[Marion Grussendorf. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. pp. 80. ¥2,730. (Includes MultiROM). ISBN: 978-0-19-457936-0.]
English for Presentations is one of the titles in the niche-filling Express Series by Oxford University Press; a selection of short courses designed to give business people a boost in areas of English deemed necessary for their career development. Other titles in the series include English For Meetings, English for Emails and even English For Socializing.
A large proportion of the material is intended for self-study or homework. It is targeted at EFL learners who are at an intermediate level and it follows a notional-functional syllabus whereby a “notion” is defined as a particular context in which people communicate and a “function” as a specific purpose for a speaker in a given context, White (1988, p. 75).
It is divided into six units dealing with different aspects of delivering presentations such as introducing your topic, giving structure to your talk, using visuals, and dealing with questions. Within each unit there are various recurring features. There is a Starter section that has warm-up activities and questions designed to raise awareness of the topic. There is an Output section at the end which has activities designed to promote discussion on the contents of the unit. There is also, at the end of each unit, a short presentation task intended to give students the opportunity to practice the specific features covered in that unit.
Sandwiched between these tasks there is a range of mainly accuracy-focused tasks such as gap-fills, multiple-choice activities and so on, together with various listening practice activities. It also comes with an interactive multiROM, which is aimed at giving students the opportunity to review what they have learnt from the textbook. It contains all the recordings for the listening activities as well as a further selection of accuracy-focused exercises.
I used this textbook for a graduate communication and presentations course with a group of intermediate-level students who were majoring in engineering. As the course progressed I was able to strike an effective balance between using the parts best suited to the classroom and setting other tasks as homework.
I found many sections could profitably be used either in or out of the classroom. For example, there are some categorization activities, which could be used to promote discussion and the commendably authentic listening activities had scope for use in the classroom, though it should be noted there is a transcript and an answer key at the back for those who wish to study at home.
One feature I liked was the evaluation checklist at the back, which encourages students to think about specific features of technique when they are watching their peers’ presentations. I used this not just for peer feedback but also to have students evaluate and discuss professional presentations from the Internet, such as those available on the TED website <ted.com>.
Another feature I liked was the checklist insets, which give genuinely useful advice and helped provide structure for my students’ presentations. Indeed, overall, I think one of the strengths of this text is the clear structure and linguistic support it gives students in each unit.
On the other hand, there are some clear drawbacks with this text. There is no teacher’s book with supplementary activities that could be used to expand on the themes covered, and this book is not targeted at university students, or indeed Japanese students. It is a business English textbook and, as such, the language focuses on such themes as sales, marketing and so on with the attendant glossy photographs of dynamic-looking business people in office settings. This may not be particularly motivating for students who do not see themselves working in such settings in the future.
And finally, the multiROM is not very interactive. Rather than exploit the many audio and visual possibilities one might expect from a piece of computer software, it merely contains similar exercises to those presented in the textbook. Although it could be said that it does meet its aim of providing opportunity for review, it does not add much interest along the way.
That said, however, in the feedback I gathered at the end of the course it was clear that my students liked this textbook; some, even, have continued to make use of it as reference material after the course had finished. This may not be the best choice for everyone but if you want to add an extra component to your courses then this may be the right choice for you.
White, R. W. (1988). The ELT curriculum. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.