Communication Beginnings: An Introductory Listening and Speaking Text for English Language Learners
Della Abrahams, Portland State University
Pub Date: 2017
ISBN 13: 978-1-3872686-3-4
Publisher: Portland State University Library
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The content of Communication Beginnings covers much of what is expected in a beginning intermediate communication course. There are a few places I read more
The content of Communication Beginnings covers much of what is expected in a beginning intermediate communication course. There are a few places I feel it could be expanded to make it more comprehensive. For instance, in Chapter 2 the third person singular -s ending is introduced but the chapter does not include the three ways that the -s ending is pronounced. This would be an easy addition given the inclusion of the three ways to pronounce the -ed ending of regular past tense verbs that appears in Chapter 5. I would also expect a course at this level to introduce the prevalence of the schwa sound in unstressed syllables.
The textbook as a whole is fairly accurate, but there are several errors that I noticed. Some errors are easily corrected and I plan to share my more detailed copy-edit with the author who will hopefully make the changes. For example, the listening activity on p. 45 is titled “Foods in the United States,” but two of the examples are from Canada. Also, one of the questions connected to this listening activity asks “Which food is fantastic in Montreal, Canada?” but the food is described as “fabulous” not "fantastic" in the recording. It is the lobster in Maine that is described as “fantastic.” In addition, sometimes grammar rules are not explained accurately. On page 28, it says that WH questions follow the same grammar rules as Yes/No questions without including the variation of when “who” is used as the subject and no "do" or "does" is used. Other problems are more subjective and would require a more extensive overhaul of the audio components associated with the textbook. In my view, it is misleading to suggest that reduced speech and contractions are not used in formal and professional contexts (p. 46). I believe an intermediate communications textbook should emphasize the importance of reductions in almost all American speech. In many of the audio recordings connected to the text, words are over-enunciated and students are not given the opportunity to hear the word as it sounds in natural speech. The third syllable of the word “environment,” for example, is pronounced /r?n/ rather than the more common /y?rn/. I found no bias in the textbook beyond the presumption of a particular and limited audience which I discuss in the next section of this review.
The text is written for a specific audience: unmarried, international students living in the United States and studying in a university setting. For example, the exercise on page 9 asks students to find a classmate who “likes the environment of a university.” At the same time, it would not be difficult to adapt the text to suit populations like the ones I teach: primarily immigrants and refugees most of whom have jobs and families and who are studying in a community college. There are also several specific references to Portland in the text. For example, in the speaking activity on page 41, students ask each other, “Do you know a lot of restaurants in Portland?” Replacing “Portland” with “town” would easily expand the relevance of the text.
For the most part, I found Communication Beginnings to be clearly written. A careful revision of the text, however, should include replacing undefined words that might not be familiar to students with the target vocabulary words (eg. “hobbies” for “interests” and “imports” for “international”).
The overall format of Communication Beginnings is consistent. Each chapter begins with a well-chosen photo and/or quote and discussion questions to introduce the theme of the chapter. Next, ten vocabulary words are presented and students are asked to match them with their definitions and identify the number of syllables in each. This is followed by a cloze activity using the target vocabulary. Each chapter also includes a speaking instruction, grammar rules, and multiple opportunities for practice such as a survey of native English speakers. Within the chapters there is some inconsistency with terminology. In Chapter 4, there is a presentation that introduces how to describe how food tastes and feels but gives examples of how food looks and smells and summarizes the presentation with the three categories: looks, smells, and feels.
Communication Beginnings has seven discrete chapters which can be easily reorganized or used separately. The activities within each chapter can also be parsed differently according to the needs of the instructor.
I appreciate the organization and structure of Communication Beginnings. As mentioned above, each chapter has a consistent structure beginning with target vocabulary words and including a variety of speaking and listening activities.
The images in Communication Beginnings are very clear on-line and in the print version. They are particularly nice in color but also of good quality printed in black and white. There are minor interface issues. One issue is that in the audio downloads, the same recording is used for “Intonation Examples” and “Listening for Intonation.” Links from within the text do not share this problem.
I address grammatical issues as a matter of accuracy above.
I applaud the inclusion of a non-native speaker in the audio recordings. The examples show diversity and do not reproduce gender, racial, or ethnic stereotypes.
This question isn’t completely applicable since the text is for ESOL, and a wide variety of topics could be covered. However, I thought it did a good read more
This question isn’t completely applicable since the text is for ESOL, and a wide variety of topics could be covered. However, I thought it did a good job of covering all of the elements necessary in a communication textbook. It had vocabulary, basic pronunciation, relevant grammar points and contextualized listening exercises.
I didn’t notice any errors in the text.
I believe the topics and exercises are currently relevant and will continue to be for a long time. Only a few details (such as home prices) could change, but exercises involving that type of information could easily be updated.
