase’ were actually used in Shakespeare’s plays.
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Macmillan Collocations Dictionary
When it comes to English fluency, collocations are crucial to sounding natural, smooth and competent. Understanding how words work together adds meaning that cannot be gained in any other way and is essential for beginner-level students who wish to progress to the next level. The Macmillan Collocations Dictionary is an excellent book to help students develop their language skills in this way. The introduction describes how the dictionary can aid students in their IELTS study, but it is useful for those not taking this test as well. In particular, I think this book can really support writers looking to improve their academic or professional writing skills. I’m even considering making this a required text for my university academic writing course because it’s so easy to use.
Its main strength is the colouring and layout, which are simple and clear, meaning that it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. The basic colouring includes headwords in red, simple definitions in black type and examples in italics. Multiple definitions are clearly numbered and collocates are bolded for easy identification. Under each word, different grammatical relationships (adj +N; V + N) are marked with a dot and additional listings of the same relationship are labelled with an arrow. Since the collocates are bolded, they visually leap off the page in a way that helps the busy writer efficiently identify the appropriate words to use. There are also occasional grey-and-red boxes that explain elements of usage in further detail and provide examples.
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Vocabulary Practice Series: Geography
This vocabulary series by Macmillan sets the bar high, but does not disappoint. Rarely when encountering an EFL or ESL textbook do I find myself unable to complete activities. When this happens, it is often due to confusing design or instructions. However, in the case of the Science and Geography texts, the first two volumes of Macmillan’s Vocabulary Practice Series, it was because the content is challenging. For a lower level learner, this may be discouraging, but for the ESP student preparing to study at the graduate level or entering a position that requires specific vocabulary at a high level of proficiency, this series could be a great time-saver and a rewarding tool. Macmillan says this is for pre-intermediate to advanced learners, but I’d save it for high intermediate and up. It would also make a great study tool for a native speaker studying the subject. I learned a great deal simply flipping through the textbooks!
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Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English
What is a frequency dictionary? Routledge is producing a whole series of these books: so far, the list includes Spanish, German, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, French, and now Contemporary American English.
According to its authors, this book will tell you all about the 5000 most frequently used words in contemporary American English. It is based on the COCA corpus, which contains 385 million words of running text, evenly balanced between five types of English: spoken, fiction, magazines, newspapers and academic. It might seem superfluous to have a dictionary based on data from a corpus that is freely available online, but a great deal of thought has gone into the design of the book and the result is quite intriguing.
The introduction explains in depth how the dictionary was created and how the words were chosen. The score for each word was based on its raw frequency multiplied by its dispersion. This shows how evenly distributed a word is over the 100 different corpus sections. Low dispersion indicates
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Rules, Patterns and Words
This book takes the idea of the nowadays well-known ideas of collocations and “chunking” several steps further towards developing a theory of explaining how lexis determines grammatical patterning, and offers many examples to illustrate how and when this happens. More precisely, this book shows how lexical phrases, frames and patterns give the reader links between grammar and vocabulary, and suggests that by studying this the learners will be empowered with added meaning-making ability. As such, it does a good job of placing this link between grammar and vocabulary at the centre of language learning pedagogy. Furthermore, the book made me aware that recognizing these patterns is a crucial skill that all teachers should have and learning teachers must develop.
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The workbook is broken into 40 groups of vocabulary words which all come from the novel. Each word is accompanied with the corresponding page number in the novel so students can read the relevant section and see the word in context and can then go on to complete vocabulary exercises. The good thing about Brian’s approach is that students are not overloaded with words as there are only eight words in each group. This makes it easier to concentrate and learn the words and
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Authors: John Morgan and Mario Rinvolucri
Components: Book for teachers
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Summary: Provides a wide range of fun, effective classroom activities for learning vocabulary that range in level from beginner to advanced.
Vocabulary aims to provide teachers with a wide range of activities not typically found in other vocabulary books, including activities that are so fun that they would be enjoyable if the student were to do them in their native language. It also tries to account for learner differences by using
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Components: Self-Study Book
Authors: Felicity O’Dell and Michael McCarthy
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Summary: Well worth the trouble for students preparing for high-level examinations and teachers of advanced students (especially in one-to-one classes).
As I first flipped through English Collocations in Use – Advanced, I was reminded of my humble beginnings in TEFL. Freshly certified, unsure how to handle the slate of private one-on-ones I was faced with, and with little material on hand to use, I often turned to one of the few books I had at my disposal at the time- my roommate’s copy of the classic English Grammar in Use.
Yes, “Murphy’s”, a book which launched a long, successful series of …In Use books (English Vocabulary in Use, English Idioms in Use, etc.), of which English Collocations in Use: Advanced is the latest installment. As such, this last title follows the common format established early on: on the even-numbered pages, a presentation or explanation of the language in question, and on the odd-numbered pages
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