English for Football

An informative look at the language of football which should appeal to non-native English speakers working in the industry, as well as a fun companion for armchair enthusiasts with a passion to know more about “the beautiful game”.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Jamie Lesley
English for Football

English for Football

English for Football is published by Oxford University Press and is offered as part of its Express Series – a wide range of titles that target short-term practical English training and business skills development. With a personal endorsement from legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, this slim 96-page volume cites as the grounds for its existence the increasingly global nature of the sport and the growing need for effective English communication on and off the field of play between players, coaching staff, agents, medics, administrators and supporters.

Geared for intensive language courses, English for Football can function as either a main or supplementary text and is equally suited to self-study. It is primarily intended for learners at CEFR levels A1, A2 and B1, and as such, is pitched to those with basic to pre-intermediate level English proficiency. A distinct success of this textbook is found in the impressive range of carefully-selected footballing terms and expressions, which are all the more noteworthy given the text’s relatively short length. If industry-specific lexis were a currency, this book would offer good value for money.

At times, the vocabulary might raise the odd amused eyebrow with a few readers, although it is hard to dispute the book’s verbal stylings are really that far removed from the genuine parlance of say, a training ground conversation between a “skipper” and his team mates or a half-time team talk led by a disgruntled “gaffer”. English for Football may occasionally read like a discarded page from an Eastenders script, but the language it foregrounds through its presentation and practice is also one of its most endearing and beneficial qualities. “Striking” would be one way to put it, if you’ll forgive the pun. Unsurprisingly, British English features heavily in terms of word choice and spelling, as well as through the regional UK accents in the audio; having said that, the listening sections do come replete with a plethora of international characters too, making for a rich melting pot of native and non-native English exposure. To aid the process, the publisher’s online teaching notes offer additional explanations of potentially unfamiliar jargon plus suggestions for further class activities.

The exercises and tasks in this course book are arranged in a user-friendly layout with a clear outline of topics, functional skills and target language. The balance of text to free-page space is also well managed and the use of different font size, bright colours, and a host of famous player and manager photographs combine to give an attractive, up-to-date appearance. The material is spread across eight units that can be studied independently of each other and apparently in any order. The units are then broken down into a routine structure that places the practice into specific speaking, listening, reading, vocabulary, and grammar sub-sections. These repeat through the book and provide a helpful degree of continuity whether or not the units are studied sequentially.

The units in English for Football are themed around familiar aspects of the game, such as the midfield (Unit 3), scouting for and describing different types of players and requisite skills (Unit 6) and management and coaching (Unit 7). The practice sections draw attention to deliberate communication strategies and useful language structures that will help learners express themselves in everyday situations as well as within footballing contexts. For example, the practice (in Unit 4) of using Past Simple forms to apologise for and explain poor performance should hopefully provide some assistance in those unfortunate times when one happens to “miss a sitter” or turn up late for training. Finally, every unit ends on an international player profile with an interview piece that includes question responses about their experiences of learning and using English. These inclusions are particularly encouraging as they underscore the point that the journey learners are taking is a collective one shared by many other people, which will hopefully serve as a motivating reminder to readers.

Overall, the content and design of English for Football create a positive impression of a text that is easy on the eye and ultimately good fun to boot. It is sure to be popular with learners and teachers, and in all likelihood, will probably go on to become a deserved fan-favourite.

Reviewed for Teflnet by Jamie Lesley
August 2013 | Filed under ESP Materials
Jamie Lesley is a university English teacher, business skills trainer, proof-reader, examiner and occasional voice-over narrator who has lived and worked in Japan since 2003. He holds the CELTA and an MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL from Leicester University.

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