For the most part, the text uses simple and clear language. The author made an effort to use high frequency words. Based on the language and topics, this book seems to be intended for a group of students in a more academic setting, and I think it would very well for that group.
The book has a fairly consistent structure from one chapter to the next. This predictably makes it easier for students at a low intermediate level.
What’s great about this text is that each chapter is self-contained, and the chapters can be used in any order. I think this book could work well as a supplement if an instructor wants to use parts of it. For this course to be a stand alone text for an entire term, the instructor would need to create or find additional exercises, particularly homework.
The book is logical and flows well. The author did a good job choosing vocabulary and grammar points to go with each chapter’s theme. This provides students with the tools they need to understand listening exercises and talk about each topic.
The text does a good job presenting just the right amount of information per “page” in an attractive way.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
The text includes topics that can be relevant to any culture in an open-ended way that allows students to share different perspectives. The only thing I would consider is that low income students may struggle to talk about some of the topics, such as vacations, choosing a university or buying a home. However, the other did a good job of making it clear that these are hypothetical situations. Also, as I said before, the book seems to be meant for a university audience, and the topics would be more relevant to that group.
My final comment is about the listening exercises. The primary (female) speaker was both clear and natural, which is refreshing since the speakers are often artificially slow in ESOL texts. However, I would consider changing the male speaker. I think most students would prefer to hear native speakers of American English in the recording, or at least someone able to speak with an American accent. The male speaker in the recordings has a little too much of an accent, which can be distracting. When I played one of those recordings for my students, they complained about that. On the other hand, I think the listening exercises were very well-written. They used appropriate vocabulary and the topics were relevant.
Effective table of content. However, it is lacking and index and glossary. A glossary could be useful being that this textbook is geared towards read more
Effective table of content. However, it is lacking and index and glossary. A glossary could be useful being that this textbook is geared towards non-English speakers. All the instructions are in English and written in a way that could be problematic for novice learners to comprehend. The vocabulary section of the book seems very weak and the words are not high frequency words. An introductory book needs more basic vocabulary. The listening activities jump to production, which is a difficult task for a novice learner. There should be a gradual process from interpretive to production. I suggest to model listening activities after the Interpretive Guide from ACTFL
I did not find errors and the content presented is unbiased
The content can stay relevant as long as the supporting materials (websites for listening practice) stay current.
Yes, the words are clear. Instructions for activities are also clear and concise. My concern is that if this is an introductory textbook, some of the activities (discussion questions specifically could be too difficult for a beginner learner.
The order that chapters follow are consistent and each chapter follows the same pattern
The textbook does a good job in keeping activities separated from one another. Activities can easily be assigned at different points.
The topics follow a logical pattern and are appropriate topics for conversations.
Yes. However, it is cumbersome to have to type in the long urls for the multiple sites for listening activities. Consider shorting urls (unless students have access to an electronic version that can take them directly to the websites)
because this textbook is for English learners, it could include more grammar review.
I did not find much cultural information in the textbook. There are a few activities that incorporate culture but the textbook could use more. Also, I wonder why use an image of Copenhagen on page 51. Why not include an image of an English speaking country?
Here's a list of specific suggestions: -The vocabulary list at the beginning of the book, put it at the end of each chapter. -The vocabulary words are not high frequency words for daily conversations. Include more basic (real life) vocabulary words. -The activities to practice vocabulary words are only fill-in-the-blanks with no real-world use. Add activities where students have to use the vocabulary words in a real-world context and must create with the language. -The activity on page 10 is good but it doesn't require any use of the chapter's vocabulary. -In order to be successful with the activity on page12, there needs to be a vocabulary list. An introductory book should assume the students have not mastered a lot of vocabulary. The same goes for pg 26. The travel chapter has no travel vocabulary. -The activity on pg 41 has the potential to be better. As is, it seems scripted, consider asking students to create follow up questions. Do you like green tea? If the answer is Yes, then the follow up question can be, what type? where do you buy it? or practice the past tense: when did you drink it last? etc. Overall, the book is a great idea but it needs to be adjusted to the level of true beginner. As is, some of the discussion questions seem to advanced for a beginner student. If the book is not intended for beginners, then the title should be changed to intermediate.
The text covers a variety of speaking and listening contexts teaching basic communication skills necessary for an English Language Learner in an read more
The text covers a variety of speaking and listening contexts teaching basic communication skills necessary for an English Language Learner in an academic or social setting.
The content is accurate, and useful for a variety of cultural contexts and language learning levels.
The contents provide topics serving a wide audience. May be used in an academic or non-academic environment. Topics included are timeless and can easily be modified or updated easily and effectively due to its overall organization.
The text is written for any English language learner to use, is easily accessible to all levels and used simple language for quick comprehension.
