Review ~ English Vocabulary in UseAn essential reference and practice resource for school libraries.
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, plus a final unit on American English.
Each lesson consists of two pages opposite each other, with one page dedicated to explanations of the vocabulary, including the use of charts and graphs, and example sentences to help with understanding. Pictures and diagrams are also used to reinforce explanations and to maintain visual appeal. The second of each two-page has four to five practice exercises, including gapfill exercises, word and definition matches, verb- noun- adjective transformations, and crosswords. In places authentic-looking headlines, emails and articles are used to highlight the new vocabulary in context.
A CD-ROM is included which provides a test section for each unit and progress check exercises. These are very useful, although it would have been nice in this latest edition to see some more modern-feeling activities. However, it is generally very useful to have this CD ROM, particularly the reference section – unit by unit, or alphabetically- with dictionary definitions and both UK and USA pronunciation. A small niggle is that it comes in an envelope in the back cover of the book which once opened cannot hold the CD ROM securely.
I really liked the opening four units which are dedicated to tips on how to learn vocabulary and record it. The book also includes an answer key, making it good for self-study practice, if this is preferred. The ease of reference the Index and the detailed Contents page offer are invaluable. The vocabulary listed in the Index is usefully accompanied by a phonetic symbol, although it should be noted this is British pronunciation only.
In places I felt the vocabulary could have been further extended for this Upper Intermediate level audience. For example, the weather vocabulary could have included phenomena such as tsunami, typhoon, tornado and blizzard; natural occurrences which hit the world news regularly. The computing and communications section could have been brought even more up to date with mention of 4G networks, instead of just wifi. Social networking has moved far beyond Facebook which was the only site mentioned and showing a little more tech-saviness here might have helped keep the book up to date for longer. Although the book is by no means complete (what vocabulary practice book could be?), I feel many essential components are effectively introduced and practised, and that the book is well pitched for this Upper Intermediate level.
I don’t think any resource library is complete without a reference book such as this, and I’d certainly recommend this book. It offers a practical look at a wide range of vocabulary areas suitable for Upper Intermediate level students.