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REVIEWING BOOKS FOR STUDYING ENGLISH
Among great amount of teach-yourself books you always want to find the one that can open you the way to the world of English and also become the most reliable partner or patient teacher. Nowadays not every person can deal with this task. What should you choose: books written many years ago by honored professors or something newer, falling for brightness and forward-looking approach? Should you rather buy a book written by a language speaker or a Russian language user? All the answers to these questions depend on the following things:
– your level of English;
– type of studying you prefer better: self-training or with a teacher;
– time period within what you would like to learn the material;
– way of the most effective mastering information.
While choosing a textbook you should know your level of English proficiency for sure. Otherwise, you can create unexpected troubles and spoil all joy of studying process, if a chosen task turns to be too difficult. Nevertheless, take into account the fact that the same task can be also too easy, if your level of English is high enough. To deal with this problem, you can consult online tests on the Internet.
If you study language with a teacher, you can choose textbooks without extended grammatical and lexical theory then. The fact is that all the explanations will be given to you in the process of group studying (individual, if we speak about tutoring). This type of books usually present unit material with footnotes. Most part of a book is occupied by exercises that also aim to class work and additional comments. Moreover, you will not find keys at the end of such textbooks, because all tasks will be checked together with a teacher.
If you have decided to study English on your own, then you’d better opt for a book that involve both detailed theory and satisfied amount of exercises for self-examination and knowledge consolidation. A unit must be structured well enough to look for a section you need without any difficulties. Therefore, theory is usually combined with catchy examples. Such books almost every time have keys at the end, if, of course, you do not buy it separately.
As far as a period within what you would like to achieve some results is concerned, you cannot receive a definite answer. One is able to master elements from scratch in one or two months, but others need a half of a year for it. In case you are ready to master the language within very limited time, you are going to face several difficulties thus. The main thing is to understand that almost every book aims to completing one level (Beginner, Elementary, Intermediate, etc.). So, to finish this level you have to study thoroughly all the textbook. If your purpose is just to refresh knowledge you have and finish something you have not finished studying yet, then it will be enough to look through chapters you are interested in.
Every author presents the material in his or her own way. Some books have enormous amount of pictures, bright tasks, crosswords, schemes, and others – pages of serious theory and exercises. Most modern teach-yourself books also suggest audio materials. Your choice is completely up to you!
In our turn, we suggest you the review of the most famous books to study English based on highlighted criteria.
English Grammar in Use
The first in our list is a favorite book of many people, a book that has become classic – “English Grammar in Use” by Raymond Murphy, Cambridge University Press publishing house. The author himself offers his textbook to adults and students who has at least Intermediate level. Really, the book introduces detailed and extended grammatical topics for learners who has already been acquainted with English grammar basis. This teach-yourself book will be useful for self-training, because all problems are explained in a thorough and easy way. Moreover, in the opening pages the author says how to use his book. Therefore, if you want only to refresh something from grammar, you will find a proper unit with grammar material you are interested in and exercises to practice without any difficulties. Material is grouped maximally convenient: the first page is dedicated to theory, and the following one – to some exercises. As far as illustrations are concerned, you will not find funny pictures and quizzes, so be ready for serious and hard work. At the end of the book, you can find the keys, with the help of which you will check correctness of some exercises you have done. To become more experienced, several additional exercises that are not a part of the units are placed there. These additional tasks can also be found on a CD-ROM that goes along with the textbook. You should be well aware of the fact that this book – is a teach-yourself book only, so to improve lexical and listening skills you should refer to another source.
Oxford Practice Grammar
This textbook can be viewed as a worthy opponent of previously mentioned one. “Oxford Practice Grammar” (Oxford University Press publishing house) is not oriented to children. The way this source is written reminds of “English Grammar in Use”: information is thoroughly structured and distributed into topics. Before each section of exercises, you can look through a page with theoretical material. Keys, appendix and schemes with studied information are placed at the end of the textbook. Printed books have a CD-ROM with additional tasks and tests. We can summarize that “Oxford Practice Grammar” is particularly good for self-training, but, of course, is widely spread among teachers as a source of additional materials for students. It is necessary to mention that the book consists of three levels (parts) so you should not be worry – you will find yours easily. Illustrative material is often used for examples and explanation of theory. Exercises themselves are usual, but not boring. To conclude observing this book, it is good for those who would like to get used to English grammar and just lay a solid foundation for the further learning process. In addition, it can be useful for those who only wants to “keep fit”, reviewing previous material.