The framework and terminology of the text is consistent throughout each chapter, making it an easily accessible textbook for study or reference use.
The text is divided into seven chapters which can be assigned in order of need. There is no reason to follow content chapter by chapter. Short activities and exercises throughout make the content extremely accessible and user-friendly. Perfect for self or class study.
Topics are presented chapter by chapter and can be used in any order. The content flow from beginning to end makes the text rather easy to use in a classroom setting. It allows the user to only focus on areas of specific need if so desired.
Overall the text is free of any interface issues. There are some formatting problems that might initially confuse a language learner, but can be simply reformatted to correct the issues.
The text is free of grammatical errors--an extremely important component of a book for language learners.
The text provides universal contexts that may be adapted to the cultural backgrounds/needs of its learners. Very accessible topics that are useful to all cultural contexts. No inclusiveness has been found to exist within the text's content.
This text provides a very simple and easy way for language learners to practice speaking and listening skillls for basic interpersonal communication. The topics are current and relevant to language learners, providing them with authentic contexts for daily use. The use of specific vocabulary in context for each chapter gives the reader excellent word choice options for practice. I highly recommend piloting this text for a lower level English language learning class.
The test covers all areas of the subjects according to the author's presentation. The guidelines are clear. Each chapter presents a vocabulary list read more
The test covers all areas of the subjects according to the author's presentation. The guidelines are clear. Each chapter presents a vocabulary list (from New General Service List) and all lessons are presented around them. At the end of each chapter the student can really say to have learn at least ten new words.
In general the content is accurate. Only a doubt: on Chapter 4, page 38 n. 6 and n. 10 require the same answers?
The text refers to every day life, so it will not be outdated for a while. Furthermore, it will be easy to update and implement it since it has been posted on line.
The author conveys information with great clarity.
The test is very consistent in terms of terminology and framework. I also like the "Speaking fluency practice" and the "Extra listening Practice"part.
The text is divided in six different modules, each one with different goals, but all six can be reorganized and presented in a different order.
The topics are presented in a logical and coherent way that attracts the learners.
The text is free of significant interface issues that can confuse the readers.
There is not a lot grammar, only the essential.I think this is good for the level of the students to which the book is presented.
The text is very inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Great respect for everyone.
I like the book. It is clear and adequate to the students at their second approach to the English language. I think that overall it will be useful to many foreign people, including those who are self learning.
The textbook is intended for beginning-intermediate English language learners and is a good introductory resource for speaking activities. It is read more
The textbook is intended for beginning-intermediate English language learners and is a good introductory resource for speaking activities. It is organized around topics that people encounter in everyday life, such as food, hobby. Each of the 7 chapters starts with a picture and discussion questions, dialogues, speaking and grammar tips and a vocabulary list that is relevant to the topic with all the exercises to practice the vocabulary. In the end of the book, there is a script of listening activities and answer key. In terms of language material, questions and overall input, the book aims at low-intermediate language students, not beginners. The grammar part, though introduces very basic aspects, such as “s” for 3rd person singular in Present tense or the verb “to be”, which beginners would benefit from, but then vocabulary words are too advanced for them. In addition, I believe that seven chapters are too little for the textbook; therefore it should be used in combination with other materials.
At this point I haven't encountered any mistakes, and it's unbiased. However, I had some concerns regarding grammar usage. In chapter 3 it is stated that the verb “to be” is used with nouns and adjectives, but it can also be used with adverbs. Also who-questions are different from other wh-questions, and this wasn’t mentioned. In chapter 5, the grammar dwells on past tense and only in regards to regular verbs. I haven’t found information on irregular verbs in the book.
The content of the book covers fairly universal and basic topics, and they are unlikely to become outdated. The vocabulary words (10 for each chapter) that the book centers around are also very useful. There is no reference to a specific university or a specific group of learners (Asian, European, etc.) and that is a great benefit.
The textbook follows the same patterns and it’s easy to follow. It has charts, maps, and some graphic organizers. In terms of grammar, the focus is on short, concise explanations and clear models. I would suggest using more colors or table structures to bring readers’ attention to certain forms, because some learners can be very visual.
The book showed overall consistency in regards to terminology and framework. I thought chapter 1 and 7 were smaller than others and could have more input/output material
This textbook is thematically divided into distinct sections that allow learners to find the information easy, and each chapter has the same flow: it starts and finishes in the same way. Almost each chapter has listening or grammar tip.
I could follow the text for the most part, and I understood the logical flow of activity chains that scaffold speaking in the end of each chapter. In the chapter there are external links to presentations and listening activities, and it’s very easy to identify them. In terms of vocabulary, I would prefer to see more visuals. For example, in chapter 4 when describing food, the author mentions what food can be like (e.g. sweet, citrusy etc.). I would suggest grouping the food under certain adjectives and back it up with visuals. Some other chapter on hobby or jobs lacked visuals.
