World English 1
[Martin Milner. Boston: Heinle Cengage Learning, 2010. pp. vi +154. ¥ 2,940. (Student book + CD-ROM). ISBN: 978-1-4240-5102-1.]
World English 3
[Kristin Johannsen and Rebecca Tarver Chase. Boston: Heinle Cengage Learning, 2010. pp. vi +154. ¥ 2,940. (Student book + CD-ROM). ISBN: 978-1-4240-5104-5.]
World English is a multi-faceted four-skills EFL textbook series that engages students from the beginner to high-intermediate levels through its international motif and real world content. Having partnered with National Geographic, World English makes good use of its extensive photo inventory to enhance content and stimulate students’ curiosity of other cultures. It also uses a competency-based syllabus, which outlines specific knowledge and skill sets that students gradually develop through the effective performance of particular activities and tasks (Richards,2001, p. 159).
Each World English textbook is divided into twelve 12-page units, with each unit having a general theme, such as Nature, Lifestyles, and Communication. Each unit is then sub-divided into five sections, with four of these sections focusing on specific communicative goals and the fifth built around a Video Journal covering short video narratives on people, places, and events. The thematic units serve to contextualize the various linguistic components contained within them, while the lexical, syntactic, and discursive elements in each section help learners develop the language skills necessary to achieve that section’s specific communicative goal. Although World English bills itself as a “four skills general English series” (back cover), its greatest focus is on speaking and listening, with roughly three quarters of it pages devoted to these skills.
With respect to writing, as with many four-skills textbook series, World English offers very little explicit writing skills development. Instead, it uses writing models and examples to guide students through specific tasks. What World English lacks in writing development, it makes up for in speaking activities, with no fewer than ten of these per unit. The speaking tasks often encourage generative language based on pictorial prompts and task-specific scenarios. When using these communicative tasks with a mixed-level advanced university Listening & Speaking class, I found that most students embraced them, but three or four found the discussions too open-ended (i.e., lacking sufficient lexical support and grammatical guidance). This prevented those particular students from carrying out the objectives.
The last section of each unit features a Video Journal, which includes exercises and activities centered around short National Geographic videos, shot at different locations throughout the world. The segments, which average about four minutes in length, are both eclectic and appealing—covering everything from Aboriginal rock art in Australia, to Andean weavers, to a butler school in England (as found in World English 3). While the segments are quite interesting, they do not necessarily tie into or reinforce any of the linguistic elements featured in the unit. I also found the cadence to be a bit fast for many of my students, leading me to question their direct pedagogical benefit.
I used video journals, exercises, and activities from World English 3 to supplement the content of the same university Listening & Speaking course. After twice soliciting written feedback from students on the course content, I found their interest in the World English materials to be comparable to others I had used in the course; however, they did not find them to be as useful. The latter was somewhat expected, however, given that the other course components focused largely on communication strategies and academic skills.
Using World English 1 with a second-year university communication class has provided mostly favorable results. While I find the majority of exercises and activities—especially those centered around grammar points—to be quite standard fare, the international motif does add spice to the content, more thoroughly engaging those students with an interest in foreign cultures.
Apart from the textbooks, thepublisher of the World English series provides lots of support for both teachers and students. For the teacher, special features include a lesson planner, exam creator, and grading support; and for learners, there are both regular and video workbooks as well as a multifaceted CD-ROM, which includes a variety of practice exercises in addition to audio and video shorts. Finally, there are free interactive resources and games available on Heinle’s website (elt.heinle.com), which students can use to review the vocabulary and language points presented in each unit of each book.
In a nutshell, while most of the exercises and activities contained in the World English series are not anything revolutionary, I feel that its international motif, strong visual appeal, and comprehensive inventory of teacher and student resources make it one of the better—and more dynamic—series available.
Richards, J. C. (2001).Curriculum development in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.