New English File
One more wonderful textbook (Oxford University Press publishing house) that you cannot skip is “New English File”. There are six books of this source for each level. What book you are going to start with depends on you. Unlike all the books described above this teach-yourself book touches upon grammar, vocabulary, phonetics and listening. All these components are placed in each unit, linked within one another and grouped by topics. This book is full of different illustrative material, great amount of creative tasks, dialogues, quizzes, songs and crosswords. “New English File” will become a real discovery for those for whom visual perception is the best way to master the language. You can study on your own, but better to use this textbook with the help of a teacher, because some topics are given in brief and require additional explanations (or exercises) despite clear presentation. If the book itself is used in class, then at home you can practice with the help of a workbook. All printed textbooks have CDs with audio materials. Moreover, at the end of the main source (Student’s Book) you can find rather good list of words and nicely systemized grammar to simplify the information given.
New Inside Out
A book that is structured as previously mentioned “New English File” is called “New Inside Out” (Macmillan publishing house). It has even the same order of topics in units. This book suggests six levels. If all the other books we have discussed are good for self-training, so this textbook will be useful only during classes with a teacher. Of course, it is clearly systemized, topics go one by another logically. In units you will find a combination (not so much balanced actually) of all language components (vocabulary-grammar-phonetics-listening), but its influence on the improvement of your language proficiency you can feel only using some other study-guides. The information there is given as some sort of a basement for teacher’s classes. Nevertheless, its brightness and interesting exercises are great advantages. It can simplify perception of a material and add a kind of joy in studying process. Like all the other textbooks of this type, “New Inside Out” has a workbook and a CD with audio for class and home acquaintance. If you study English on a course, such a book will be a rather good variant.
New Cutting Edge
Last but not the least on our list is a quite specific textbook “New Cutting Edge” (Longman publishing house). What is so special about this book? It is a structure of this source. This teach-yourself book is also to be better used with a teacher, because not everyone is able to understand a system of exercises there with references to some other pages, a ‘web’ of audio files and an idea of tasks. Not seldom one can come across a question: “What should I do here, anyway?” To avoid misunderstanding in relations with this interesting and unusual book you should trust an experienced teacher. Pages of “New Cutting Edge” are full of pictures, schemes, tests and other creative tasks that do not make you feel bored. Presentation of a material is clear, but from time to time, you will need some additional exercises. You can really improve all problem areas: grammar, vocabulary, speaking and listening comprehension. Here you can also choose a textbook up to your personal level, because these teach-yourself books aim to several levels. At the end of the book, a rather good vocabulary is placed. There are also typescripts of every audio files from the units, what is very important for self-examination too.
As you can see, every textbook has its own special treats. It is wonderful, if one and the same book is able to satisfy all your needs. Nevertheless, remember that trying different teach-yourself books and taking the most useful and interesting from there, you double chances not to be sick and tired of a studying process. Moreover, you can develop an individual system of acquiring knowledge. The purpose to master English language will not be so far and unreal anymore.
RECCOMENDATIONS ON ENGLISH SELF-STUDY
You have tried an enormous amount of language courses and finally realized that you are not a person to study English in a group. Maybe, on the contrary, from the very beginning, you feel feared and embarrassed thinking of the necessity to make mistakes publicly. Then you ask yourself a question: “Does it make sense to study English by myself and is it possible?” We will try to give you an irrefragable answer.
You should not start with choosing maximally heavy and expansive textbook, but with psychologically correct directions for yourself! You need to realize clearly that people who have already mastered this tricky English language before you do not possess any superpower. They have not done anything outstanding to consider their success unachievable. Every person can be taught. The only difference is desire, diligence and patience. These qualities will be more useful than all others will in a hard studying process. Be persistent, systematic and purposeful. Think of the best self-motivation, and bare it in mind all the time: watching favorite movies in original, listening to English songs and understanding that there are separate words, fluent reading of books written by great English speaking authors. Here also could be mentioned communication with foreigners, which is not going to be in a cold sweat, but with joy. Maybe it will be promotion at your job, because knowing English language opens for you so many new opportunities. Therefore, forget about the lack of self-trust and start your way without fear and doubts. Remember that you cannot start to deal with such an important task, forcing yourself.
Step by step.
Do not try to study all at once, be consistent. Move in maximally convenient for you, but persistent steps (they can be slow). Start with elements in order not to miss anything important. Divide, let us say, week classes into pieces: a day of phonetics, a day of grammar, a day of vocabulary practice, a day of listening comprehension, a day of speaking and a day of classes in a free form. Give to all of these pieces the same attention. Come back to something you have problems with.
It has been proved long ago that everyday classes at least for twenty minutes show more effectiveness than three-four hour classes one-two times a week. Make it a rule to study every day at the certain time. Do not postpone your classes only because you feel lazy or you have decided to delay these minutes of boredom and sadness. Particularly not to make your studying of English boring and tiresome, try to change activities as often as it is possible. For example, grammar – is not only tons of monotonous exercises, but also entertaining and catchy video lessons, which you can choose to your liking on the Internet. It is learning difficult grammar structures in terms of your favorite songs and sitcoms. Finally, grammar – is creative tasks in the form of amusing schemes, pictures, quizzes, which you can easily find in every modern textbook or on an available Internet source.