The interface of the textbook is clear and easy to follow. The image of the table on page 59 looks a bit off. I also think that surveys that are assigned as homework and usually look like 5 separate charts can be put as one to save space and be on the same page.
The text contains no grammatical errors as far as I can tell.
This textbook accurately displays the variety of situations that are relevant to language learners and they are not tied around university life since some learners are already out of school and have no intention to go back. Various nationalities participated in listening activities and examples provided in the book.
Overall it is a good listening/speaking resource. There are a lot of interesting listening activities and presentations that come with this textbook. Also there are good listening and speaking tips on intonation, contractions. I enjoyed the presentation on cardinal/ordinal numbers as well. I do believe that if it is designed for beginners, the vocabulary and sentence structures should be simplified. If it's for low-intermediate students, then grammar tips should be more advanced.
This textbook covers a broad range of easily-accessible speaking and listening topics, which is very appropriate for a beginning listening and read more
This textbook covers a broad range of easily-accessible speaking and listening topics, which is very appropriate for a beginning listening and speaking class. The vocabulary included in each section is fairly light, only 10 words, but I like that the words come from the New General Service List, meaning that the words are all frequently used in the English language. The grammar points are also useful but also somewhat light. I would probably add something on present progressive tense since this is often taught at the introductory level of listening/speaking courses. I also appreciate that this textbook has a clear table of contents and introduction along with direct links to listening exercises. However, the link to activity one in chapter one took me to a vocabulary listing rather than the intended listening activity and one of the other listening links, from chapter 7 I believe, did not work.
The content seems highly accurate and unbiased. It is clearly written and no errors stood out.
The material in this textbook is generally timeless. The vocabulary and grammar are very standard and should not change appreciably over time. Likewise, the speaking and listening topics are general enough, topics like "learning a language" and "hobbies" so these should still be relevant areas of discussion even 20 years from now.
The written text is very clear. A few (but not all) of the listening passages are a little fast for students at this level, so it could be worth re-recording some of these when the book is updated.
In terms of consistency, the book chapters each follow the same pattern, with similar structure and exercises. I also appreciated the consistency of material at the end of the book: the listening scripts and answer keys.
Each of the chapters could stand alone as a singular module, so this makes the book easy to use for supplemental course material.
Very clear organization.
Overall, the interface is easy to navigate. There are a few problems with the listening activities linking correctly, but that could be easily fixed.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
The book uses very general topics for listening and speaking, so I did not see any that would be deemed offensive. The listening exercises often include individuals with names from other countries, so I think students will enjoy seeing names from their own parts of the world.
Considering there are very few open ESL textbooks, I really appreciate the author taking the time to create and make this one available. It is clear, consistent, and easy to use. I would probably use it as a supplemental textbook rather than a primary one because I have always taught in very intensive programs (many hours per day of instruction), so as a stand-alone book it would not have enough content for my needs. However, this could be a great stand-alone book for a class that is less intensive such as a free class in the community that meets just once or twice a week.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1- Learning how to speak and listen in English:
• Tips and strategies for increasing and retaining learning
• Advice on learning English in a university setting
Chapter 2- Introductions
• Describing yourself and other people
§ Grammar points
§ Third person singular ‘s’
§ Subject pronouns and possessive adjectives
Chapter 3- Talking about travel and experiences: Page 25-36
• Intonation in English
§ Grammar points
§ WH and Yes/No question formation
Chapter 4- Discussing food and eating: Page 37-50
• Understanding Conversational English with reduced speech
§ Grammar points
§ Contractions in English
Chapter 5- Describing places around town: Page 51-64
• Addresses and place descriptions
§ Grammar points
§ Past tense verbs
§ Ordinal and cardinal numbers
Chapter 6- Communicating about hobbies and routines: Page 65-73
• Agreeing and Disagreeing in English
§ Grammar points
§ Using so, too, neither and either
§ Adverbs of frequency
Chapter 7- Discussing jobs and university majors: Page 74-85
• Word and syllable stress in English
§ Grammar points
§ Future tense verbs
About the Book
This textbook is designed for beginning-intermediate English language learners. It is composed of 7 chapters, each of which covers specific speaking and listening learning objectives and includes dialogues, interviews, discussions and conversation activities. Each chapter includes listening and speaking components such as dialogues, interviews, discussions and conversation activities. Each chapter also focuses on 10 target words from the New General Service List of English vocabulary. The textbook includes an audio component that consists of recorded conversations of native and non-native English speakers, as well as links to additional listening resources on the web.
About the Contributors
Della Jean Abrahams is an Instructor in Intensive English Language Program at the Portland State University.