Speaking about changing activities while studying, we cannot but mention the following way to master English language. Audio materials are highly appreciated not only by teachers, but also by people who study the language by themselves, because it lets them improve understanding of native speakers' speech and listening comprehension skill. Songs of your favorite singers go first. The scheme is easy: listen to a song, read lyrics in English, then read Russian translation, if it is necessary; after that turn the song on again, following the lyrics (you can repeat it several times). During your next listening, do not look at the words of the song, but just try to understand them. You will make sure soon that you hear almost all the words, can sing along not imitating English sounds, but really understanding what you are singing! In course of time, reading lyrics one time will be enough for you. After that, you will understand English songs without any problems. Songs are also very good and useful source for improving your word stock, especially as far as colloquial phrases are concerned.
You cannot underestimate the importance of listening comprehension. There are different sites that are dedicated to this language field. Choose an audio of your level, concerning some topic you are interested in, listen to it and do exercises. You can retell everything you have understood from it and stop an audio after each speaker's phrase, repeating it.
Watching videos may also be useful and effective. It can be favorite sitcoms or movies with Russian or English (it depends on your level) subtitles. Fortunately, now you can find almost every film, TV series or cartoon with appropriate subtitles (or without them) on the Internet. Video materials, like audio ones, allow to develop listening comprehension skills and to expend vocabulary. For increasing the quality of the last one, you can take a notebook where you will write down the most interesting words and phrases. It is not necessary to copy all the words, otherwise joy and happiness obtaining from watching a movie turn to be useless rewriting of its content. Pay attention only to those that you cannot understand even with a context.
The same rule is good for reading English fiction literature in original. Do not look for every unknown word. Try to read at least several more paragraphs. If this word turns to be an obstacle in obtaining general idea, do in this case you can spend your time on searching for this word’s meaning in a dictionary. Moreover, do not start your acquaintance with English literature with definitely difficult thick books. Pay your attention to adapted stories (not too long) that have the list of possibly unknown words and some exercises for checking your general understanding. You can start reading even children fairy tales and you will be impressed by their difficulty! Here you can remind yourself of ‘step by step’ rule and consistence. Frequent and regular reading exercises will immediately bring you the results: you will stop stumble at every word, and reading will bring you fun.
As well as we have touched upon books, let’s speak more basically about choosing a correct teach-yourself book and discuss is it so necessary to work with this textbooks. Of course, one of your level can help you to systemize all the material. To start, pay attention to textbook that include grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening comprehension sections. In this case, it will be easier for you to build up a scheme of your personal lesson. You can use a chosen book as the basis or a plan of your self-training, moving from one unit to another. Gradually you will become to realize what else you need to include in your classes. If it is grammar, so look at grammar textbooks of reliable authors. If it is listening comprehension skills – listen to audio files from other sources, to songs or even audio books. Many modern textbooks aim to group classes. This thing becomes obvious because of group tasks: ask question to a partner / divide into pairs and discuss / think about something in groups, etc. A teach-yourself book, in its turn, will give detailed explanations for each topic, giving examples and suggesting exercises to review. Material will be given in such way to make it easier for you to understand everything on your own. The main thing is to know your level proficiency (you can use online tests for it) and look through several possible variants of textbooks that are ideal for you. Advice given by experienced friends and internet users – is great, but do not forget that the best way of learning the material differs from person to person. Do not be lazy in finding yours!
Try not to underestimate the importance of dictionaries. Machine translation, of course, saves time, so keep some thoroughly chosen online dictionaries in your bookmarks. You should not forget about paper dictionaries too. Buy a pocket one, which you will take with you in trips. Such paper editions do not require internet connection, what is also very convenient.
Finally, remember about an opportunity of communication with native English speakers. Perhaps, many people would place this point first. Some of them were lucky to be among speaking English foreigners constantly, others found an interlocutor in social networks. To make this method of mastering English effective, you should get rid of your language barrier. Sooner or later, you will face the necessity of doing it. Therefore, do it in comfort and warm atmosphere for communication, not when you are stressed. Do not be afraid of making mistakes and being misunderstood. The chance that you will meet exactly that principled foreigner, who does not speak with you because of your accent and lexical / grammar mistakes, is extremely small. Take it as a normal process of learning, which will bring its results soon. Moreover, communication with a person speaking another language is not studying words alone. Here you can be given advice and corrected with some spelling mistakes. Foreign speakers also can cheer you up and give answers to any questions.
Summing up, we would like to advise not to forget one more feature of successful mastering the language.
You should be well acquainted with the culture of a country, language of which you speak. Firstly, it allows you to understand what Englishmen love and what they cannot stand, what they are proud of, and how they live. In addition, it helps to see some specialties of linguistic picture of the world and the difference in worldviews of the nations. Idiomatic expressions, jokes, fairy tales, slang – all these things differ greatly for Russian and English languages. English culture will help you to see this difference.
Mukhlya Valeria, "Мир Без Границ"
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